Day #29 El Camino
Wednesday 11th October
Melide > O Pedrouzo
Distance walked: 32km
With 51km or so to reach Santiago, I didn’t want to break this into 3 short days so I knew one day had to be longer. The albergue I was in last night had a whole bunch of new blood so to speak, people who are only tourists when it comes to the Camino. Not my words, the words of EVERYONE. So with that, they aren’t aware of the common curtesy throughout the albergues when it comes to lights out at 10pm or perhaps packing your bags the night before. There was a lot of disturbance last night and in the morning today also and I’m almost at the brink of being done with it all. I know right, so many years being a hostel and couchsurfing expert and its starting to take its toll. I’m not done with travel, just some aspects of it grow tedious. I’ve always loved a good hotel room. Might have to start lifting my game a little workwise so I’m not living like a pilgrim in the future. Or atleast just splash out on a few more private rooms and Airbnbs. As soon as I was awake just before 6am, I got up and started to leave, then hovered around the foyer checking my emails and scrolling Facebook before I left the WiFi zone. It’s hard to explain the drive or stupidity it takes to force yourself up out of bed at 5-6am, not for a job, not for school, not to catch a plane, but simply to go for a walk. A 32kg walk carrying an enormous weight. Nobody is making me do this. I still don’t have a definitive answer as to why I am either. There’s to financial reward, just a piece of paper to hang on my wall to say ‘well done’. I remember a comedian once making a joke about people who do online sponsorship for doing things like this to raise money for a cause and how it was silly that you’d donate to somebody for doing something we do every day anyway. I won’t do the joke justice but it was funny. I think maybe it was Tom Gleeson? Anyway, I’d considered raising money for a cause on this walk, but also thought that it was just something I wanted to do. I knew physically I’d be fine (in hindsight it’s taken more of a toll on my body than I expected!) and I had the time off work (I am my own boss) so the idea of asking people to donate money to something I was doing just for something to do didn’t seem right. If it inspires anyone, great. But I don’t think I’m the sort of person who is an inspiration doing this. I’m already someone who travels a shitload and needs things like this in life to keep me sane. Be inspired by the 80year old who is walking it, be inspired by the person who has recovered from operations and illness to achieve this, or the larger folk who for them, this is a genuine challenge. I’m just a person who likes to do stuff. Hardly a role model in my mind, but hey, if I’m encouraging you to be more active, or to take risks or to get off your fat ass and do something before you die, then who am I to tell you who your heroes should be!?
After walking 14km today, I left my beloved sticks at the entrance to a supermarket while I ducked in for an apple. Within a few minutes, I came back out and they were gone. I found the first stick on day 1, the second stick on day 2. These were not pretty. They were chunky and by all accounts not good for me. Compared with actual hiking sticks, mine were lumps of concrete. But they had character and I’ve carried them, or should I say, they’ve carried me almost all the way to Santiago. There was a begger sitting in the doorway entrance to the supermarket, as I glanced towards him, he knew what I was looking for, as he’d seen the crime take place. He uttered something and pointed. He pointed to a street that wasn’t on the Camino. I walked, came back to clarify and he confirmed that it wasn’t a peregrine, but a local, an older man. At first I was livid, but that lasted a few seconds. I screamed “Why God!?” and “There is no god!?” Then it dawned on me, I was eating the forbidden fruit. Perhaps indeed it was a sign from above? But no, I quickly squashed that sentiment and thought ‘Nope, just some dodgy fucker stole my sticks’. Funnily enough, they’re not brand new bought sticks, nor have they been polished or had anything done to them, they’re just branches I’d found. Someone deemed them worthy of stealing. I set off without sticks for the first time in 27 days. It felt weird. I still had 18km to go today and to be honest, once you’ve gotten used to using them, you feel naked without. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, I was swinging them in motion, I tripped on tree roots going down hills not realising how useful they were to me. I had to be careful with my steps again. As I left the city limits I came to a rather steep hill. At the top of the hill a man was carving shapes into sticks, he had about 20+ lined up outside his house. My cynicism set in and thought they were co-conspiring, one steals your stick, the other sells you new ones just as you leave the town and up a hill. I was onto them and wasn’t buying it! Literally. I started peering over fences, looking for broomsticks I could swipe, I was faked out by bark that I thought was the perfect stick at a distance, I saw one that was too long and I tried to snap it against a tree to no avail. I then saw another laying in the ground, turns out it was steel pipe. As I journeyed on I walked with a Spanish guy and Dutch girl for a little while, we’d crossed paths on a few occasions and they sympathised with my loss and we all laughed about it. I eventually came to a farmhouse, I saw the farmer in the shed and on the front lawn was the biggest pile of sticks I’ve ever seen! It was like I was in Stick heaven! I put down my backpack and snuck up on to the property and snagged one. It wasn’t at all pretty but it’d do the job! I was back in action!
When I got to my albergue there was a Spanish couple in their 60’s arguing at the top of their voices. After sitting through this for a good 10 minutes I quietly asked them to be quieter. They did. I don’t think they knew the stick story, but they could see it in my eyes. Not today… not today!
RIP sticks. Gone but not forgotten. xo
PS. I’ll be setting up a fundraising page for all who’d like to donate for 2 new sticks…