What Just Happened Here?

Today I cracked the code. Where our house is situated on the Camino Frances gives us a view into two types of Pilgrims. The Sarria walker – those who do the last 100k to get the Compostela. And the long hauler – those who started in St Jean or even further back. Perhaps in their own country. And they are very different Peregrinos by the time they pass our gate.

The Sarria walker is still meeting people by kilometer marker 59, and still telling their story. It only takes 5–6 days from Sarria to Santiago. Sort of makes sense. But the long hauler is done telling their story somewhere near Burgos. By the time they are in the last 5 days they are silent when they pass by our house. Even longhaulers walking together barely speak to each other. And they don’t speak to the Sarria walkers. There is almost an invisible line between them. They can’t possibly relate. Their experience is so vastly different. As a general rule, long haulers are comfortable with silence.

I am a long hauler, just one day from Leon, and I am done telling my story. But what happened to the strong silent type? Stereotypically, women have the reputation for being more verbal than men. But on this Camino it’s the exact opposite.

There are days I want to put a sign on my backpack Happy to walk with you. But less talking, por favor. If someone talks, then I have to talk. And I am tired of my own story and my own voice. And there are days I really want to be alone.

Today I was able to walk nearly the entire way alone. Heaven. And it was snowing.

After yesterday’s misadventure I had leg cramps all night. I barely slept, so I set my course for the tiny village of Religios. That’s as far as I could get today. But when I limped into town the place was shut up tight. No cafes or Albergues open. This has been the biggest challenge this time. Nothing is open.

A lady came out of her house in her pajamas and confirmed my assessment. Then she pointed me to her pop up store and asked if I wanted a bocadillo (sandwich). I graciously declined but asked if she had a number for a taxi. Five minutes passed. Then her husband came out of the pop up sandwich shop and asked me if I wanted a bocadillo. I, again, graciously declined and asked if he had a number for a taxi. He went back inside. Then a few minutes later a few more guys came out of the pop up sandwich shop. The place was too small to fit all those people in there. It was like a clown car.

I decided they would call me a taxi quicker if I bought something so I went inside and purchased potato chips. Then I went back out and sat on the bench. Sure enough, my potato chip purchase greased the skids. The guy came out and told me vente minutos (20 minutes) until the taxi arrived. Behind him, two more guys came out of the sandwich shop carrying bocadillos. I was just in there, alone, in a place the size of our bathroom. Where they were hiding these bocadillo customers, I have no idea.

One guy sat down on the bench beside me and offered me half his sandwich. I graciously declined, holding up the potato chips I had no intention of eating. His español was difficult for me to understand. After his 37th question I apologized and said I don’t have any Spanish. I was tired and just wanted to wait for my taxi in peace. But my lack of Spanish <wink wink> was, sadly, not a deterrent. He talked incessantly, gesticulating wildly with crumbs flying from his mouth. I moved farther down the bench to avoid the gluten shower. He didn’t take the hint. Every time he asked a question I gave him the old chestnut ‘No entiendo.’ <I don’t understand> So he pulled the old standby – shout at the person louder, and it will break the language barrier. Guaranteed. He asked me where I was staying in Mansilla – the next village – but I shrugged. I didn’t have a reservation. Then he proceeded to try to get me to stay where he was staying. I pretended not to understand, while furiously booking a room on my phone, somewhere else, so I could give the taxi driver an exact location.

It was getting old when the taxi pulled up. I threw my bag and poles in the way back. Then got in. Suddenly the opposite door opened and the shouting sandwich guy got in, too. What the HELL? This was my taxi. <eye roll> Whatever.

The two men immediately started talking futbol. I soon realized that the shouting sandwich guy was from Argentina. Which is why it was very difficult for me to understand him. The two of them had a heated argument. And then it got ugly.

The Argentinian made a nasty comment about Spanish politics. It turns out he is a communist and this did not sit well with the taxi driver, who I was pretty sure would stop the car at any moment, and this situation might devolve into fisticuffs. If we hadn’t been wearing masks they both would have seen me looking towards heaven asking out loud en ingles. ‘What the fuck is this?!? ‘ I swear to you, God is usually laughing her ass off when it comes to me.

Soon we were pulling up in front of my hotel, which I knew was not where the Argentinian communist sandwich spitter was staying, because he told me back on the bench in the village. I got out to get my bag and asked the driver how much I owed him. He said that the Argentinian had paid. ‘No no no’ I told him. But he waved me away. So I approached the Argentinian and asked how much I owed him. He said Nada. Then he stood outside the door of the hotel with me. But it was thankfully locked. My Pilgrim friend, Alma, happened to be standing right outside and she was surprised to see me there with the Argentinian, who should be moving on to his own accommodation by now.

‘Who’s the guy?’ She asked.

I laughed. ‘Apparently, he’s a lot of things. Don‘t ask. And don’t engage him in conversation. It won’t end well.’

She looked around me and frowned. ‘Is he staying here?’

‘No’ I told her while trying to ignore him.

‘Is he coming inside?’

‘He might think he is. He paid for the taxi that I called and he invited himself to join. It cost €10.’

‘And does he think he’s getting something for that?’ She frowned.

I looked over my shoulder and he was still standing there. ‘I don’t know. I’m a lot of things, but a €10 hooker isn’t one of them.’

Just then a Dutch couple we both know walked up, smiling. They were staying there, too. And the proprietor was with them. As she unlocked the front door, I said Adios! to the Argentinian communist and darted inside. Alma followed, shaking her head. ‘You have the strangest experiences.’ She observed. She’s known me for less than a week. I didn’t want to say it but, truly, she has no idea.

4 thoughts on “What Just Happened Here?

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