If you don’t know your camino del Norte, not an eyelid you will bat. If you’ve walked the del Norte, then you will realise that I am heading east. Yes, that’s right, I am walking the camino backwards. My friend is 2 walking days behind, and I agreed I would walk to her and we’d meet at a town in the middle. I would try anyway.
My first thought was: I don’t know how to follow arrows backwards. And how do I get out of town going the other way? It’s actually not as easy as it seems. I asked the hotel receptionist where the camino route is coming in and even she was a bit unsure. They too only know how to provide directions going west.
This coupled with the fact that I did not bring a guidebook with me on this trip leaves me very intimidated. I’ve only got a photo of the map that my friend took of her book. I’ve worked out which town has food, and where I need to stock up. And where I can get a taxi is plan B is required. Really, going backwards on the camino shouldn’t be difficult. After all, there’s a well trodden path. But it did provide an initial sense of discomfort – the “this isn’t meant to be the way you should do it”. It’s all rubbish of course. But nevertheless, these thoughts of discomfort show up.
Going backwards to go forwards. This is also life isn’t it. This camino, which didn’t start out in the traditional way, ie. From one of the usual cities, is continuing to be unusual. It’s the step back before moving forwards. Besides, I have no agenda to be in a particular place by a particular time – except for my flight of course, out of Oviedo.
My night at the Don Paco hotel was very comfortable. In hindsight, I should have just winged it in accommodation. But I’m still not that comfortable for my first night in a new place. I like to know that I have a place to sleep before stressing out about it the next day. I had planned to dine in the restaurant but I changed my mind. I saw hot chocolate and churros for dinner. In fact, I really dosed up on carbs. I also had Huevos con chorizo. It is my favourite in Spain. Heck, throw in the patatas Fritos and pan, why don’t you? I ate everything. It comes from skipping lunch and being in a bus for 4 hours. Tomorrow, no pan. Pan very bad for weight loss.
I set my alarm early but I slept in till 9am. I was so tired from all the running around the past week. By the time I emerged from the front door of the hotel, I felt I must be the very last pilgrim getting going for the day. The only one going backwards.
As it turns out, it really is very easy. Where I was concerned that it would be hard to find any markers, instead I found a steady stream of markers. They were the pilgrims walking forwards! And every so often, I would one of them and re-verify that I was heading in the right direction. Of course, it helps to do a bit of homework, but if you’re map-less like me, it’s still completely do-able.
I haven’t really done hiking since the camino frances. Maybe one day with the camino walking group I belong to in London. I felt so good, so happy to out, feeling the fresh air in my face, stopping at whatever bar takes my fancy, all my possessions in my back, listening to conversation and music I have no hope of ever getting – unless I start to take some serious Spanish lessons. The odd thing is, I felt I had friends with me – even though I am walking alone. My walking poles fitted into my left and right hands comfortably. After a while, they fell into the rhythmic sound of “clack clack” on the pavement. It made my heart feel so happy. My boots shaped my feet and gripped the ground in such a familiar way. But the joy I felt was my Walkmeter voice activated notification. This female Australian voice that had kept me company for 820km, km after km, started counting out distance for me. I felt I had never left, and my friends were with me. It never occurred to me how deeply the anchoring occurred and as a result how easily I slipped into a mode of being that included feeling freedom in my body and in my heart.
The scenery out of Llanes is beautiful. Set against the backdrop of high mountains, it is a stunning landscape. I found myself stopping frequently to admire the views. Plus I needed to take a break. This time, I carried a water bladder and I found it much easier to take a drink. I got lost in a couple of points but managed to find an English speaking pilgrim to help me along the way. One thing I noticed is that pilgrims don’t seem to carry the camino shell, and they don’t automatically wish you a “buen camino”. It’s more like “buenos dias”.
I nearly walk past Pendeles and had to walk back. And I finally met my friend who was at the water fountain. We were both so tired. I don’t even know where the albergues or pensions are in the town. In fact, I find it hard to spot them. There are no signs or advertisements like on the camino frances. But she manages to spot it. We find a room to share.
I check my feet. I have 3 blisters.