Day 9 … Monday, 10 August 2015
There are so many moments of weakness today.
For a start I woke up to a message that my schoolmate had passed away the day before. It was a sad moment and as I was having breakfast, the cafe played Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven. I was sitting alone listening to the song and watching pilgrims set off at sunrise.
When it was time to move on, I felt like my legs were cemented to the ground. Too much drinking last night? or didn’t massage them as I normally did before going to sleep. Whatever it is, I can’t stay here much longer so off I went with a pair of concrete legs.
Stopped more often than normal and longer each time, at least two hours in cafes.
Someone told me the Camino is like a walking village. You tend to meet the same group of people who walk about the same pace as you.
So today I had a second breakfast with my Irish friend from Ponferrada. And a long lunch with my Hungarian friend from last night.
Happy to know it’s just 100km to Santiago but that also means a lot more pilgrims are walking from here. There was a fair bit of climbing and a 300m descent. But the walk was very pleasant with shaded paths, quaint villages with lovely people and animal farms with cows uninterested in what’s going on.
Didn’t take the advice of seasoned pilgrims that I should book a bed at Portomarín because it is a popular stopover for local tourists and pilgrims. And it’s true. There were many tour buses and every albergue I tried was full.
I was in a bit of panic and begged one bar owner to help me find a place somewhere, anywhere. He tried his best but unable to help very much.
Here’s where I learned a lesson.
Remember the day I gave my books to young David? A French Chinese lady was there and we spoke for a bit. Didn’t see her until this afternoon having a beer at the same bar. She didn’t have a bed as well but wasn’t at all worried. Insisted I join her which I did though I was still on my nerves not knowing where I would be sleeping.
After we had not one, but two beers, an ice-cream, a plate of patata frita and wonderful conversation, my cool friend decided it’s time to look for lodging. It was almost 5pm.
She led me to the church office just as it was closing and we were told to try the municipal hostel. There was a queue and to my disappointment, the last bed was taken up by the person before us.
But the municipal apparently doesn’t turn pilgrims away. So though we didn’t get a bed, we had a mattress on the floor of the gymnasium. This is the first time in the Camino that I slept in this manner.
In the night walking around town, I met many of the pilgrims from the past days of walking, some staying in the same albergues days before. Met my Hungarian friend and joined him for dinner, a couple other pilgrims joined us, the French Chinese lady as well and we had a wonderful time.
About the lesson learned today – somehow, the Camino provides for her pilgrims. There seems to be a refuge at every stop and always someone who will lend a helping hand.
Yesterday I helped three people – one was lost and two didn’t have beds for the night. Today the favour is returned.