Many years ago, a friend of mine went backpacking around the world and I gave her a torch as a leaving present.
When it became my turn to leave the UK earlier this year, she gave me a torch of my own, a headlamp that amply demonstrated how the technology has changed in the intervening years.
A spring and summer spent in Iceland gave no opportunity to make use of such a thoughtful gift, but when I made my earliest Camino start yet this morning at 0625, it became the most useful item in my pack.
The moon was trying to help too, but without that headlamp, I’d have had to stay put for an hour and my target to stomp the 30km from Villamayor to Viana would have foundered at the first hurdle.
That said, there were more than a few moments of uncertainty as the previously frequent path markers seemed to disappear from view and I was fearful that I’d somehow strayed from the route.
Soon came the reassurance of dawn’s early light and the return of the blue and yellow signage, as well as the unveiling of some gorgeous rolling farmland.
In many ways, this was an easy stage, roaming across towards the edge of the Navarre region through gently undulating fields and river valleys and a ten degree drop in temperature allowed me to push towards Viana, about 30km away.
Ironically, after my comments yesterday, my early start meant that I saw far fewer people than normal – Vilmar from Brazil, who’s on his fourth Camino and giving thanks for his recovery from stomach cancer, and Jerry and Jane from Canada, who I’d last seen three days earlier.
Sansol was the first watering hole after 12km, but just beyond lay the more interesting Templar village of Torres del Rio, where I was reunited with my phone charger heroine, Paulinha from Mexico (not Brazil) and could repay her kindness with an Estrella.
I had the option of lingering in Torres del Rio, but I felt strong enough after a long rest the previous day to carry on for another long stretch, which would bring me to Viana, a larger town with greater historical significance, thanks to its links with the Borgias.
It was nearly 4pm and after ten hours on the Way before I finally arrived in Viana and it was the strain of the lengthy day that reminded me that I’d promised myself a private room once in a while, as a little treat.
Today was that day – I’m currently holed up in a very comfortable bedroom with a shower that is to be shared between four people, rather than 20 or so.
The luxury of taking a shower for longer than the few moments that seem tolerable, when so many others are keen to wash the dust of the day off their tired bodies, is pretty much indescribable.
Viana is a fine town, dominated by an enormous church where Cesare Borgia was variously buried and not buried, but the most significant aspect of my time here in Viana was a great conversation with Wes and Sherri from Canada, who volunteer to run a vegetarian cafe here on the main drag.
Tempted by the offer of a foot bath and hummus, the time spent chatting to Wes was very rewarding indeed, concluded by his mention of a book about the Camino written in tandem by two friends, one in a wheelchair and one pushing him all the way to Santiago.
The strength of the relationship that could enable such an enormous effort was humbling. I’ll look to read the book as soon as I can.
But I then thought back to the torches exchanged between friends and realised that there wasn’t really any difference between these gestures.
All of us who choose to give, rather than take, are the same.
Hogar – Villamayor
The most spiritually centred place of rest yet, run by a Dutch confraternity offering a three course communal meal, a meditation class (featuring Aretha Franklin) and several of the nicest people I’ve met yet. Thanks Andre and Ineke and Meirin.
Absolutely fabulous and highly recommended to all who come this way.
Whoever invented Compeed is my new personal hero/ine.
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0 (0)
Applications of Factor 50: 7 (37)
Filling of Water Bottles: 4 (17)
Acceptance of pathside lemonade stall opportunities: 0 (2)
Wrong turns taken: 1 (1)
Mobile phone chargers left behind: 1
New mobile phone chargers bought: 1
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: About 15 (where was everyone?)
Poncho deployments: 0 (2)