The Romanian woman requested a second night stay at the hostel in order to rest her weary legs, since she had over-walked the past few days. This option is not always possible unless you have good reason, serving as a hinderance for people taking advantage of cheap accommodations or reducing the possibility they make their visit more a vacation than a pilgrimage. We departed before she received an answer.
We had stocked up on water and snacks for today’s long, lone alternative trek. No villages or cafes were en route per our trusty guidebook. The terrain remained flat, mostly treeless and dusty. One would imagine more tumble weed blowing across such a desolate terrain.
We took a rest at what looked like an old abandoned train stop. This platform was the only place to actually sit, grab some shade and eat our packed lunch. Our water supply was low. We had passed back and forth with a lone German woman as we walked. She was just departing the picnic site as we sat down.
From the vantage of our perch, a dusty road lead out, with a high likelihood that it lead back to the main Camino path and all the other Pilgrims. Kashi was dreaming of a cold beer, while I wistfully leaned towards the alternative path. Kashi’s thirst took over and he figured a cold beer could be found down by the distant grain elevator to the right of the road. We arranged to track each other down in the next village.
I was alone on this path, as the German woman had long since moved on. My adventurous spirit felt crazily free and my wanderlust was satiated. I had little water left, but the sun was no longer high in the sky and I reasoned it was a survivable distance.
In hindsight, maybe Kashi and I should have thought more often to occasionally separate. He had pondered aloud how the Camino experience might be on one’s own. We had discussed how at times it would be convenient to wear a silence sign so that you could be more meditative when walking. Others would be forewarned and pass respectfully. These alternate routes allowed for a more mindful state sans sign.
I did not encounter anyone on the last part of this leg. Soulful times like these are sometimes difficult to find in the regiment of life. At the present moment, my life was squished into one goal and that was to walk to the next village. The Camino was whittling down my fears, worry and stress to nil.
I arrived in the village of Reliegos. After filling my water bottle at one of the designated Camino water fountains in a little park, I strategically plopped myself down at a cafe table located on the road with the ubiquitous yellow arrows indicating the direction of the Pilgrim’s route. I somehow reasoned I had arrived first, so I decided I would just wait until Kashi walked past.
An Irish man whom I had met at a previous hostel, sat down for a chat. He shared that he had grabbed a room behind this cafe. He complained about the "Peregrino panic" regarding availability of rooms, stating, “ He had to lose these fearful folks or he would go crazy”.
The Camino spirit did seem to get lost with all the pre-bookings Pilgrims were making to ensure a room on arrival. In the end, the Camino if trusted, always provided. I ordered a vino and sat with the Irishman, while keeping an eye out for Kashi. The sun was setting and I wondered if I needed to change my post or walk further into the village. I was enjoying my conversation, so I delayed the search party.
Soon after, Kashi showed himself around the corner and said he had been waiting up the road at another hostel assuming I would pass there. My path had cut lower. He shared that he had met up with the Danes from last night, and they were recommending their hostel. I went to enquire about a room, only to find the hostel had filled. On my return, I followed a sign that read new hostel opening. The hostel hosted one other guest, an Austrian woman staying in a private room. We opted for the bunk room and gambled that at this point, no one else would be joining us and by default, hopefully have a private room at dorm costs. Kashi and the Austrian conversed in their Mother tongue. The hostel had a washer so we threw in our laundry.
We opted out of hostel dining and ventured into the village. A few hundred meters down music was pouring out of a bar that was painted white with graffiti and inspirational sayings written all over the walls. The deep, resonating voice of Johnny Cash sang out and I was drawn in like a bee to honey. We saddled up to the bar near the only other patron of the joint. He was a fellow US compatriot.
The beers were served in small glasses and anytime someone ordered a refill, a big slice of cheese or slab of meat was given with it. The bartender smiled often, spoke little English, and played great music. I liked his low-key style, home-like ambience and generosity of tapas. The Camino Spirit was alive in this beaten up place. Not knowing on arrival, we discovered that a segment of the movie, ‘The Way’ had been filmed here, authenticated by the framed photos of the movie stars at the bar. Although, maybe not so meditational as my afternoon walk, this night was spiritual and freeing in its own way, as the music, good company and Camino vibes refreshed my soul. We returned to the hostel and found we had a private room after all. The Camino had provided. Suffice to say, the room needed to be christened as we were the first guests.