And the forecast is true to its word. As promised, we wake up to the sound of a wild storm blowing outside our albergue!
Everyone meets up downstairs and starts kitting up. At last it’s an excuse to wear our ponchos! I would hate to think we had carried that extra weight unnecessarily. Robin has also offered to carry my spare pair of trainers and all the medication to reduce the weight in my rucksack. The struggling Princess feebly tells him not to, but he takes them anyway, and I don’t complain. I feel a pang of guilt and begin to think that perhaps those joy-rider pilgrims who use the taxi service may have a point!
It’s like a scene from a Tolkien novel! With ponchos on covering our rucksacks we look like a group of hunchbacked trolls. Walking in the pitch-black dark in the rain is an unusually pleasant experience and as we have set off without breakfast, we are on a quest to find some.
We know from our really reliable guidebook that there aren’t any cafés for around 5km, so when we come across a ‘Donativo’ it’s a welcome sight!
A Donativo, we learned, is a shelter providing free rest, food and drink to pilgrims. There is no obligation to pay, only whatever you can afford. This is our first and it is excellent. A small commune of creatives who are extremely welcoming – hot coffee, home-made cake and fruit, as well as fun and interesting conversations with other pilgrims and musical instruments. We listen to a violinist play a Ukulele like a guitar while sipping hot, fresh coffee from a jam jar and munching on a banana. Caroline talks about her trials of learning to play the fiddle and I make a concerted effort to brave the compost loo, which isn’t too bad actually, while Nick picks up a guitar and knocks out a tune.
There are all sorts of different kinds of people here, including the obligatory skinny hippie types with their sunken stomachs beneath cable-knit pull-overs and over-grown bearded smiles. They remind me of Robin when I first met him. Skinny with shoulder-length blonde hair and a pair of John Lennon glasses. I look at him and notice how he has matured since those days both physically and mentally. He is still that hippie deep down inside but has had to grow a hard shell to protect himself from ‘the elements’. I wonder how these hippies will evolve in the outside world away from this nucleus of like-minded, peace-loving people. In fact, I wonder if I will be able to take some of this away with me and keep it in my heart for when I’m back home.
Caroline and I wash up our jam jars at the outside kitchen area and then load up with our rucksacks. Once again into the breach with walking poles deftly poised we resume our journey with high spirits. I am struck with the thought that this journey is a bit like giving birth. The agony of childbirth is soon forgotten after the birth of your new-born child… but it’s worth it!
Along the way, we are all fooling around again, and Robin decides to attempt a long jump across the stream. He slips and carries on, although we later find out he has injured his ankle.
We eventually arrive in Sarria, although the really useless guidebook has done its best to mislead us again. We end up walking around the town to reach the other side of town to find our next albergue.
It happens to be a renovated bus station and our rooms are clad with dark, wooden panels. We freshen up and go out again to find ‘linner’ (lunch and dinner).
The restaurant is a good one and we relax and unwind while enjoying a protein rich dinner – no veg. of course.
We arrive back and it is very clear that Robin has been in an awful lot of pain with his ankle. He falls asleep on the bed and I am left thinking what we should do. Do we carry on regardless, or do the sensible thing and go back home? I am certainly not going to carry on without him, although if I tell him that, I know he will carry on for my sake. I spend most of the evening lying on the bed thinking. My body is exhausted but my mind will not let me sleep. I decide to put all my fears and problems into God’s hands and eventually go off to sleep.
Dawn arrives and Robin is still in pain. I tell him not to go on, but he insists that I carry on without him. This is not an option for me. So he straps up his shin with rock tape and decides to carry on. Perhaps this is God’s will, I think to myself.
Breakfast is spent with an Irishman and his daughter who have just joined the camino. We share stories and gain strength from their optimism.