(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 15, 2005
Day 16: Sahagun to Mansilla, 36.9 km/23 m

I woke up, went to the bar for some coffee and wrote in my journal.

When the coffee is good here, it’s really good. Smoke everywhere. Just put your trash and cigarette butts on the floor. Hang out in bars all day, all night. But the coffee can be so, so good. It is this morning.

I took another bath. Good way to start the day. I put the leftover wine in a ziplock. We’ll see if it makes it. I am so loving being here, walking, discovering, wondering, praying, aching, laughing, grieving… I am holding the questions. I don’t know if answers exist. But to hold questions. Muy bien.

Are we destroying the world?
Is siesta and inefficiency better than commercialism?

They smoke American cigarettes. Marlboros. Not a Starbucks in sight.

This morning I have many options of refuges but I think I’d like to get to the farthest one so that my trip tomorrow into Leon, the biggest city on the route, will be a quick 12 miles. At this point, 12 miles feels like a vacation.

And that’s what I did. I walked and sang and blessed each part of my body. I was so grateful for every inch. So stunned by how it had carried me; so appreciative. I’d thought this before, but I felt more determined than ever—I didn’t want to spend another moment on negative energy toward my body. That was my wish. Oh, and I also thought about Simon: I wished he would be free of blisters from that point on.

Of course, because I was walking the Camino, just as I was thinking about Simon, there he was, sitting next to a tree outside the hermitage, reading his Bible and airing his feet. I’d bought him his favorite cookies at the supermarket the night before, and when I presented them to him, he was delighted. It’s the simple things that make us happy.

It was another day of me and my boy, watching clouds, admiring the landscape, being together, in conversation and in silence. There was so much beauty. Especially when you notice—when you want to notice, when you want to take it all in and appreciate it.

We came upon this potato farm in Bercianos—some kind of manufacturing building with potatoes on the ground everywhere, and we picked them up thinking we’d cook them later but with no towns in sight, we ate raw potatoes like they were apples—and we loved them!

Simon, too, was thinking about making it to the farthest refuge in Mansilla, which meant we’d spent two days back-to-back of 25 and 23 miles. Good God, I was either getting stronger or dumber. But we took some breaks, and we rooted for each other, and we started hobbling when we needed to, and we made it to a gorgeous little place where the innkeeper was German so Simon got to speak his native language. He was thrilled!

There was a computer in the corner, which I eyed when I arrived, but I was more interested in dinner. It had been a long day. I made pasta. My feet ached. I walked like a 90-year-old, shuffling around the kitchen. But I eyed that computer, and I decided to just check in. A quick peak.

And what I discovered stunned me. It was an email from Martin…

Subject: santiago connection
Date: Tue Mar 15 11:23:07 2005


how are things going? hope you don’t have trouble with your feet, shoulder, enkle, hips….

it seems like ages ago that we walked together, doesn’t it!? as our “farewell” was kinda quick i just wanted to tell you that i already that day felt kinda sorry when i might have been bothering you with my behavior – i guess i was a little bit too much affected by your charisma. that’s why i was almost relieved when we separated… hm. i guess this turns out to be kinda a love letter. well, maybe in a way, that i was really faszinated about your passion to do things – especially when you talked about your work. therefore i was an “easy target”, as this is what I am looking for and thus was easy to impress with. however, i appreciated a lot talking to you and this passion lesson you gave me will serve as orientation what i might do with my life….

Well, i felt like i had to write you this and hope you get more or less out of it what i wanted to tell you. i know this is not exactly Oxford English and even worse – you are a writer, but…. So, please don’t let me appear in your next book as a young naive admirer…

oh, and try to keep your teeth like that. this really attracts men – well at least when it comes to me – and you will keep on receiving love letters from mid-twens….

I had really a lot of good talks with my ex girl friend and i feel like we are back together. That’s really nice and I am all happy about that.

Anyways, starting that night in Burgos it felt good walking alone again waiting what’s gonna happen next. I was very happy, enjoying the silence even though i had to be alone in this cold, closed albergue when I arrived at 21 o’clock or something. the next day i met Massimo in Leon in the monastery…. guess, what was his first question….

I have no idea where are you at. probably way in front. too bad, as i do not have a fellow to drink red wine with during lunch time….

send me back – just a check …