The Camino of Life:

Our hike this morning took us through an area of town that contained several fish processing factories, low-tidal harbors, and several sewage treatment plants. The fishy wind wafted us for a solid mile as we walked. There’s nothing better than the smell of anchovies and rotting sea-scum in the morning. Today’s trip was said, by the guidebook, to be the most beautiful day of the entire trip. Thus far it had only taken the cake as the smelliest. We coughed and gagged as we pushed on.

We left the French boys at the hostel because they annoyed us past the point of no return yesterday. Two days of their falsetto singing was all a girl could handle. I’ve never been so glad to be alone with my sister as I was at this time. A girl we met the other day had come up with the name, “turtle time,” for when you simply had to be alone. The two of us now realized the absolute necessity of turtle time. We were once again alone with our minds. Our boots lightly thudded the pavement and the song of the birds was audible once again.

We scaled a sandy cliff once we got to the perimeter of town. I now realized why many hikers use hiking poles while walking the Camino. It was really hard to balance the backward-pulling weight of the backpack while trying to ascend the hill. Not to mention, the sand gave way with every step. Thus for the first time, the saying “two steps forward, one step back” actually made literal sense. The boys caught up with us as we were heading down the mountain. They were practically running down the craggy slope so we told them to pass us because they were giving us anxiety. At the bottom of the hill, we walked along a sandy beach for 5 kilometers. Much more of the way is paved than I originally expected, so the beach was a nice change. We followed the other pilgrims boot-prints in the sand since we were some of the last to get out of bed this morning, as per usual.

We decided to take a small break on a stone bridge, take off our boots and wiggle the feeling back into our toes. As we were settling in, a creepy-looking old lady appeared at the end of the bridge. She stood staring at us in her floor-length black floral dress. I waved at her to cut the silence, but there was no wave in return. I waved again to no avail and whispered to Aria that this could be the beginning of a scary movie. As she moved forward, she finally said hola when she was standing over us. She began explaining that she was 98 years old and that she was out for her daily morning walk. She asked what we were doing and we said the Camino de Santiago. With this, she grabbed Aria’s hand and looked deep into her eyes, then touched my cheek and gazed into mine. She crawled over our backpacks to get closer to us and planted two sweet kisses on both our cheeks, wished us well and went on her way.

As we climbed the last five kilometer stretch of hill on the way to the hostel, I suddenly had a change of mind. Until now, the walking part of the trip had been a literal pain in the ass. My feet hurt, my back hurt, my toes hurt, my neck hurt. Basically anything that could hurt, did. As I was walking uphill, I took a mental inventory of my body and realized that every part of me felt great! I realized how good this trip is for my body and how much I’m building my strength and endurance. The human body is meant to be exhausted. Finally I was putting mine to work and feeling great about it!

We walked through the country side passing many grain farms and pastures. Weirdly enough, we found out that a sheep’s favorite hiding spot is within the old porcelain bathtubs that were scattered around their pastures. Men were cutting down long stalks of wheat with cycles, a means of technology that I didn’t know still existed. As we passed by cattle farms, we realized the uncanny similarities between the smell of olives and the smell of manure. Happy bovines dotted the hills, and no matter where we walked, the faint clinking of cowbells could be heard.

When we arrived at the Hostel in Guemes, we were given royal treatment along with handshakes and chocolate cookies. This albergue was a cooperative that had been ran by a single family for over one hundred years. The elderly men of the family sat drinking fruity liquer and checking the pilgrims into their rooms. The guesthouse and property really reminded me of the health retreat my parents ran in Hawaii, however it was much larger in order to house 40 pilgrims nightly, on average. For dinner, we all sat around long tables in the main room and got quite drunk off of complimentary red wine. After dinner, the oldest family owner gave a beautiful speech about the Camino. His underlying message was that, regardless of ones purpose for hiking the Camino, whether religious or atheistic, each pilgrim knew in his or her heart that the Camino was just the beginning of a bigger Camino–the Camino of Life. All walks of life are different, yet all people can agree that the most crucial part of living is finding compassion and love for others.

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