Day #15 El Camino
Wednesday 27th September
Boadilla del Camino > Calzadilla da la Cueza
Distance walked: 43km (26.7miles)
A FUCKING MARATHON!
I had a feeling today was going to be a long one. But first, I needed to shed some weight. I left behind a flashlight with a note for any pilgrim who might need one. Of course, I included batteries because what asshole would leave a light for someone with no batteries!? I understand that it was dark when I left so anyone who might’ve actually needed it wouldn’t have seen it, but anyway, not my problem. I did a good deed. Whatever. Shut up. I rose before the majority in my quarters, my body clock has been waking me up around 4.30-5am most mornings, and if it doesn’t then someone snoring, farting or talking in their sleep usually wakes me up. It was dark for the first couple of hours and cold. I’ve got some cycling gloves so I don’t get blisters on my hands carrying the sticks and also some wool gloves for warmth. They’re coming in handy on the early starts for sure. I hope it doesn’t get much colder as I only have one black skivvy/turtle neck kind of thing to keep me warm and its doing the job, just. If you’re a fan of Archer then you’ll know the sort. It’s not my favourite item of clothing and I’ll happily part ways with it at the end of the Camino, but if I ever want to be a mime or audition as the black skivvy Wiggle then I know what to wear. The first hour was spent thinking about my sungas (Brazilian speedo) and whether or not I’d left them hanging on the line in the garden after swimming the day before. I was considering finding the next wifi spot and messaging anyone I know that would be passing to grab them for me, but luckily I’d packed them. Phew. I had about 3 coffees in the morning at various stops and eventually found myself at a place where I had to make a decision, however I couldn’t make this decision without a rest so I sat down to some more bread and coffee. It’s a staple diet here! The next town with any accommodation was another 14km away. Quite literally nothing in between. I had to figure out if my body would handle the distance or just sit where I am and call it a day. It was still early and I was feeling great so of course I ploughed on. The weather got hotter, the terrain grew even more boring. This is the stretch where I was later told many (fake) pilgrims decide to get on a bus or train and head to Leon. It’s nothing but flat farmlands, the prairies, the Midwest. Suicide heaven. The shade is minimal and its almost all gravel road. This place would make Saskatchewan look interesting. (I love that I’ve been to Saskatchewan and can make this reference). The only break from gravel is some tarmac blistering in the sun. I had the help of some good music on the iPod and without it I’m not sure I’d have had the energy. (Scissor Sisters, Ben Harper, Bruce Springsteen) The road went on and on and on and there were no physical signs indicating how far I’d gone or how long I had to go. When I picture a distance in my head I think of how far it was from my hometown to the beach. 8.4km. I ran this once doing a “Fun Run” when I was about 13 years old. I did it in just under an hour. Pretty shit time if I recall, both the amount of time and my experience of it, however every runner was entered in a lucky draw and post run I was selected (#323, I still remember my race number because it was like the Mazda) and won a polaroid camera. I think mum gave it to a friend of hers because the sheets were too expensive and I never used it, it’s probably worth a bit of money now to some hipster. I digress, so when I see how far I have to walk, I think about when I’d go to the beach as a kid. Apart from that fun I never actually ever walked there before, I’d be dropped off by mum which took 5-10 mins in the car or hitchhike which wasn’t allowed but with your brothers it was OK. I’ve cycled to the beach many times, on the BMX it was ages but nowadays on a good bike it’d take 20 mins. So all I had to do was walk to the beach. Twice. Except there was no reward of a beach at the end. Just a bunk bed in an Albergue and most likely cold shower and patchy WiFi and stale bread to eat for dinner from an understocked tienda that may or may not be open.
I was joined by a creepy old man for some part of the journey, he appeared and walked along side me and popped up here and there. I was polite but indicated I wanted to walk alone. He would stop and stretch and wait for me, this was mildly amusing but strange more so. It can be lonely walking out in the middle of nowhere, but when you want to be alone and there’s nobody else around for miles except for one weirdo then it’s just creepy. I’ve found my stride and am totally happy walking solo. I’m saying “hola” and “buen camino” as I pass by but not even bothering to start up conversations when I walk. I’m also talking to myself a lot. A LOT! Ordinarily this would warrant a strait jacket, but out here, I’m coming up with some great joke ideas or perhaps going delirious? It’s a fine line.
As the horizon started to curve I saw a haystack and a tower, it was the only building in sight. I hadn’t seen any civilisation for some time. Now I was wondering if it was just a mirage. As I got closer I had a hunch it was part of a town but didn’t get my hopes up. But as the tops of other buildings came into view I got excited. I was smiling and laughing and cheering. This was a big day. I had just completed the longest day I’ve ever travelled on foot. 43km. Slightly more than a marathon. I never thought my first marathon would be carrying a 10kg backpack or on asphalt and gravel roads in 25’c heat, but if I’d been told that’s what it would have been like I never would have started it. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. The only thing that could have ruined my day would have been if I got to the Albergue and it was full.
I got to the Albergue and it was full.
But that was all fine. He pointed next door and said this one had beds. And it had a pool. Why anyone would have chosen the place without a pool over the one with a pool in a desert heat middle of nowhere place I don’t know. But there was a bed waiting for me and cold beers and an even colder pool. I quickly checked in and chatted to the Brazilian manager, we shared some stories of where I’d been and he named all his favourite Australian surfers. I pretended to be cooler than I am and listed all the surfers I knew. Luckily when I grew up we had posters of surfers on our bedroom walls from the insides of magazines. We kept the other pull outs hidden under the bed. (RIP Hugh Hefner). He was impressed when I reeled off Damien Hardman, Tom Carroll, Occy, Barton Lynch… But not as impressed as when I jumped in the pool in my Brasil sunga! I felt great. Not just in my Latin speedo, but for the fact that I’d completed an actual bloody marathon. In just under 10hours! On par with my fun run time when I was a teenager most likely. As I exited the pool and sat on the side and cracked my cold beer to celebrate I spoke with a guy from Switzerland. I’d barely taken my first sip and he mentioned he had walked from Geneva. This was his 52nd day walking. He’d also done a day that was 43km.
The taste of my beer got really bitter all of a sudden.
WHAT. A. FUCKING. PRICK! How dare he ruin my moment! Aren’t the Swiss supposed to be neutral? He may as well have been a Nazi in my book. Here I was just wanting to bask in the glory for one moment and he took the wind out of my sails. Ugh. He did however say it was his 52th day which when you say it out loud sounds very funny and there was some confusion as to what he was saying at all. I had to correct him to comprehend. “It’s your 50th Tuesday?” I said smugly, knowing full well that he probably spoke about 5 languages. I’ve become more accepting of grammar, I used to correct people but now that I know how hard it is to learn another language, I’ve softened with my superiority over others intelligence. Except for Mr Swiss today. Fuck him.
I just did a marathon. Where’s my medal!? Where’s my polaroid camera?