Posting 7: 06/05/2006, Torres del Rio. (2070 km's to go)
Well it's just as well I decided previously not to worry about dates etc as I have now discovered some minor errors in my schedule. (I should have had it tested using Fagan Inspections!) First I marked up 2 nights stops but forgot to add them (and the dates they would represent) in to the running total. Then I noticed that my calendar gave 31 days to April! Finally I realised that on 28th April I was due to spend the night at Burgos AND spend the night at Ages. So that makes me 4 days behind without taking a step! Not to worry.
If that wasn’t enough, only a few days after slipping in the shower I also fell over on the Camino. I had arrived at Tosantos, my destination that day, and standing at a T junction I was wondering which way to go. Not sure how it happened, perhaps I turned awkwardly or it was the poor tread on the boots and the ground being gravelly, but suddenly my feet went from under me. I don't know whether it was a stroke of luck/automatic self preservation/divine intervention or what but as I went down, my body twisted so that the side of the rucksack hit the ground before I did! Nonetheless I banged my right leg just below the knee. Painfully I hauled myself upright with the aid of my sturdy staff (bought in Dingle agus sin sceal eile!) and started to hobble off in what I thought was the right direction. Tears started to well up, not of pain as much as shock, and relief that I had not broken anything. Falling has always been a fear particularly when picking one's way down a steep slope littered with rocks. To fall is one thing but to fall while carrying 30lbs on your back 'ups the ante'! Anyway by the time I reached the refugio (only a few minutes walk) I was walking awkwardly as opposed to hobbling painfully. Nonetheless as I walked through the door the tears came again. Sternly I told myself to 'pull yourself together' but one or two escaped! Luckily one of the Hospitaleros (I don't think that's the correct spelling) spoke very good English and I was able to explain to him why I was a little shaken. It turned out the other one (Jose) had also walked to Rome, in 2000 using the same route as I planned! This was one time I really wished I could speak good Spanish. They were both very sympathetic. As I explained I was walking to Rome I was gripped by almost a sense of fraud. Here I was, telling people I was going to walk to Rome and yet I had fallen in the shower and very soon afterwards fallen on the Camino. A little voice said "who do you think you're kidding? You're no spring chicken. You're not up to it. Just give it a few more weeks and you'll fall again and injure yourself and you´ll have to stop. You won´t get there”.
As it turned out the stay at Tosantos was one of the best so far. Unexpectedly I ended up meeting a lady from the US who had married an Irishman and spent the last 30 years in Ireland but living in the area of Dublin that was my own old hunting grounds. We had a great chat but the thing that had brought us together was singing Taise chants led by Jose. As we chatted, she told me about another Irish person on the Camino. She said I might meet him tomorrow. Well I set off the following day and not only did I meet him about 30 min's into the day, (he asked me in Spanish why I was going the wrong way and we quickly established that we both spoke English ) but it turned out he was from 5 miles away from where I was brought up in Ireland. He was a great character. For the first time I was really tempted to suspend the pilgrimage and turn round and walk in the same direction as him - not to walk with him as I probably could not keep up - but to spend an evening with him, the craic would be mighty! But I put temptation aside! We exchanged contact details and no doubt we will have an evening of craic at some point!
Met another amazing person a few days later - perhaps this section is about meeting people - she was young, probably young enough to be my daughter. She was German and had been on the road for 8 months (and I think I´m doing something special!). She had started her Camino from Switzerland and got as far as the Pyrenees and had had an accident, had fallen over and had had to spend 2 months recuperating. She was now restarting her Camino. We were kindred spirits somehow. It was a very special meeting for us, but ironically it seemed so for other pilgrims as well. One pilgrim said that even if he had to finish his pilgrimage early (as he had had to do last year), then it would have been worth it just to have met the two of us. Another pilgrim said that the two of us (her and me I mean) would meet again, in spirit if not actually physically.
So I suppose it´s all a bit metaphysical this week!
One thing that does strike me is the sheer volume of people on the Camino. The refugios continue to be well populated and in fact a few days ago only an hour after I arrived the refugio was full. Yesterday at Logrono I was absolutely gob-smacked as I had arrived at the refugio in good time (14:30) because I had wanted to try and put some stuff into the post. But I had to wait an hour, yes an HOUR before being given a bed. There were just so many people! They had arrived as early as 12:00 when the refugio does not open until 14:00. The Hospitaleros who are unpaid volunteers were very accommodating - I was amazed at how good humoured they were given the volume of pilgrims - but I have to say I was very fed up with having to wait for so long. What is the point in turning up at a refugio at midday and just waiting around for 2 hours? Then the people who were there first, also were out first the following morning. My neighbours started moving around and woke me at what I though was 6:00. When I got up for the loo, I discovered it was 5:00! This despite signs all around the dormitories in various languages asking pilgrims not to get up before 6:00. Again I have to say I was not amused! There was no point in staying in bed so I got up anyway. At least it meant that when I had to pack my rucksack I had space to move around in as my neighbours were now long gone! (the bunks were crammed very close together) So every Camino cloud has a silver lining!.