It’s often said that walking the Camino is a form of therapy, enabling a person to think, to consider, to evaluate and hopefully to develop in some way as the miles crunch away under the feet.
It’s certainly been that way for me, as I’ve given thought to a great many things over the last 20 mornings, bathed in dawn sunshine with only sparrows and insects for company at times, watched by curious cows and halted only by the occasional stranded snail or caterpillar.
It’s a gift to be able to examine oneself in this manner, in nature and with no distractions.
But not everyone on the Camino is capable of appreciating the value of this gift.
This afternoon took me to the fabulous Albergue Villares de Orbigo, run by a magisterial Belgian called Christine and although I’d covered less than 20km, this was the perfect place for me to stop.
Present already was Eamonn from Northern Ireland who, after the usual greetings, then proceeded to put away an entire bottle of Bushmills in an afternoon, with some fairly awkward moments developing as a result.
Christine and the rest of us did our best to mollify Eamonn, until he felt the call of his bed around 5pm.
Later that afternoon Bob and Rivka arrived – two lovely Americans I’d been in company with the previous night in Mazarife – and along with Aoife from Ireland and Freddie from Germany, we were all looking forward to a pleasant (non-vegetarian) meal.
Then Eamonn reappeared.
The dinner conversation was somewhat difficult at times, given the circumstances, but there was one outstanding element to it.
Bob was 74 and runs marathons in less than four hours.
Eamonn was currently having difficulty in going up and down stairs.
But both were alcoholics.
One had recognised his issue 24 years ago and done something about it, while the other simply would not.
We all tried, in our own way, to direct Eamonn to the obvious evidence of the benefits of one path that he could take, sitting right across the table from him.
But he resisted all our entreaties and instead, he tried to offer Bob a glass of wine, perhaps to drag him down to his own level.
Bob’s grace and quiet dignity offered a stark contrast to Eamonn and we all knew that our efforts were futile.
If ever there was a chance for Eamonn to look beyond his present and to see an alternative future, it was presented to him tonight.
But, as we all do, he’ll go his own way.
Today’s walk took me along a 10km ramrod straight route out of Mazarife, then a few more clicks over a gorgeous bridge at Hospital de Orbigo and finally curving around a bit here and there until arriving at Villares de Orbigo.
Very little of note occurred.
All the drama came later.
Albergue Villares de Orbigo
Beautifully presented, lovely patio area, outstandingly good food, very comfortable in every sense and wonderfully run by Christine – a gem.
Blisters: 0 (9)
All departments AOK.
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0 (3)
Applications of Factor 50: 1 (87)
Snails Rescued From Fiery Roadside Death: 4 (perhaps I can be excused for my previous butterfly murder now).
Filling of Water Bottles: 1 (44)
Wrong turns taken: 0 (3)
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: About 6 – a very quiet day
Song Repeatedly Played By My Brain: Go Your Own Way, by Fleetwood Mac