In the morning I left Logroño with Elisabeth, Sue and Manoel, but I felt exhausted almost as soon as I began and immediately fell behind. My knee joints were inflamed and I struggled to find a walking rhythm. In truth, my body was telling me to rest but I was ignoring its wisdom. Furthermore, we had set out without breakfast and I just hoped that my comrades would stop at the earliest opportunity, but I thought I might have to wait an hour or more for one to present itself. Then while we were still walking through a large municipal park, I saw them disappear into a building in the distance. It was almost too much to believe that it could be a café and I tried not to get my hopes up. As I arrived outside I saw what appeared to be a public library, but once inside, its inner beauty was revealed. At the back of the bar was an outdoor terrace overlooking a lake, and I realised I would have food for my soul as well as my belly. However it was going to be a long wait, for there was only one man to fulfil the roles of server, chef and cashier.
Swedish Ann was in the café and as usual she was in no hurry at all, and although I knew I needed to adopt more of her philosophy, I had still not accepted the pace that was right for me in that moment. A week into my Camino, I continued to believe I had to match the standard walking plan set out in John Brierley’s guidebook, which for most pilgrims is the Camino bible. It sets out daily walking stages and destinations, where in general, the availability of pilgrim accommodation clusters. I thought that if I could do as John Brierley’s guidebook suggested then I would be doing it properly! Really I was afraid to trust my own wisdom and knowing, for that could mean allowing others to go ahead of me. Each day I wanted to be there, wherever that was; I found that there was, in fact, elusive. I was having trouble allowing myself to be here, in the present moment.
As the afternoon progressed, the others were ahead of me again. Somehow I pulled myself along, knowing that it couldn’t last forever, I would get there eventually. In time, I arrived at a sign which indicated a left turn to Ventosa, a couple of kilometres further, and another dull straight road delivered me to the village. As I was about to enter the albergue I met Manoel on his way back out; he was coming to find me. We had booked the albergue over breakfast in the park that morning and it did not disappoint. The moment I stepped inside, I noticed the house was furnished and decorated with care, and I knew I was going to feel at home. The hospitaleros were professional, and provided a very clean, efficiently run house with a small shop on the ground floor that sold food in pilgrim-friendly quantities. Upstairs they had segregated bathroom facilities, which made things a little more comfortable, particularly as the clothes washing and drying facilities were housed separately at the top of the garden.
While journaling later, I allowed myself to consider the possibility that I might not complete the Camino, and it was a thought that was not easy to accept. Even though I tried to console myself with the knowledge that the Camino is at heart an internal journey, not an external one, I still wanted to complete it! But I knew I needed to take the risk of slowing down and trust that my body would guide me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in accordance with its needs, rather than trying to implement a preconceived idea of how I thought it should be.
While Elisabeth and I sat in the garden in the late afternoon and early evening we discovered that we had misplaced Manoel and Sue. Where could they be? In the pub. They were drinking beer and eating crisps with George, a new acquaintance and a fellow pilgrim from Holland. Truth be told Manoel was a bit tipsy when we discovered his whereabouts, and wasn’t that inclined to want to leave, but with a little persuasion he came with us to a local restaurant for a lovely meal and a very enjoyable night with George.