The last two days have been quite “interesting.” Let’s start with today. The forecast was for rain, as opposed to yesterday’s forecast – but lets put a pin in that for a moment. As I began my walk today the weather was lovely -partly cloudy, mild and wind free. I expected the walk to be simple and relaxing as it was to be flattish and only 15 miles.
The first thing you need to know is that everyone – I mean everyone – carries a Camino guidebook, you would be crazy not to. In English there are one of three that most people use. Of the three the most popular is by John Brierley, he spends a lot of ink on opportunities for daily meditation, like walking alone for hours on end needs outside spiritual structure/directions. One of the others is the Rother Walking Guide, other than I hear it has good maps I know nothing about it. The guidebook I like and have used on both of my Caminos is by the husband and wife team of Anna Dintaman and David Landis. I did carry the Brierley book for about a week last time before I got rid of it to shed weight in my pack.
The thing I like about the Dintaman/Landis book is that it gives good clear directions, some local history which is expanded on by there website and good concise maps. The other this I like about it is that the sages are a bit longer then Brierley’s so you are not stopping at all the same places as the hordes and it gets you to Santiago in a couple of less days. One of the few issues I have with the book is the they offer “alternative routes” from time to time. Today was the first time I have ever taken them up on it. The reason behind today change of plan was to avoid walking along the highway for many kilometers. Instead what happened was this. After leaving the albergue where I had spent the night at 7:30 (late start, short day) I did not speak to another English speaker until I spoke with Priscilla by cell at 12:30 – that is a lot of silence and time in my head (ponder that if you will.) For the last two hours of today’s walk, I walked on a dirt road through fields and scrub forest without seeing a single soul and only one old barn. Every time I thought I was lost I would come upon an old trail marker and would feel a slight bit of relief. It was the first time this trip I felt really uneasy at times and I have been lost before. For some reason this just felt different. As you can probably tell I did survive the day and in fact after walking the last hour in a light drizzle I ended up at a really lovely albergue with a quite adequate kitchen. Sometimes the road less traveled is just that and for good reason.
As for yesterday, the forecast was for a good breeze and rain in the afternoon. Guess what – wrong. I I walked the entire 6 hours in some of the strongest winds I have ever experienced. The wind was non stop and so strong I found myself from time to time using my trekking pole to keep from being blows off the trail. On top of the wind a soaking rain came early and hard. It was a constant cycle of rinse, dry, repeat. The upside of the wind was that when the rain did stop the wind dried you out. Then the cycle began again – rinse, dry, repeat. The strangest part of it all was that I did not seen to mind any of it. I had a fawn run right across my path and watched it run through the field. I watched an eagle fly over my head for quite awhile fighting the wind, a mole scurrying away as I approached. I watched a stork gather nesting materials from a pile of grass clippings in a school playground. The best wildlife sighting of the day was a quail that just stood in the middle of the path as I approached and did not seen disturbed until I was only feet away and the then walked calmly into the brush. As I walked on past the quail the first thought I had was “that was beautiful” the second was “boy, I am hungry”and the third and most important was how lucky and blessed I am and what a generous and patient wife I have.
The lesson of the last two days is a simple but hard one for me – sometimes life is at its best when you just let it happen to you.