Day 27 Camino – Bercianos del Real Camino to Mansilla de las Mulas

“I don’t know, mate. I’m starting to lose my motivation,” one guy said to me. He’s been going as long as I have. “I don’t know why I’m doing it anymore.”

“I’d romanticised it,” said another person. “Everybody just talks about the good bits when they come back. I hadn’t expected this.”

Expectations.

I’ve been walking with Luisa again, talking about expectations. Expectations in life. Expectations in love. The way we build things up to be one thing and then they look like something else and we can’t handle it. While we are talking we stop and unsling packs. The movement is unthought and mechanical. She sits and her boots and socks come off. “Another one,” she says neutrally as she sterilises a needle and sews a thread through a new blister on her sole. She leaves the thread in and bandages it.

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If the thread is in, the blister can’t seal so it doesn’t hurt as much. Both of her soles are threaded now. “That’s much better,” she says now she has string sewn through a part of her body. She means it as well. And the packs are back on in a long practiced gesture, and we’re off. “I want to go on Camino?” “Why?” “I fancy getting so used to sticking needles in my own foot that I do it automatically.” Said nobody ever.

I wasn’t expecting much more than a long walk. I’ve read no literature on this and seen no films. I’ve spoken to a couple of people about it. The usual advice I get just covers packing. Outside of that “Do it or don’t do it.” To that I would add “Careful drinking the water on the Meseta.” I knew I’d have to talk to my shadow. I know I’m being chased by the devil.  Even the shit like that vomiting sickness – it was important for my journey. I need to be better at parenting myself. Considering I was feverish and spewious, I did a good job in that cold Filipino convent.

There’s time to think about loads on this walk, and to filter tons of my shit. 

I’ve found some company at the moment and it’s making sense to share this part of the journey with someone because we share some of the same internal shit. Plus it’s good to have a companion in the tail end of this plateau. We huddle together against it. This place fucks with your head, with distance and with time. We may go our separate ways again after Léon but after well over two weeks of self imposed solitary it’s good to bounce thoughts off someone who gets the way my mind works.

“I don’t like this town,” she says of Reliegos moments after I’ve had that instinct. “There’s something funny about it.” I agree. I later find out that it’s the most recent place in Spain to get hit by a meteor. ALIENS? Probably not. But yeah, our crazy instincts align, and she thinks and talks in terms of energy like I do. “That guy had a really dark energy,” she comments about a guy who I have also thought has a really dark energy. If she can make broad statements from intuition that align with my broad intuitions then I can bounce some of my crazy shit off her and see what colour she thinks it is. That’s fab. She’s fab.

People avoid the Meseta or rent a bike to ride to Léon but there’s a strange beauty in this death-like monotony, and it gives you time to think. The mountains we will climb soon are ominous looming silhouettes visible against the skyline. Beautiful and threatening.

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Snow is coming, we are told darkly. There are very few other people walking here on this table. One thing I know is that I relish the peace and the space. I can choose who I communicate with. I’ve seen very few other pilgrims.

We are still well over 200km from Santiago. Soon shiny people with immaculate boots will start. For now I’m happy to force my painful feet in tandem with a few other stubborn souls. To swallow a few literal flies and sick out swarms and swarms of metaphorical ones.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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