Yesterday we crossed over from the region of Castilla Y Leon to Galicia,
cold, windy, rugged, beautiful mountain kingdom of the Wretched Stones and last section of the Camino de Santiago. Though maybe the name should be changed from the Camino de Santiago to The Race To Santiago, since that's what this journey seems to become for many pilgrims.
Now, not every pilgrim walks the whole Camino Francés from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago; many walk a shorter Camino, starting at a point closer to Santiago, and many Europeans do the Camino over a number of years, walking a section a year until they've completed the whole Way.
But for those waking the whole Camino Francés, the one Tom and I are walking, our guide book lays out a 33-day schedule for finishing the 774-kilometer route from St. Jean-Pied-Port to Santiago. Walking that distance in 33 days requires walking at a fast pace and completing many 26-to-30-kilometer days. And yet I'd venture to say that most pilgrims walking the whole Camino Francés are doing so, or attempting to do so in 30 days or less. This is because many people have only so much vacation time and/or expendable income..
However there are also pilgrims for whom time and money are not an issue but who just like to walk fast. In any case, there is a lot of - especially among the male pilgrims of all ages - "kilometer bragging" about who does how many kilometers every day.
And so these pilgrims whizz along the Camino, burning up the kilometers, 30, 34, 40 k's a day,. "No time for sight-seeing," quipped one middle-aged pilgrim when I asked him how he managed his 40 kilometers a day. Then at night in the albergues they all, young and old, nurse their hurting feet, ankles, and knees, their achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and blisters the size of twinkies.
"Why don't you take a few days off,". I suggested to a young American pilgrim who had only 22 days to complete the Camino and whose feet were killing him, "stay in a hostel, give your feet a few days to heal," I said, " then take a bus to a town closer to Santiago and do a shorter, slower Camino."
But he was determed to walk every step of the Camino in his short alloted time, no matter the cost to his feet.
One boy whose feet were a mess of blisters lamented, "I ought to slow down but I can't; I'm German and I need to achieve."
Then there was the middle-aged American man walking the Camino who held that pain was a necessary part of the repentance process.
To each their.own Camino.
Yesterday we walked 14.4 kilometers from Laguna de Castilla to Fonfria over some steep. rocky paths but also along side some beautiful mountain views.
We stopped for lunch at a bar in the village of Hospital de la Condesa.
I asked the bar keeper what she had to eat and she said they had potato soup and sandwiches, so we had huge bowls of potato soup and cheese sandwiches.
The soup was okay, warm and filling though, truthfully, not as good as my potato soup.
Later in the afternoon we had a quite steep and rocky climb to conquer.
Some clever entrepreneur built his cafe right at the summit,
...so all of us pilgrims were all huffing and puffing away, eyes upward, drawn like moths to a flame to the refreshment promised by those umbrellas and chairs.
In the village of Fonfria,
We stayed at the beautiful albergue A Reboleira, where we had the option, which we took, of having for 29€ our own 2-bed dorm with our own bathroom.
...which we really liked and from where we had a fine view of the town's activities.
The evening's 9€ pilgrim meal was served in community at a building down the path from the albergue..
The food was wonderful, as was the companionship.
After dinner, all warm inside, we headed back to the albergue, crawled into bed and tucked ourselves in for the night.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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The Book Loft of German Village, and