After my mini-holiday in Fuentes, I left the oasis on the 11th September to walk what I thought was 25 kilometres to Zafra.
The new group of pilgrims was a mix of Type As, who left at sparrow’s fart and a welcome group of what I call Type Z, who left at a more leisurely hour. I was still doing the Type A thing at that stage. The group was again international, including lovelies from Hungary, Austria, Germany, New Zealand and England – oh, and this little Aussie.
Lessons learnt by me were that in my first week of walking I’d been too raucous, too friendly, too dependent, too this and too that. It had been off-putting for more restrained pilgrims and I had paid an emotional price for my lack of inhibitions. So now, I was rather more wary of getting too close or having any expectations of friendship on the Way.
I had learned that the Camino is your own camino. There are no obligations to other pilgrims, beyond courtesy. Any friendships that develop, like all friendships, take time and that I was there on my own account and for my own reasons which may or may not be of interest to anyone else.
Contact with other pilgrims was mainly in the later parts of the day over meals – and this is when the conversation would jolly along and time for bed would bring its conclusion. The new day saw pilgrims start out entirely independent of each other. I had learnt this the harder way and now I was more equipped to handle the road in the more correct emotional manner.
If you think that I was overthinking the whole business of how to be a pilgrim, then consider what else you are going to think about walking for hours in solitude every day over differing terrains. I think it went well!
You’ll perhaps notice that the land was now open with a lack of trees. No more oaks, pigs, goats and other sentient beings. More crops. The actual feed for those animals we had all walked through and past and around. More land of hay and coming into grapes and olives and chillis and tobacco and vast fields of it all. All of which says, no shade. And it was still early September so it was still very hot. (I’m building up the tension to my horrible day less than 50 kilometres ahead!)
Now, I’d been walking for a week, had had a well-earned day off my legs, and was stronger for it – I’d shed some grief from the previous week and learnt a bit about myself and how I worry about others’ perception of me, and I was slightly more independent.
The hours from dawn to mid-afternoon were still solitary with pilgrims passing me along the way – I was now so used to it that it made me smile. Everyone has their own pace, rhythm, style. You can’t go slower and I can’t go faster. C’est la vie!
Because I had only met the new set of pillies the night before, you could almost say I was independent on the road the next day. I certainly did. The road was a doable 25 kilometres – hey, I was getting the hang of it. But here’s the thing – I got lost AT Zafra! Zafra was right there, on my left, I crossed the main road with Zafra traffic and buildings to my left and I kept going north!!!
I can only put it down to extreme weariness. I’d been walking 25 ks at 4 ks an hour so 7 hours non-stop and it was my first day of hard-won independence and I completely got lost. Looking back, it’s still slightly unbelievable.
The others had turned left at the railway crossing. I kept going straight. It led me up behind the industrial part of the town. One rule of the Camino is that if you can’t see any flechas (yellow arrows) then you must turn back and retrace your steps. And do you think I did that? NOOOOO! I was being independent. I would find my way!
In fact, after 6 and a bit hours of walking, I implored the universe to give me a sign and show me yellow!
Well, flowers and rubbish and everything yellow suddenly popped out at me in that industrial waste land. And like a goose, I followed them. Reassured myself that even though none of the yellow was an actual flecha that I was still on the right track. (I am so good at persuasion!)
Anyhoo, I came out onto the highway, the noisy but reassuring N630 and saw a sign that pointed in the opposite direction saying “Zafra” – it was now BEHIND me.
At moments like that, after walking for now 8 hours, it seems that you will never stop walking and will be walking until midnight and that NOBODY cares. (So I wasn’t independent at that point, but still clinging to some idea of rescue).
I walked down the highway, south, and asked at a garage where Zafra was and how far – maybe I had sunstroke?
They said it was 3 ks – a never-ending length after 8 hours – so I wearily trudged back down the hill and by this stage my legs, feet, hips were all on strike and in the process of seizing up. (At this stage, I was without blisters, thank the gods.)
My diary entry doesn’t mention anything about hostal, pilgrims, food, just being lost. Eventually I found a hostal – there were some familiar faces from Fuentes there. I washed clothes, body and went out and ate – and realised I’d put in my first 30 kilometre day. Hard work but DONE. And the pleasure from that achievement outweighed the total cock-up I’d made of reaching the town on my own. I also learned that without the yellow arrows I would get lost. And that would add unnecessary kilometres to my day! Reason enough to backtrack rather than go forward.