To walk long distances on a daily basis is thought provoking and often quite an interior process – as the miles pass by underfoot, the mind occupies itself in a number of ways and has time to consider rare topics.
As an example, I’d been thinking a bit about Aretha Franklin and the incredible impact that she’d made over seven decades as a performer, activist and icon.
So it was all the more appropriate that last night’s wonderful communal meal and meditation in a Dutch confraternity albergue in Villamayor concluded with Aretha’s gospel version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
I’m choosing to walk alone at my own pace, having five to ten minute chats with new people when I catch up to them, or vice versa, or with friends made on earlier days, at rest stops or at the albergue of choice later that day.
It’s a perfect mix of continuous reengagement with fellow travelers as we stride at our own speed, choosing when to speak and when to remain silent.
Yesterday morning’s first stretch from Villatuerta through Estella to the red wine fountain at Irache saw a reunion with Leonard of Malta from the first night at St Jean-Pied-de-Port, who had been thinking of concluding his Camino, until his son surprised him by arriving the previous night and giving him new vigour to continue.
The half hour spent with these two was very sweet, but there came a time when it felt appropriate to peel away and let them walk together, alone.
It was another hot day, so my plan was to stop around midday at Villamayor, as the next stop was 12km further on and too far to consider in the current temperatures.
By then, I’d realised I’d made my first big error by leaving my phone charger behind in Villatuerta, so I had become a little distracted by that.
Then, I allowed myself to get annoyed by a French quartet who barged the queue at the albergue and therefore hogged the showers, the washing machine and the centrifuge, much to the chagrin of all those behind them.
There was a short interval where these twin irritations threatened to pollute my equilibrium and cheerfulness.
But the kindness of Paulina from Brazil in charging my phone, Bob and Kevin from the US buying red wine for everyone, and Melina and Leah from Germany and Woiczek from Poland and Wout from Belgium’s engaging company as we experienced the meditation class after the meal reduced all that to a dot.
The positivity, openness and thoughtfulness of the moment was very significant and I felt a sense of real togetherness.
We all may walk alone at times, but on the Camino, you’re never alone.
Casa Magica – Villatuerta
An oasis of calm, cool air, hammocks and fantastic paella, with great company provided by Connie, Craig, Iday and Bill (81).
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0 (0)
Applications of Factor 50: 8 (30)
Filling of Water Bottles: 2 (14)
Filling of hip flask with free red wine: 1
Acceptance of pathside lemonade stall opportunities: 0 (2)
Wrong turns taken: 1 (1)
Mobile phone chargers left behind: 1
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: About 40
Poncho deployments: 0 (2)