Logrono – Najera
Another long day is ahead this morning. I decide to leave before anyone is awake. Not only to get a head start, but to not have to say good bye. I leave a note to the others letting them know how grateful I am for taking me under their wing and provide my contact info. I head out before sunrise. I think to myself how well I am handling this experience and that my first breakdown must be on its way.
Marian and Russ catch up to me, we walk together for awhile and eventually they pass me. I am very weak today and need to stop more than usual. Today is one of the longest days and is absolutely taking everything in me to keep going. I stop for a rest right on the side of the dirt path. Sometimes, my feet still on the gravel and my body sprawled across the tall grass. Too tired to even take off my pack. A scene for others I’m sure of.
As I arrive into town, I am exhausted and excited to be done for the day. Each step I take is even more painful than the other and it seems as if I have been walking for miles with still no sign of the albergue. I ask another pilgrim with frustration, “Where the hell is the albergue?” He responds, “Another few miles I think.” “What! No way.” My body begins to tremble and In my head I rage.
I repeat under my breath, “This is bull shit… this fucking sucks… fuck!” I think to myself how I don’t think I can take another step. I literally want to throw my pack into a river and scream. Out loud I state, “I expected the albergue to be closer since most of them are right there as soon as you arrive into the village.” My fellow pilgrim responds with a giggle at my language, “I know, me too.” My patience dissipates as tears fill my eyes.
We both walk into the closest albergue, which is a smaller private one, hoping for a bed. There is a line of pilgrims waiting. I have a feeling my luck is not with me today. Immediately I ask the host, ” Completo?” which means full in Spanish. “Si”, she responds. The dread of having to continue walking encompasses me. I pick up my things and continue walking to the next albergue, which is about a half mile away, cussing to myself the whole way.
I make it to the only other albergue in this village. If this is full I will have to walk to the next village another 4 miles away. It is a donation only albergue run by volunteers. This albergue is unique since it will be 1 room with 100 beds. Surely there will be room.
I arrive in utter exhaustion and sit down on a bench to check in. There are two elderly male volunteers who speak only Spanish helping us pilgrims get settled. Emotion overwhelms my shaking body and tears begin to stream down my cheeks. One of the men notices and gives my shoulders a rub. He repeats, “tranquila, tranquila” as he tries to sooth my clearly distressed soul.
He slides me a plate of fresh cut watermelon. With my pack still on, I take a bite of a slice. The fresh juicy sweet water soothes my weak body and runs down my chin. After a few minutes, I begin to calm down and can manage to pull it together to take off my gear and check in.
This is a moment I will never forget on the Camino. The moment I unwillingly had my first breakdown. I collect my things and hobble right to my bed and lay down. My body still full of emotion, I let the tears flow. Tears of frustration and suffering from physical pain and exhaustion. My feet have taken the biggest hit. Any step after 12 miles or so in one day begins to feel like they are going to explode.
I knew this was going to be hard, but nothing could ever prepare me for the physical pain that I would experience from walking 15 or so miles every day for the past week. I think about the letters my best friend wrote me before I left. I decide to open the “For when I am feeling low or sad” letter. She gave me 7 sealed letters that she wrote for when I feel lonely, want to come home or need a laugh.
I bring the letter to a tree outside and sit down away from other people. I read the letter while tears stream down my cheeks. I smile with gratitude from her kind words and for thinking of me. The first line reads: “Start each day with a grateful heart.” She spells out my name with adjectives like we did in grade school. L for lovely, I for inspiring, N for nice, D for dashing, S for sassy, E for exciting and Y for young. I instantly smile.
She continues to write about how wonderful life is and to be happy. Each day is a new beginning and new chance to do something great. Everyone has days of doubt and sadness and how sometimes a good cry is all we need. She reminds me to breath and let it out.
There is no way I would ever quit, however the thought does arise. It causes me to lose grasp of positivity and moments slip away that are now consumed with my thoughts. Its good to have this moment to let it out so I can feel grateful again. I close my eyes and meditate and reintroduce myself with the now.