the del Norte/Primitivo route.
Spain: From Irun to Santiago de Compostela, 530 miles.
Post 39; July 9, 2016, still Saturday.
Day 25: From Oviedo to San Juan De Villapañada. On The Camino
Primitivo. Stage three of the Primitivo in the Perazzoli/Whitson TNCs book.
Why I’m doing the Camino.
The day ended . . . perfect.
I made it to San Juan de Villapañada and its little Albergue de Peregrinos (donativo, basically 6 Euro, 22 beds, Kitchen). The albergue’s hospitelero, Domingo Ugarte, loudly keeps telling me what to do, in Spanish, and so I just keep guessing what he is talking about and apparently I’m getting it right. I’m “wasted.” I put my dirty boots in the right place, my poles in the right place, threw my backpack on the right bed, paid him enough to make him happy, opted in on the pilgrims’ dinner, and contributed all the food I had in my backpack (noted below). Then he stamped my pilgrims’ passport, while talking talking talking to me in Spanish. I have no idea what he keeps telling me. Lots of French trekkers are here and they laugh at me. They are so disgustingly energetic and happy, it seems unreal—until later I found out why—geesh!, this is their first day. Oh please, really? They are doing half a Camino. Whatever.
It was extra hard getting to this albergue because it is something like 2km off the Camino. Really? This is ridiculous—and all up hill. Wow, that was hard. Best I can tell at this hour, 6:45 p.m., there will be a pilgrims’ dinner thrown together by the energetic French trekkers with whatever we all have, and I have some food, thanks to visiting some small stands in Grado. I even have cheese and French, but white nonetheless, bread, two things I rarely eat back home. In fact, I’m nowhere close to my normal Santa Monica vegan diet. This usually feels like survival eating—you eat whatever is put in front of you, gladly. You are just so hungry after a long long hot trek, that’s the way it is.
The bottom line is I didn’t want to leave Oviedo, but eventually did. And so getting to San Juan de Villapañada felt like, just a chore today. Carlos even had to trudge a little bit. And so, here we are, Carlos, Leo, Willi, and lots of other friends. It literally seems like every one of us got here separately, on their own time schedule, one by one. All the hills, and especially that last hill forced us all into our own capacities, and no one could help us, but ourselves. We were on our own. And it was hot, did I mention that? So many great friends are here, so as we settle down, put “settle” in scare quotes, we start to relax a bit—except the French on their first day of the Camino, make this feel like a summer camp getaway. But the seasoned ones, with about average 25 days on the path, are fun to be with and there’s lots to talk about. Vaiva is here, so is Marie, and the Indiana boys, Angelus and Ted. Angelus, Ted, and Carlos arrived last, so they are sleeping on the floor in the kitchen, which is no worse than where the rest of us are sleeping. This is an interchangable experience; anybody offers to trade—we don’t care. Vaiva insists that she give up her bed to Carlos and she set up her tent. She’s so cool and friendly, but Carlos insists on not troubling her, and he sets up to sleep on the floor, with people walking around him, Angelus, and Ted, like used furniture. Still, if you saw how packed in our bunks were, you would be hard pressed to say who had it better.
The pilgrims’ dinner cooked by the energetic first day French people was good and satisfying, but less so than the conversations of the seasoned trekkers and their plans to get to Santiago. And the cows roamed in front of the albergue, and the stars were out, and the bugs weren’t so bad, and some of us took showers, and did some writing, and hugged, and then talked some more, some cried, and some just stared at the sky.
So, exactly why are we all here? This is like a scene from Waiting for Godot. Especially with the French people here. Yes, I know Samuel Beckett, don’t yell at me, I know it’s simple. To these agnostic French people, it seems like they are doing the Camino because it’s “such a great hike.” That’s what they said. Did I hear that right? Mercy, that’s so boring to me.
And then there are those that are really connected. They feel connected. They know why they are here. They feel called. It’s okay to love God and want to get closer to Him. It’s cool. It’s okay in this secular world . . . where God seems so irrelevant so often, and unwanted, and unneeded.
I got a smirk. It included the look, plus the grunt sound. I’m so tired. I took a sip of red wine. A long sip. The Frenchman next to me went on and on about the great hike of the day. His first day. He’s not religious, he told me. He likes great hikes. And he’s so energetic. On his first day. He even cooked us dinner. But, I got a smirk. When he asked me why I was doing the Camino?
I said, “I’m doing it because I believe in God, I feel He called me to do it, He wants me to get closer to Him, and He wants me to be very clear about His Plan for my life. And I love that. I am so cool with that.”
And then I took my long sip of red wine. . . .
And I got the smirk.
Then I got up, walked over to Vaiva, sat down, and continued to get to know an amazingly wonderful and beautiful woman.
This day is definitely going to end . . .
. . .