It’s always a blessing to utilize all the facilities before one leaves the refugio in the morning because toilets are few and far between on the trail. For the first week urgencies struck me at the most inopportune moments and I had no choice but to fertilize some poor farmer’s wheat field, or olive grove, or vineyard so if someone offers you this year’s red wine harvest from the Rioja region of Spain you should give it a miss because there is sure to be a little of Tris in every drop.
By 10am, it’s time for a coffee break or to check in with the friends we made the night before at the refugio. Everyone walks at his or her own pace and many people prefer to walk alone, solitario.
If we are lucky, the town might have a shop or tienda so we can buy supplies for a picnic lunch. Everything closes in the middle of the day so we have to time this carefully or we can go the day without eating. This happened only once.
The daily walk is usually broken every 3, or 6, or 13 kilometers by another village with a church - always a church - and a bar. Bars serve coffee, croissants, beer, and sandwiches in a smoke filled environment. But it is the only place for a cup of coffee in the morning or a cold San Miguel for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Sometimes the scenery is like walking through a photo that has been enhanced in Photoshop. The sky is too blue, the shoots of newly planted wheat too green, the clouds too blindingly white and fluffy. But the colors are real.
By 3 in the afternoon we are usually ready to stop for the day – our feet are killing us and I am ready to throw my pack into a ditch. But usually there isn't a church steeple in sight so we must keep going. I pray that there is not a steep ascent, or any change in elevation at all, before we get there. It doesn’t matter if we walk 13 kilometers or 24. The last 4 kilometers are always murder.
Finally, we reach a village and follow the yellow arrows to an albergue or refugio (same thing). The villages often seem completely deserted. There are many For Sale signs. The recession has hit Spain hard.
Mine always is, Please, God, help me convince the Spaniard sleeping in the next bunk that fresh air is a good thing. This is how the conversation goes each night between me and the person in the next bunk. I try my best to communicate in Spanish, which by now you know is pretty bad to say the least.
I open the window.
Spaniard says, “No! During the night the air will go across my face!”
“Yes!” I say. “The time in this temperature is very good!”
Spaniard looks at me with mixture of pity and confusion and says once more, “No!”
I plead with my eyes and say, “Until sleep time, it is well that the window is open for business!” Spaniard rolls over.
The symphony of snoring begins.
Scott and Tris
On the Way of St. James
Camino Francais, Spain