When you spend most of every day walking through the mountains in silence, you can experience ¨culture shock´´ when you walk into a city like Burgos. I could handle the culture shock, but then I couldn´t find the yellow arrows that mark the path…and I did not know what to do. I had no translators, people and vehicles were everywhere, and there was no sign of ¨The Way.´´
I tried to ask a few locals, but three of them each gave me different directions and none of them spoke English. Great. After about 15 minutes, I was exasperated, but I remembered my experiences the past couple of days. I have felt guided here, not misled. I mentally prayed to my recently deceased friend, Angel.
´´Please, I need an arrow!´´
After that, I stopped worrying. I just kept walking around. Finally, I found a man who did not speak English, but I was able to understand what he said, and soon, I found an arrow. I kept following the arrows through town. Every now and then it would be a while until I saw one, but right when I was about to lose hope, one was there.
When I finally arrived on the street of the albergue I was planning to stay at, there was a fruit store called ¨Angel´s´´ right on the corner. I literally stopped and laughed. I kept walking closer to the albergue, and on the right was a hair salon called ¨Angel´s.¨ Now this was beyond comical. I walked even closer to the albergue, and Francisco limped out of the pharmacy. He walked me directly to the albergue, even though I almost turned the wrong way twice.
Now, I am sitting in the albergue. Another pilgrim has just informed me that Michael and Alex are in town and are planning on meeting Francisco and I for dinner. I thought I was lost, but apparently I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Well, the Spanish went back home to Valencia today, we lost Alex, and Michael, Francisco, and I decided to split up.
I walked the 31.0 kilometers from Lorogña to Najara in almost silence. You see, even though I´m alone, I still have songs stuck in my head, talk to myself, greet passing pilgrims, and sing in every tunnel I walk through. Call me crazy, but I´m just not a person of silence.
I did miss my companions, but it is time to start thinking and praying more. I really enjoyed the peaceful solitude as I hiked through the breathtaking scenery. I was a little startled when I entered the town. The arrows that mark the trail are a little more difficult to find alone, I don´t have any translators, and it is amazing how many more cat-calls you hear when you AREN´T walking with two other men. When I found that albergue, I just about gave myself a high five.
Ironically, when I arrived at the hostel, many of the people I have met within the past week were already here! Lucas from Germany, Klause from Austria, Acquite from Basque, Mariel from Switzerland, etc.- they´re all in the same hostel! Michael is on my top bunk and Francisco is catty-corner to us. What are the odds?
There are of course new people here as well, and I am surprised to find people who actually came here to find their independence. I have been hiking with people who are used to traveling and being alone, but today I have met a different group.
I asked a woman from Denmark why she chose to hike the Camino.
¨I´ve never done anything by myself before. I´ve always been dependent, and I figured the Camino was a good way to break the habit.¨
Another woman from Britain told me that her husband had died two years ago.
´´I figure if I can hike to Santiago by myself I can do anything by myself. I´m trying to learn to live alone.´´
Personally, I cannot relate to this. My mom says that ever since I learned the motion of feeding myself when I was a baby, I would not let anyone else feed me my cheerios. Independence is just part of my nature.
However, I was glad to see my friends here in the hostel, so I cannot lie that I do like companionship. It is interesting to me that we are all here for different reasons, but we all chose the same path to obtain them.