4. Buen Camino: Casa

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Since I had lodged at an Albergue before town, the walk to Ribadiso was longer than the scheduled 25 kms. I had also started late, so by around 5 kms or so I realised that I had not covered much of the distance for the day. I sat down for a cigarette break. Along came N, she did not stop, but waved to me and said, ‘When I reach, I will pop a bottle of champagne.’ That cheered me up and I followed.

Yet, the distance was long, very long. It was almost 11 AM and I had just done one-third of it. I reached Leboreiro and had a brunch of Jamon Ham sandwich and salad, it was my standard fare with hope that the meat would support my pig headedness. Why did I choose to walk? What was the point? I realised my mind was playing games with me. I was onto meta questions about the activity and existence, instead of looking for simple food and counting my steps. This is how it happens, I realised. This is how doubts creep in when the going gets tough. I started the march I had learnt as an adolescent boy in a military school: Left, Right, Left, __. When that took me up to Melide, I looked up and saw an Italian Mother-Daughter who looked like sisters. We smiled at each other, introduced ourselves. The Mother, P, did not know any English and I did not know any Italian. D, the daughter, worked overtime. I was just grateful that I had found someone who was at around the same leg as me.

But I crossed them and weary that I was, I started soaking in the scenery. The lush forests, the green trees, the winding path, the hills and farms spreading out on the side, the brooks I crossed and realised I had shifted to giving myself the count from my own religio-cultural upbringing: Eik Onkar Sat Naam (God is one, truth). It was fuller than the blank I was leaving earlier. It made me feel steadier in my tired steps. A jap can take one places. It became 5 PM when I saw the next ‘Casi’. I stopped at an inn and asked for a room. It was going for Euro 40 for a three-seater. But I was single. Then P and D came over and I asked them if they were interested.

They told me we were still 2 kms from Ribadiso and suggested we walk more to save ourselves the longer walk the next day. We walked in silence. D started telling me about her boyfriend who did music and how they were both interested in India. We stopped for a coffee and when we reached Ribadiso we learnt that no rooms were available. The matron said, ‘Another three kms and you may find something in Arzua.

I buckled and asked P her age. She was more than 15 years older than me and I considered how I had abused my body all these years: loneliness, sadness, drinks, cigarettes. How weak my body was, how steep the walk was. It had to be bloody uphill. The mind, the mind, how it evokes your Achilles Heel when you want to find strength. We reached a pension which was up for Euro 65 for a three-seater. We walked on. Now, we finally reached an Albergue. We didn’t even see how the interior looked like. But when we entered, it was divine. The washroom so clean and the shower and lights did not turn off automatically.

That night my body was exhausted. 31 kms in a day. But now I was 3 or 4 kms ahead of my scheduled stop. Santiago was closer. This is not a race! We talked the little I know about fires: the one that burns us down and the one that makes us leap in faith. I told the story of Shiva playing the dumroo and Parvati burning her palace because she doubted the sound to be one of imminent disaster.

My mind had repeatedly evoked possible failure, my faith had taken me to a warm bed and hot food. At home, Casa.


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