The kids got one final wrap up once I got my feet back under me. I haven’t written today’s letter yet and there’s a strong likelihood there will be a few touch-up items here and there; the uneasy Catalan situation, other overlooked high points – and more details on newly-hatched intentions to go back in the autumn of 2018.
October 25, 2017
Ellen/Reid: It’s good to be home. The hard part is believing the whole shebang is already over and done with. The walk is a blur; it feels like a year ago even though scarcely six weeks has passed by. A part of me would go back to Spain in a heartbeat but the reality is my right ankle is still sore and that would have to heal up first.
It was really everything friends told me it would be, and more. Part of it was just being in France and Spain at all, the other was the entirety of the experience. Reid, you’ve traveled so much more than your old man so you know none of this is exactly new news; and Ellen, your time will come for such an adventure. What I do know is that the Camino de Santiago was fascinating in all respects. The history, the buildings, the people (both Spaniards and other walkers), the scenery, the vistas, the food, the sleeping arrangements, the everything.
Imagine, Ellen, people – many dozens if not hundreds of them every day – walking between your house and the little home just to the west of your deck. What is that? 15 feet at most? What I wasn’t prepared for was the vagaries of the route itself. Not just the open trail through quaint small towns and the countryside but how hikers would cut between a farmer’s barn and his house or through an industrial park with warehouses and car repair shops just a few feet away on either side or the paved shoulder of a busy highway. Bizarre but interesting. Some of the path was dirt, still more was pavement, some was cobblestones, some was crushed rock.
Every night I opted to sleep in albergues, Some slept 10 in a common room filled with bunk beds, while others squeezed in 50 or more. The incessant snoring threw me off the first few nights as it filtered through my ear plugs but as the trip went along it became so much white noise. Some albergues were okay, others not so much and some surprisingly nice. You paid your money and took your chances (5 – 12 Euros. All that got you was a paper fitted bed sheet and a common shower). Lots of folks called ahead to book space but it was fine with me to simply walk in to ask (‘Habitaciones, por favor?’) if they had a spare bunk. There was always room for one more. That approach was easier for me since, for the most part, I walked alone. I plodded on some stretches with people but it was fine enough to truck alone.
What took a little getting used to was how Europeans – women and men – were so blithely casual about walking around in little if any clothing. I’d wake up to a woman standing in a thong next to my bunk or a man in some skimpy underwear and nothing else. But hey, I eventually went with the flow although I limited any showmanship to dress pretty quickly and be on my way. Most mornings I’d hit the road before dawn with my headlamp (‘torch’ in European lingo) to light the way. Once I was limbered up and motoring I’d find a place in the next town with stiff black coffee and some rustic bread toasted with butter and jam. That was divine.
I still scratch my head at how/when my ankle went south only 10 days in. I have no clue what went wrong but for a terrible moment it crossed my mind that there would be no way to finish. Honestly, I’d hobble out of the sack (the ‘Camino Shuffle’ an Australian friend named Cam called it) and the first few kilometers were excruciating. But on I’d limp until the pain subsided. It always did.
But what impressed me most were the highly civilized Spanish. Not that they were overtly friendly, but they weren’t overweight, were family oriented – adult children typically accompanied parents on strolls through central plazas – and you almost never heard car horns honk. In fact, they aren’t nearly as car-centric and impatient as Americans are. I’ll find out next fall if the Portuguese are the same way; the plan is to walk another variant of the Camino through Portugal. I’ve got the bug, I guess.