I crossed a major threshold yesterday – literally.
After crossing a medieval bridge over a small brook, I came to the city gates of Sahagun where two huge statues, one of Alphonse VI the Brave (1065-1109)- Promoter and Protector of the Way of St. James and on the other side Bernardo de Seriedad an Abad considered one of the founders of Sahagun stood ready to greet me with the official news – I’ve reached the geographical center of the Camino de Santiago!
In other words- I’ve made it half way …. I was overcome with emotions; exhaustion and exhilaration – and I suddenly realized I’m doing this Camino, this Spanish Schlep, all wrong.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m loving this 500 mile trek from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain, I’ve seen things and experienced things no guide book could ever suggest, no movie could ever capture – but I’m still doing it all wrong.
I realized I’m still an American and not a true pilgrim when I saw the veteran pilgrim, “Thor,” from Norway showing us newbies how to truly enjoy the Camino Frances.
Yesterday I set myself up for a horrendous and Herculean walk – 25 miles from Carrion de los Condes to Sahagun. People thought I was nuts, perhaps I was, but the closest hotel I could find was 25 miles away, so whatchagonnado!? And if truth be told, I really didn’t realize it was that far-everything’s in kilometers and I’m not that great with math.
I knew it would be a challenge, I have not two, but four blisters on my feet – two below my ankles and just for kicks, two new ones the size of peanuts STILL in their flippin’ shells, on my heels. These new one are beauts – they start just above the heel then wrap all the way underneath- every fucking step sends an excruciating searing shot of pain through my legs – so 25 miles will be a piece of cake, right!??
The first part of this stage is a mind numbing 12 mile hike thru the endless fields of the “Meseta” – Spain’s breadbox. The path is a former Roman Road with no and I mean no services! The fields have been harvested so there is nothing to look at – like nada- only the long line of pilgrims in front of me and those behind. No towns, no quaint farm houses, no churches, no Roman ruins – zilch!
At the 8-mile mark -paradise- some guy set up a barbecue stand – but no toilets. I ordered a hard boiled egg, sausage sandwich and a banana. It was better than anything you could order at the 21Club.
Fueled, I marched on to the first town, 12 miles from my starting point. I told my fellow pilgrims I couldn’t stay long, I still had 13 miles to go. They expressed shock and best wishes- the German girl gave me stretching lessons and a magnesium pill, the lady from Paris gave me a chunk of dark chocolate, and Cindy from Dayton shared her dried dates with me.
So off I went. I told myself it was a case of mind over matter.
Until …. until… until….UNTIL….
What the fucking fuck!
I stepped down and the blister on my left heel burst…on impact with the fucking Roman Road. I hate those Romans – haven’t they ever heard of tar??!
ARGH!!!! I yelled out in such pain, I’m sure they heard me as far away as Barcelona- but the two lovebirds walking hand in hand 10 feet in front of me only turned, smiled, and continued walking. Fuckers! I’m dying here, but hey, hope you get laid tonight – don’t let me stop you from your foreign foreplay… Man friggin’ down here – but you kiddos just keep doing what you’re doing… assholes! Who are your mothers, gimme their numbers, I gotta talk to them like now.
Anywhooo, I still had like 10 miles to go and I’m out in the middle of bumsfuckville-ola, so I had no choice, I had to keep moving. So hobble and bobble I walked on… like a drunken toddler just learning to walk, all clumsy-like, with arms and legs going this way and that, and making noises that kind of sound human, but don’t make a lick of sense.
And then I saw him- Thor (not his real name, obs). Thor has done the Camino ten times so he knows a thing or two about blisters and surviving the Camino.
He had set up a picnic for himself; ham, cheese, AND wine in a fucking goblet, and he was actually enjoying the Camino. He asked me where I was off to and when I told him Saragun, he told me I wasn’t pronouncing it correctly! Fuck you Thor I’ve got four fucking blisters!
So there I was on the side of a road getting Spanish lessons from a Norwegian. Like how do I know he knows what he’s talking about – he has an accent and it ain’t Catalonian! After a few attempts and his many corrections, he was finally satisfied with my pronunciation, and bid me farewell – uhhh, without offering to share a glass of his red.
Three hours later, I all but stumbled into my hotel; completely spent, checked in, and took a 45 minute bath. At dinner I met two Californians. She’s doing the Camino her way. He drives her to the pretty spots she wants to do, she walks for an hour or so, then calls it a day, and then they celebrate and have a drink (or six).
I realized the Cali couple and the Norwegian were on to something – they were living “in the moment.” I was too tired to even text my family to let them know I was safe and sound.
Something had to change.
Today I marched up to yet another monastery on the other side of Sahagun, not to look around, but to get my certificate – a beautiful sheet that proclaims to me and the entire world, I’ve completed half of the Camino! I’ve dragged my ass halfway across the holiest of holy trails and I’ve got a fucking piece of paper to prove it!
I got to thinking- I’m working too hard, doing this too fast. So I’m gonna slow the fuck down. I’m not Hercules after all.
So I saw a cab, waved my poles like a lunatic and grabbed it 4 miles to the next town.
It’s noon here and I’m done for the day. A few more miles under my belt, and it’s enough. I’m sitting here in a small town, drinking a Kalimotxo which is, get this coke and red wine TOGETHER, and having tapas. In an hour, I’m going to go have lunch, then a siesta, then more wine, then a snack, then dinner and more wine.
Tomorrow’s walk is a 16 miler through more endless fields with only one town between start and finish, it’ll be tough, but today’s break has me hopeful that, as God is my witness, I’m gonna learn how to do this Camino thing the right way.
Here are my stats
24.48 Miles Marched Today
(Carrion de los Condes –
257.78 Miles Traveled So Far
248.1 Miles Left To Go
505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain
Tomorrow: Another Day on the “Meseta” – Destination: Calzadilla de los Hermanillos
PS: There was no Day 16 blog, because if you had read this blog, I was zapped, spent, tired, exhausted, too tired to think or type.