In the morning the hotel was eerily quiet with no signs of life – so different to waking up in an albergue. At the water fountain I filled my bottle while I observed activity outside the hostel nearby and kept my eye out for people I knew who might have slept there. On the steep climb out of Castrojeriz I thought about Kathy and wondered whether she would need to take another rest day and, of course, if I would meet her again. Then after the exertion of the climb, I stopped for water and rest while I enjoyed the rewarding view back across the valley floor as the early dawn blossomed into full expansive light.
To my surprise, day sixteen marked the arrival of my first blister – after two weeks I had begun to believe that I was fated to walk the Camino without any. The burn began before I stopped for coffee, but I didn’t investigate, so my eventual concern and subsequent treatment was delayed, and for that I would pay the price.
While I walked I enjoyed the solitude, and perhaps for the first time on the Camino I was really in sync with myself, immersed in the rhythm of my own body and soul. At times I felt absolutely at one with my environment, while after reading Conversations with God, I had more compassion for my struggle to accept and be open about my spirituality. For lunch I settled under a tree by the river where it was incredibly quiet and peaceful. That day, lunch comprised more white bread and a tin of tuna. I had bought a pack of three small tins a few days earlier and they proved very handy on the days when cafés were at a premium. Dessert was a gorgeous doughnut-shaped peach.
Arriving later at the albergue in Frómista, I stopped on the way in to chat with Christine who was outside washing clothes. Inside, the place was lovely – well, as lovely as you can get with twenty-odd bunks in one long room and very little natural light. The bunks were newish with proper deep mattresses, unlike at some albergues where the bunks were old and the mattresses very thin. There was also a bench in the room, which meant I had somewhere to sit while I carried out blister repairs. Christine sat beside me while I treated my feet, telling me about the challenges she faced on the Camino. Listening to her helped me feel less alone in my own struggle, and not quite so odd after all.
The albergue offered an evening meal, although the dining room was too small and intimate for me to feel comfortable. What I wanted was to blend in and feel anonymous so I went to a hotel for my pilgrim meal and the obligatory red wine! I also thought I was less likely to bump into people I knew there, particularly Eugene and Heather. I felt they didn’t understand me and I had a sense, sometimes, that they wanted to change me. It was as though we spoke two different languages.
Back at the albergue Christine asked me about dinner; she knew I had gone out. When I told her where I had been, she was surprised that I had gone on my own. Although I knew I could have joined her and Sylvia for dinner, I also knew that I was unable to make small talk. It would have required too much effort on my part. The Camino was bringing up a lot for me to process, and that was where my energy was engaged.