“Every part of my body hurt. Except my heart.” – Cheryl Strayed
DAY 1 – Madrid to Lugo to Sarria
“I cannot wait to be immersed and consumed by nature.” I made myself stop by a bench in front of the bus station and write this down, right under the red pen title: Camino Day 1. I had taken a Blabla Car from Madrid to Lugo, and now I needed to catch a bus to Sarria where I would meet British Bradley. He had started the Camino a couple days before me in Ponferrada. Doing the Camino together was the most spontaneous trip I have ever been on. Before starting, I fantasized what it would be like, picturing a shorter epic journey like the one Cheryl Strayed embarks on in her book, WILD. It wasn’t quite like that, but it was my own kind of epic.
DAY 2 – Sarria to Portomarín (22 km)
The first five hours were easy. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We happily ate bread and olives by a tree as we discussed whether we believe God is responsible for every minute result in our lives, or we, as humans, have full control of it – or any control at all. “I believe it is more of a 50/50 thing. But I have to do 100% out of my 50%, as God does 100% out of his 50%. I’m not really responsible for maintaining a regular heartbeat, or waking up in the mornings. But I am responsible for the way I treat people.” It was nice to speak with someone that is not afraid of conversations and disagreements. We shared the chocolate, the existential discussions, the silence, and the irrelevant chit-chats that would bore you if I wrote them down. We decided to record a video a day. A documentary. “Because we think we are so interesting,” Bradley said. “Camino Conversations. Conversations with Bradley and Vanessa. Braness Chats.” That was before the pain started. The unbearable aching shoulders and feet as we arrived in Portomarín that evening.
DAY 3 – Portomarín to Palas de Rei (25 km)
The Albergue Omirador in Portomarín was nice, but it can be hard to sleep at night with the snores coming from all 20 bunk beds around you. We had an incredible breakfast for 3,50€ at Supenedo – where the lady happily stamped our Credencial del Peregrino. This is a sort of Camino “passport” that you get stamped in the albergues, cafes, and stores you visit along the way. It is actually necessary to stay in some albergues, and get the pilgrims’ deals. There won’t be a Camino police checking on your credentials, but cheating is not very nice.
DAY 4 – Palas de Rei to Arzúa (28.5 km)
I began to get excited about reaching Santiago de Compostela. The entire future looked exciting. Bradley helped me brainstorm careers; my head was going in all directions as my feet stuck to the clearly marked path with yellow arrows and yellow shells. “You are so ready to kick ass,” Bradley said to me after I spilled out my ambitions. This is where the trail got forestal and more beautiful. We had been walking on the side of the road a lot. “I think I am really close to crying,” I told Bradley at that killer hour nearing 4 pm. It was so hot. Every day, between 3pm and 6pm, I felt the heat baking my bones as if I had swallowed the sun. I got a heat rash, and a weird craving for Nestea. I never drink soda or anything like it. My drinks strictly revolve around water, coffee, tea, red wine, and beer. That’s it. But I wanted that iced, freezing Nestea with a passion. I also wanted Coca-Cola. It was a Camino thing, and it ended as soon as I stopped walking an average of 25km a day (count in the extra walking to find available beds in the albergues).
DAY 5 – Arzúa to Pedrouzo (20 km)
Some people walk straight to Santiago de Compostela from Arzúa, BUT, not us. Hell no. The pain was taking over my left calve like a greedy monster. I was not sure what it was. A cramp, perhaps. THE worst cramp in the world. From the knees down, my legs no longer felt mine. It felt like I was walking on something that was not attached to my body, like wooden sticks or metal blocks. My legs were not my legs. My calve hated me each time I put my backpack on after a break. Each break meant I had to take my shoes and socks off, get a bone crushing foot rub that felt so good, cover my feet and legs in ibuprophen, and pretend I was not dying. Little blisters began to form on my toes, and I covered them in Compeed. A magical, gelly thing that says, “No, you ain’t happenin’!” to blisters (available in any pharmacy. Load up on those). This was the first day we arrived to town before 6pm. We also chose to start the Camino each day no earlier than 9 am, which delayed us. But I was never so inclined to sleep all morning. Me, the girl that wakes up with the sun since childhood. The Camino was crushing my limbs. Bradley was in pain, too, he said. But Bradley looked like he was carrying feathers in his backpack, stepping on cotton candy clouds. Maybe it was his military school experience. Maybe it was his British accent.
DAY 6 – Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (18 km)
HAAAALLLLEEELLUUJAAAHHH, WE MADE IT. My legs were numb with pain, but who cared?! Bradley and I talked about all the food we were about to eat! Not that we starved on the Camino. There are plenty of places to get cheap, delicious food on the way. But…we heard friends say how the food in Santiago is incredible (perhaps the best in all of Spain?)! We arrived in the city (which was beautiful, medieval, lively) and we did not gasp when we saw the cathedral. I am sorry. I gasped when I saw La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I gasped when I saw Notre Dame in Paris. I did not gasp in Santiago. But I’d say maybe part of it was that we were genuinely, so tired, and hungry that the only thing that could make me gasp was a bed covered in Galician octopus.
I will tell you more about our Santiago adventures, and make an easy check-list for the Camino. Leave your questions below, and I’ll be happy to include them in the next blog post. Meanwhile, here is the website Bradley used to plan our trip: http://santiago-compostela.net/camino-frances/
La Vida Es Bella