Camino Norte 2/3
I set of early full of hopeful anticipation for the day, I even manage to find a garage to buy a small bottle of pineapple juice which I seem to have become a little addicted to over these past few weeks.
Entering Requejada the odd cloud formations I had noticed earlier are revealed to by the settling steam from a huge power station, that I hear before I see. In the quiet Sunday morning the hum and clanks from the, never sleeping, factory give the slowly warming day the feel of a David lynch film in three dimensional reality and the sound of the region’s power endlessly pouring into the national grid, soundtrack the next eight kilometres of my walk, even as the countryside has long replaced the town. It is only as I enter the medieval town of Santillana Del Mar that it is finally replace with more human scaled chatter and commerce.
This camino is often described as more industrial and gritty than its French Brother, and guidebooks are littered with suggestions of alternatives and advice to take public transport, whilst fully agreeing that they are not the most pretty of sights I think there is something to be got from exposure to such places at close quarters.
We like to avoid the ugly in life, for some people it is personified by bodily functions or squeamishness about insect life, for others avoidance of contact with the food we eat, sanitised portions of meat, distance us from the reality of the slaughterhouse and we kill 99% of the bacterial around us in the belief that this will keep us safe from harm. So it is no surprise that the idea of a nice walk will not be expected to include sights like power stations, the very power stations that keep our homes warm, our food cooked and our water moving.
I am pleased the Camino took me this way, I feel a little more settled into the Camino Norte and my walk is pleasant, I stop for coffee and a chat with the two young Polish pilgrims I met the night before in the Santillian before setting off alone to reach the next Albergue.
Over the next five hours my mood dips dramatically the first Albergue is closed so I head on another five kilometres up hills and down again until I reach Comillas.
It is a festival weekend and everywhere is full, I feel exhausted and don’t really know anyone when I arrive, my Spanish is limited to food and drink requests so I don’t feel capable of finding a bed myself and resign to spending the night in my hammock for the first time, there are dark clouds above the town and I am not enthused about my plan.
As I leave the town I hear my name called and a young English pilgrim calls me to a house where there is a bed for me.
But my mood is not lifted, for some reason I do not connect with the guy as strongly as I have others and I feel alone in the festive town while everyone else seems to be having such a good time… Even in the rain that drenches us in the short walk to the restaurant. I am tired and decline to stay on when my saviour decides to stay out later and drink with the Spanish revelers…
I sleep before my head hits the pillow.
In the morning I get up at 7 and leave before anyone else, my intention is to walk 15 kilometres and no more: to stop and think about what I am doing, I’m thinking to stop and maybe look for work for a few weeks and then maybe return when the Camino is calmed down, I’m done in and feeling a low.
Doubt and uncertainty about the way are flowing thick and fast, feeling different and out of place I walk slowly and soon hear footsteps behind me…
Fred is from the south of Germany, a little younger than me and a few years away from surgery from cancer of the tongue, we walk and talk for a 8 kilometres and his easy conversation and pleasant demeanour brightens my mood considerably. I am realising how important this human connection is for me, it is true that my pursuance of the ‘connection’ has led me into relationships and ‘staying’ with relationships longer that was right for me, I think I am learning to tread much more lightly with people to stay out of my head when talking with them, and to just experience them as I did on the last Camino, it is a lesson I need to be reminded of time and time again.
In San Vincente we stop for three coffees and chat gently for an hour or so befor he continues on his way and I head to the Alburgue.
I am very early there but am convinced that it is right for me to stay put and wait for it to open.
Once in I sit on my bed writing and resting. Gradually more pilgrims arrive and there are a few faces I recognise I smile and chat a little I go to do my clothes washing and end up sharing a wash with Viivi from Finland, we chat a little and end up going for food together and without my doing much more than walking to the next bed the Camino Norte starts to feel a little less lonely.
I sleep rested and content.