DAY 28: Cat Up a Tree
My alarm went off at 5:30am in a harmonious melody of strumming harps. Too bad I slept through it. The sweet song played for about 2 minutes before it went silent and our tent was plunged into darkness once again with me not even stirring in the slightest. Our family had made a promise the night before to try and break our record and leave before 7:26am, the earliest start time we had on the Camino de Santiago del Norte. Instead, I had woken eleven minutes past six, a crabby grouch because I was sure we were now going to miss our agreed deadline. However, we were still going to give it a go and so we raced through tent checks, backpack protocol and breakfast until we were down to 10 seconds before 7:26am. We may not have beaten our record just yet, but we had equaled it and we set off down the empty highway on Day 28, marking exactly four weeks on the Camino, feeling unbeatable, with the sun rising in a glowing serenity behind us.
The first part of today’s walk took us past a string of countryside village homes and I briefly wondered what it would be like to live right on the Camino, pilgrims passing by every day during the summer months. Smiling brightly at an older lady who was sitting on her front porch, rocking back and forth silently, I turned my attention to a magnificent stone structure of a monastery, standing in all its splendour atop of a hill. Walking past its cool silver walls I realised that this church was also an Albergue (Pilgrim Only Hostel). I momentarily wished to stay the night inside this medieval treasure, but a sign showing the opening times dashed my hopes. 3pm was a long way away and we still had so far to go.
Our lunch break came when we made our way down into the valley that housed the town of Navia. Here we jumped into one of the small supermarkets to buy a cup of cherry tomatoes, cheese sticks and a tub of guacamole. With the name of the supermarket being El Arbol (The Tree) it was only natural that we ate our lunch under a regal oak that stood shielding a perfect park bench from the damp cold winds that began to sweep the streets. I looked up to see the funniest thing. A cat had begun to scale the oak tree. I laughed a little on the inside, noticing the menacing dark clouds that slowly began rolling in. I realised that we would become the proverbial cat up a tree if we didn’t get a move on now and make a start to outrun the storm. With that rather obvious metaphor spurring us into action, we leapt up from the bench and double timed it across the bridge leading out of town. Up we trudged the steep grade inclines out of the village, onwards to La Caridad, our destination for the day.
The ominous sounds of growling thunder chased us along for the rest of the afternoon. We moved quickly through flaxen fields of corn, over the uneven cobblestone steps of the quiet Northern Coastal villages of Asturias and under an occasional concrete bridge that separated the Camino from the mainstream highways. It was on these cobblestone ways that my brother exclaimed in excruciating pain at having walked over a stone in an awkward way. We stopped to see if he was alright, but being his natural resilient self, he shook it off in an instant, saying it was nothing. Being my twin, I knew he was making light of this situation, as he had already felt pain walking into Aviles. This seeming ‘nothing’, in the coming day, would make a huge impact on our Camino attempt.
At the final stretch, with only 2 kilometres (1.2 Miles) to go, we were thrust out onto the black tar road in the final race against the threatening masses of deadly electric clouds. Just as the first few bullets of frigid rain began to fall, the Albergue of La Caridad came into our view. Barreling through the front door, we were met by a kind Spanish girl, also a Peregrino, who helped us secure four of the last beds available. A howling storm ensued, as we all showered down and climbed up to our bunkbeds to spend the rest of the afternoon resting. In this world of the Camino, every spare second you can get is spent relaxing, recuperating and re-energising, so that you can be rejuvenated for the coming day’s walk. And that was just what we were going to do.