Backpack carefully packed and three weeks of vacation started, I returned to León last Sunday to re-enter the Camino Francés and finish what I started back in 2015. The Camino has already given me so much. I have met some of the most amazing people and the Way has provided me with much needed therapy and comfort on both previous occations.
I returned to the albergue I stayed at in 2016, and Monday morning I started out at the cathedral. Only this time I was not in need of therapy or mulling over future plans, which made for a very different start mood than before. From the get go, I felt disconnected and out of place somehow. I was sure time and km would get me in touch and I started out energy filled and determined.
When my first order of café con leche came with a free, fresh made churros, it felt like coming home, and I briefly considered just staying at that café for the rest of my trip. I followed the scenic route away from the highway and it felt like I was one of very few who chose that option, not seeing many other pilgrims that first day and 30km.
But the beautiful, snow covered mountains called to me and I muddled along on my own, eventually ending up in Villavante. Here I relaxed with my postwalk beer, and met the other three pilgrims who chose to stay at the albergue, even though it could have easily accommodated 30 more. I luckily met Eva, a very nice German woman, who became my new Camino family.
Eva and I walked together, enjoyed the amazing views and learned about each other along our way. It felt good to have company, but still something inside me felt off. It seemed like summer had arrived over night, and I struggled with the burning sun and rising heat of the country. I never have been one for to high heat with sun allergy since childhood.
We followed the signs, enjoyed our second breakfasts and pain de chocolat like good pilgrims.
We met other pilgrims along our way, but I didn’t feel my usual draw towards getting to know them. I preferred Eva’s company even though they were nice and kind people – another marker telling me something was very different from my previous trips. All of a sudden I was tired and physically hurting at night, so I choose to turn in early most nights. The views on the route was however still amazing:
We kept choosing the scenic routes and got rewarded with renovated little villages and a lot of peace and quiet. We couldn’t hide from the heat and my body was not happy, so upon arrival in Molinaseca – a small, beautiful town outside of Ponferrada, where we enjoyed a cold drink and some needed rest after a hard descent, I decided to stop walking. After just four days of struggling with disconnect, heat and pain, I booked a ticket home, and haven’t regretted that decision one bit since.
Camino pilgrimage is not about reaching Santiago de Compostella, but the journey. We each have our own way to go, and it didn’t feel right to stay any longer. Over the next few days I will share more from my trip, and I hope you will join me.