“The Best View is a Free View” (Tapia, Spain)

We made good use of the blackout blinds in our hotel room and slept in fairly late. It was supposed to be a cloudy day, so there was no reason to get up and race the sun. Direct sun hasn’t been to much of an issue so far and we’ve gotten far worse sunburns from the beach than from walking 5-7 hours straight. The really nice thing about walking east to west is that the sun is always at your back and never shining in your eyes. While we make our east to west journey, the sun is making his own journey across the sky.

At breakfast, we met an Italian guy who had already walked 10 kilometers that morning. The night before, he had gotten turned away from a full albergue, but was lucky enough to have a family invite him to stay the night in their home. He explained to us that he was on his third Camino, but it would be his first complete one from Irun. His bag was half the size of ours and he told us that it was mostly full of gifts to leave at Santiago de Compostella for his friends and family. But his friends didn’t live in Santiago. They were from all walks of life and couldn’t make it on the Camino at this time, so they asked this man to deliver their offerings and prayers to the church of Saint James upon his arrival. He stopped at every church we passed to kneel down and say his prayers.

A man ran out on his porch to offer the three of us water. Aria politely declined because we had full Camelbacks still, but the Italian man rushed into the house and gladly accepted the offer. He came back out carrying a water bottle that was bigger than his bag and told us that you should never decline a gift while walking the Camino. He told us about the many special gifts he’d received while walking and said that we wouldn’t believe the things people are willing to give if you’re open to receiving. Despite his beautiful outlook, I think he immediately regretted his decision to take the huge water container and asked us to help him drink it. We topped off our containers, he took a few sips and said he was giving the rest to the birds and the bees.

On our way up the town of La Caridad, dreads emerged over the hill on his way back to the albergue we had just passed. Horror film ballads were cycling through my head. We told him that we were not staying in La Caridad for the night, but we weren’t actually sure about that decision. Over lunch, we debated whether to stay or whether we should move on. Dreads had way too much control of our decision and we practically based our decision to leave around him. In the end of our discussion, I told Aria that we couldn’t let this weirdo run our trip and that we had to make decisions based only on us. Thus, we started to backtrack to stay at the albergue, but the owner drove by and told us it was full. Moving on must have been in our stars.

It was 12 kilometers to the town of Tapia. Again, this place was an alternate route from the main walk of the Camino. It was a small beach town, and the albergue was said to have an incredible view. We got lost a few times in the middle of small towns. I swear every small town here looks exactly alike and I feel like I’m having deja vu every time we approach one. The arrows and shells to guide the way are often misguiding or even absent on the alternate route. We argued over which arrows to follow when they completely contradicted each other. I wish I would have brought my own can of yellow spray-paint in order to help future Camino-goers with their directions.

We came upon a construction site where the road had crumbled away into the ocean. It was a dead end, and the signs said to turn back. I was not about to turn back at this point, as the sun was setting and we’d walked 2 whole kilometers down this particular road. We could even see the albergue at the other side of the site. We hopped the fence and continued walking across the sliver of pavement that was still remaining on the edge of the cliff. I’m sure it was really dangerous, especially with the added weight of our backpacks, but we made it out alive, so I certainly don’t regret our decision. We live life on the edge.

The albergue’s view was even better than the book had described, especially sunset when we arrived to witness the setting sun. In fact, this “free” albergue may have had the best view in the entire town. I guess it’s hard to put something so beautiful into words, or even to capture it with a photograph. I’m so thankful for my eyes and the things they’ve seen. The refuge was perched on a cliff in the center of a circular bay. A wooden ladder led down to the rocky beach below and the waves smoothly crashed toward us. With the large port-hole windows punctured at the peak of the roof, we knew we’d be sleeping soundly to the lullaby of the tide.

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