After 3 days of solitude I thought the likelihood of bumping into another pilgrim was becoming less and less, but since last night I’ve come across three other Peregrinos both cycling and walking the Northern trail. It began last night when I reached the Albergue and noticed the lights were on. I was sure I had turned them off which meant there must be someone else in there. My quiet early night or so I expected transformed as soon as I opened the door to find one man using the 300 year old spin dryer and another man setting up the table ready to cook a feast of frozen french fries, eggs and chorizo. There room was suddenly full of bags, clothes and mountain bikes and it took me a minute to get my bearings.
I went from slight dismay to joy when I discovered they spoke English and I could finally communicate with another human being. After a few minutes I realised just how much I missed the camaraderie of the trail and enjoyed getting to know my two new Portuguese friends Henrique and Samuel. One who’s ex-army and one who’s a cop, so at least I felt incredibly safe. They cooked me an entire two course meal starting with soup and then the french fry/egg/chorizo dish which had a special name I’ve since forgotten. It was by far my best meal on trail!
To top it all off this morning the boys made me scrambled eggs and hot chocolate before I said goodbye around 8:30am. The trail climbed immediately today and I was impressed and equally disheartened by the local elderly folk whizzing past me up the hill. Just after a small dog snapped at my heels and actually grabbed the bottom of my pants in its mouth, I went the wrong way up a steep hill and had to come all the way back down, only to go the wrong way again down hill and eventually come back up again. The reasoning for this was that someone had actually painted over all the yellow arrows in black paint, and until I noticed the black blobs I had no idea where the trail went.
Luckily a fit woman who had to be in her early 70’s came jogging past. When I pointed at the black arrows she scowled and motioned to me that some grumpy person had painted over them. I’m sure there’s a lot more to the story than that but at least she was able to communicate I was still on the right track which put my mind at ease.
Despite the confusion of the morning the day became filled with little moments of magic along the way. I was startled by two huge geese bathing in an old bathtub, splashing water at one another with their wings, wild horses galloping down the pathway towards me and two very sweet lambs who scampered away from me underneath their mother with their two little tails waving furiously.
In the 6 months I hiked the PCT I hoped that the answers to what I want to do in life and where I want to be would all come clear. Miraculously today my mind was filled with incredible clarity after having one of those ‘what is the meaning of life?’ moments. I realised life is about growth, change, understanding and community. What I’m missing from my nomadic lifestyle is community. A few of my friends recently have stressed how important it is to have a base and I do believe this concept is true. I’m starting to also believe I can have a base but still be free enough to move around because that to me is fundamental.
Today there were no towns in between so I was forced to stop and eat my sardines and two day old bread for lunch. I also ate some of the giant cookie I bought yesterday. I felt the lack of caffeine all day but my body was benefitting from the huge dinner and breakfast I’d eaten which meant I was able to power through with only a couple of kit kats and gummy bears throughout the day.
When my two Portuguese friends passed me today they told me there was a British woman solo hiking on the trail about 2km back. Every time I stopped today I expected her to catch up, but it wasn’t until later this evening that I bumped into her in the second Albergue I visited. I spoke to the first one on the phone to see if they were open. I had a very amusing conversation spitting out any Spanish words I knew and ended up just saying ‘see you soon’. I had to walk almost 1km out of town to reach it, and when I got there the whole place was being renovated. I called out to the man working inside who shook his head and sighed. He signalled to me that I must have been the one on the phone and that he’d tried to tell me they weren’t open. He told me to wait, grabbed his keys, then kindly drove me back to town and dropped me at another Albergue where a bossy but very sweet woman named Maria showed me the ropes. There was a place for my hiking poles, a place for my shoes, another 300 year old spin dryer and a room with 6 beds. A few minutes after settling in Ali, the English lady, arrived speaking perfect Spanish to Maria. I was immediately envious. It was so nice to have company again and have someone to talk to about the day and previous stages with. She also enlightened me that Maria had invited us for dinner at her restaurant which meant another hot meal and good company. I can see myself getting used to this kind of Camino!