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DAY 15: I Will Survive!

The glowing pool of amber light we call sunrise radiated from behind the untouchable barrier of the horizon. We had risen with the dawn once again and as we trudged down the first part of today’s walk, a crunchy entree of cadet-grey gravel, we all laughed at the distant memory of our first 3 days on The Camino when we would start at 10am. The truth of the matter was that I hadn’t gotten up this early since the dreaded bleating of my alarm signalling the start of another traditional school day, but it was that satisfying feeling of knowing that on most days, we would arrive at our destination mid-afternoon and not after 9 pm, that made starting off so early all the more enjoyable.

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The magnificent sunrise set the tone for a conversation that centred around the ancient origins of The Camino de Santiago. One of the main points we focused on was the fact that when doing this walk, all were equal. There is no hierarchy, we are all Peregrinos (Pilgrims). Even the Kings and Queens of ages past completed this pilgrimage using their own two feet. Perhaps it was a way for them to abandon the glittering confines of carriages and the obligations of their stations and just walk the earth like all the other human beings did. Maybe, it was their truest moment of experiencing what it was like to be a human being and perhaps, this is the true essence of The Camino de Santiago.

Our conversations continued light and lilting as the day’s kilometres slowly fell away and the sun that we had worshiped for its beauty in the morning, now turned its allure against us into a deadly skin searing burst and I could almost swear that my blood was boiling inside me.

We collapsed onto the soft green grass behind a hotel restaurant, next to the busy national highway, our route to our final destination of the day. Food, as if by magic, began unloading itself out of our backpacks and onto our picnic spread but then I realised that it was my mother arranging our lunch into a perfect little tableau. We rested in the shade and waited for the hottest part of the day to pass while a straight line of polished black ants marched across our arms. Then the creatures began to bite, sharp stinging pricks and we realised this was our cue to move on. We left behind a feast of crumbs for our invaders and made the back-breaking climb up CA131 for seven more kilometres. Finally we shuffled down the sandstone path, the colour of a golden harvest and into the centre of the cobblestone lined streets of the inviting medieval town of Santillana del Mar.

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We made our way through the winding streets as if in a Cinderella storybook town and found our way to the local Campground overlooking the village below. After unloading our backpacks and setting up our tents at in the lush reserved grass plots, we all went for a dip in the deep blue galaxy of the campground’s 25 meter swimming pool. I cannot express how wonderful a feeling it is to float in space, to have the weight of your body drift in the blue abyss. This was what it felt like to be in the pool. Its cooler than average waters also soothed the blisters and pressure sores on my aching and tired feet and every moment I spent floating, I felt percentage points of rejuvenation add to my being.

Having rested for a couple of hours, we decided to return to Santillana where we explored our ancient surroundings. One factor that really surprised us was the large amount of foreign tourists that crowded the confined streets, but it was Saturday. Swarming in the metallic gold church and main square, we had to battle our way through to the only open mini mercado (market) that the town offered, to buy some snacks for tomorrow’s journey.

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Enjoying strawberry icy poles, we returned to the campground where after eating a dinner of mixed salads, fried eggs, french fries and tomato sauced pasta, we prepared for the usual delight of a well earned night’s rest in our tents, without any form of agitation. That’s when the front porch of the ‘secluded’ campground turned into a nightclub and ‘Saturday Night Fever’ took hold of the party animals residing in the private bungalows.

The music was so loud that we could hardly hear ourselves, let alone each other in the tent. The “Duff Duff” of the harsh beat, created a dissonance in my heart that disturbed me to my very core. With strained smiles, Lalika and I zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags and buried ourselves deep in them, determined we would sleep. I must have dozed off because I woke to Lalika singing to “I Will Survive”, which all the party goers were also singing to at the top of their voices. However, this seemed to be the extended, extended version, as it went on for nearly 15 minutes. I was wondering how I would get back to sleep, but this turned out to be the finale, as I heard the party dissipate and then everyone disperse to their accommodations. I quickly fell back to sleep…I will survive!

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