ROCKS AND ROOTS
Nobody in sight,
I maneuver on loose turf,
head down and toes up.
I left the albergue, San Saturnino at daybreak. The sun's rise distracted and light beamed through the trees. This led me on. I looked forward.
Up ahead I saw "my" snowcapped mountain and like it, I remained stoic. My ankle was bruised and painful, but I kept my pace, believing the pain would lessen if I just kept on going. Except for birds, the only sounds I heard were my own footsteps and the sound of tires on the pavement as I walk parallel to the highway.
I approached a boy and his dog who I'd seen in Estella, about 80 kilometers back. In conversation, I learned he is Swiss, traveling for a year, having begun his Camino in Switzerland. His dog's name was BOBOLA. Unlike me, he usually spent his nights outside off the ground in a hammock. But he's healthy, the dog's healthy and like me, he puts one foot in front of the other. I wished him ULTREYA...Spanish for ONWARD. I never saw him again.
And then there was Paul from Huntsville, Canada who lives a bit south of Timmons. Although I liked my solitude, It was good to walk with someone. With Paul the conversation was good and before I knew it I was in Najera; boots off, resting my feet and eating fettuccini con funghi y queso...you know for the carb loading. After Najera, like with BOBOLO, I never saw Paul again.
After only two weeks of walking, the ebb and flow of the Camino was in full force. There was no jockeying for position but rather simply an uttered "buen camino" to mean either hello or goodbye with delight in the silver and gold of new found friendship.
I have to mention the concept of a "walk of shame". This is when one absentmindedly leaves one's sticks back at the last place of rest. For me, I usually realized my blunder after only a few yards of departure. Still, the embarrassment was real, having to so quickly say goodbye again with those whom, seconds earlier, you had bid a buen camino. I suppose any embarrassment was better than the alternative of forfeiting the support sticks offer. I'm convinced they helped reduce the pain I felt earlier in my ankle.
I arrived in the town of Azofra, and remembered it to be a favorite stopping place last year. By 1:00pm, I had checked in, washed my clothes, bathed, and begun a nap. Later, I met friends for dinner. We sat outside at a long table, most of us choosing a "pilgrim's meal" which consisted of vegetable soup, hake, french fries and flan..oh, and wine, lots of wine. The diversity among people is one of my favorite aspects of the Camino. Tonight I "dined" with Australians, South Africans, a German, a Dane and two Canadians.
Satisfied and full I was in bed by 9pm for an early start tomorrow. Life was good. I said goodnight to a day that started with a goodbye...again, head down and toes up.