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(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

March 3, 2005
Day 4: Cizur Menor to Puente la Reina, 26 km/16 m

When I awakened, my IS was sitting at my bedside, dressed and waiting. He smiled at me. I sat up and smiled back at him. A new word had popped into my head that I thought might work. I was hopeful. “Today, I walk solo,” I said.

His face grew long with concern and rejection. “Why? Why?” His eyes desperately searched mine.

My heart ached. “I need time with me,” I said, tapping my chest.

His eyes bulged with understanding, and he quickly grabbed his bag. “Okay, okay,” he said standing.

I apologized. I thanked him for two days of travel. He clung to his bag hiding his face a bit, and then he left quickly, as if embarrassed.

I felt terrible and relieved at the same time. I got dressed, packed up and moved into the kitchen where I soft boiled two eggs and smashed them between an open baguette with slices of cheese. I had learned a new way to cut the bread from Simon: into a V so that the contents stay in the crevice. Brilliant. I put my breakfast on a napkin and sat back down at the internet terminal, indulging my addiction one last time. I quickly dashed off an email to my friend Karen in Exeter.

Subject: Just Passed Pamplona
Date: Wed Mar 3 07:52:23 2005

Karen:

I’m here, and I’m already famous—for being the girl who has managed to bring so much in such a little bag. People are envious. They all have too much and must carry it. Nothing at the moment that I don’t have. Except heat.

The little woman here said it’s supposed to be bad weather all week. We’ll see. So far no rain. Maybe I can take the cold if it’s also not wet!

The refuges are very doable. Small and packed with bunk beds but there are so few of us that it’s fine. I think they’ll get more crowded as we go though. The closer to Santiago, the more people, I suppose. That might be the place I find hotels instead. Otherwise, it’s a bit like camping in a cabin. They have blankets and pillows but that’s all. Toilets in another building usually. Showers. Sometimes even hot water though that’s been sparse!

My hair is fuzzy. Mostly hidden under two hats.

Loving you,
Tess

I hit the trail, and I immediately started singing.
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(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

March 26, 2005
Day 27: Arca to Santiago, 20.7 km/12.9 m

I woke up in my beautiful haven in Arca do Pino to hear rain pounding the pavement outside. Rain. I pulled back the curtain, and sure enough, the sky was seething. I gathered up my waterproof gear and wondered whether I should start building an ark.

My last day on the trail would prove to be just as challenging as my first. I had started my journey by slogging through thigh-high snow, and I was ending it by traversing a monsoon.

The first few miles took me through forested land that was simply magical through the veil of rainwater and foggy mist. I could hear only the patter of the rain, a symphony, along with my feet, slurping with each step as rivers of mud rushed to fill the indent of my footprints. It was beautiful, soulful music to accompany my quietude.

under the bridge
What began as a patter soon grew to drumbeats, and just when I thought the rain couldn’t pound any harder, it did. It was downright Biblical, making my trek to Portomarin look like arid terrain. And, truth be told, as the hours passed, this Spanish water torture was starting to get to me. At just under 13 miles, this was one of my shortest travel days, but the road seemed so endless and arduous in the unyielding flood. I kept telling myself that I was almost there. I kept coaxing my feet to carry me forward, which they did, under duress. They were so ready for rest. So ready.
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