I’m sitting in a cafe, drinking more red wine and sneaking pieces of bread from my bag of groceries under the table. I don’t believe the woman working here would refill my glass if I knocked it over, nor would she probably appreciate my consumption of outside food (nor did she seem to approve of my ordering wine at this most reasonable hour).
Some American movie dubbed in Spanish is showing on a television in a corner opposite me; dramatic music plays over the hum of the refrigeration system.
It’s just before 6pm. I’m in Mondonedo, Galicia. I arrived around 2:30, and it was like walking into a ghost town. There was no one anywhere.
Now that siesta is over, I can see that Mondonedo is full of youth; there are teenagers everywhere, and I just had an insight: teenagers make me uncomfortable. It probably has a lot to do with my after-walk appearance: lime green socks pulled over my tights and Teva sandals. I look strange.
It’s been nearly one week since Akash and I started walking separately, a decision we were both initially unsure about.
My second day of walking alone brought with it the greatest physical challenge I’ve faced since starting the Camino.
First, I started my period and ate a bunch of candy for breakfast to distract from my cramps with a stomach ache. Naturally, the stomach ache came on at the very same time the Advil I had taken started numbing the cramps. So I ate what I thought was a dandelion plant to settle my stomach, but soon after realized that what I had eaten was not actually dandelion. I thought of making myself puke on the side of the trail, but instead settled with the idea that I might soon be dead.
I did not die.
Instead, I accidentally took the “not recommended” mountain route to Cadavedo and found myself alone all day climbing hill after hill after hill, slipping and twisting my ankles on a terrain made up of rocks covered with hay.
For six hours, there was nothing but land, cows and bees. I had bypassed all the towns on the way to my destination and as the day waned, I started praying that the mountain’s descent wouldn’t also bypass Cadavedo.
I couldn’t tell whether the Camino was punishing me for not walking with Akash, or presenting me with a challenge it thought I would enjoy.
There was something special about being up there all alone. As I walked across the mountain–more mountains in the distance, the sea more distant still–I felt close to the Earth; like this massive, terribly powerful being was allowing little me to walk along its edge all by myself.
It let me out two kilometers from Cadavedo. I felt like I had just escaped the wilderness; scratches on my legs, prickly grass poking me through my socks. I wondered if humanity still existed, or if it really was just the cows left.
The first man I saw said “Vamos a Santiago!”
Ah, a joke. Things seemed to be the same.
I walked a mile and a half farther than I should have before it started to rain. As I backtracked, adding another mile and a half to the 22 miles I had walked already, I knew for sure: this was a punishment. The hostel would be full and I would have to find the apartamentos some guy gave me a flier for that morning.
That “some guy” turned out to be Samuel, who turned out to be the nicest guy in the universe. I found him by following the yellow signs for Casa Carmin.
He gave me a discount on my own room with a queen sized bed and a pink comforter. Then he drove me and another German guy to the market so that we didn’t have to walk in the rain.
It was storming hard by the time we returned; pouring rain and the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard. Back in the comfort of my own little apartment (that I shared with an old Frenchman, Cherie) I took a hot shower and watched Spanish-dubbed Big Bang Theory on the television in the living room. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
Maybe the Camino wasn’t punishing me after all. Maybe it was just pushing me.
The magic that Akash and I experienced while we walked together still exists now that we’re apart.
Yesterday was the last day we would see the coast on this road to Santiago. I took my time walking, savoring the final views of the sea, and planning at some point to stop at a beach and put my feet in the water.
I finally made it to the perfect beach that didn’t detour from the trail. But I could see the rain cloud over the mountains moving closer and closer. I didn’t know how much time I had before it started pouring.
I felt the first drop as soon as I took my left shoe off. A couple walking their dogs ran off the beach, to their cars and out of the rain.
I put on my poncho and ran toward a giant rock/cave near the water.