Usually on the Camino, we hit lunch with only one leg left in our day’s journey. Today we hit it just a little over halfway, having already legged about sixteen kilometers in the early-morning-fog-turned-sweltering-heat.
This restaurant had some of the typical Spanish menu items: chorizo, cheeses, St. James cake, empanada (my choice), eggs. And then it had some new, more intriguing options: octopus (pulpo) and pig’s ears. Most of us are skeptical. Some of the more adventurous few go for the octopus. Manuel orders us a plate of pig’s ears. It ends up as mostly his plate of pig’s ears as we all try one, make a vaguely disgusted face, and turn down another. As Conor put it, they were “all fat and cartilage, and who would want to eat that?”
The octopus, however, was pretty good. Mélanie, one of the few who ordered it, found great joy in the fact that the suction cups on the tentacles still worked. I found this a little more on the morbid end of the spectrum, but hey. To each their own. We were all a little loopy at that point, and we would only get loopier for the next twelve kilometers.
I’m not going to try and sugarcoat it. Today was hard. We hit the road at a little before eight-thirty, passed at least a hundred farm animals, then ended the day at nearly six o’clock.
“And here on your left are some more cows,” said Kayla at some point after lunch. “The same as all the other cows we’ve seen before, except that one is pooping.”
There were a lot of cows, you see. And some tiny ponies. And a few chickens, complete with crowing roosters. No pigs, however, which is surprising (or perhaps it should be expected) based on the sheer amount of ham they eat in Spain. I began to doubt my sanity at around the time a herd of sheep charged down the road at us, some shaved, some not, some only partially, all of them stinky and dirty and really emulating how I felt I must appear to the outside world. My mother is going to open my suitcase when I get home and rear back from the sheer wall of sweat and dirt smell that will charge at her.
I did laundry. It just doesn’t go away.
It really does help to have so many other people around on the long days like these. You don’t have to talk to the same person for nine-and-a-half hours. You can cycle between talking to nineteen other engaging, interesting, and diverse people while also getting some time to walk by yourself and get lost in your own head a bit. It’s refreshing, even if what is going on in your head is mostly dear god, is that another field of cows? And even if most of what you are saying to each other is, “Are those sheep charging towards us? Do you see that too?”
I talk about the sheep and the smell and everything else so much because it is hard to think about the pain and exhaustion also experienced today. At a point, my feet began to feel like giant bruises, my leg muscles felt like they were tearing apart, and my shoulders felt like they were about to cave in. I hydrated as much as I could, and I still felt woozy and hot. Sunscreen was reapplied three times and still parts of me got singed.
At the last stop before reaching our hotel, I caved and got a Kit Kat ice cream cone. It was legitimately the best thing I had ever had in my life. Much better than the octopus, that’s for sure.
It gave me the strength I needed to make that last two kilometers to the hotel, while distracting myself by tossing around Katie’s hackey sack with a few others. We somehow managed to avoid getting hit by a car while doing this, which was an accomplishment in itself.
That was the last truly hard day of the Camino. We’ve only got two short (I’m calling twenty kilometers short now) days left to go until we reach Santiago. It feels like we’ve all been together in Spain for much longer than the three-and-a-half weeks. As the last day looms closer, it gets simultaneously harder to imagine leaving this crazy group behind and easier to imagine collapsing on my couch at home with some good old American food and ten icepacks. It’s a strange conflict: I want to go home, and yet I also don’t want to leave here.
But there’s still many fields of cows to go before I really have to think about that.
Emma Paquette, Communications Major