The Féria de Gracias in Santo Domingo went on all night. I wasn’t there but I could hear it in the distance from my room at the Room Concept Hotel. Maybe that’s why there were not many people up when Lisa and I set off at 06:30 am. Except for some other pilgrims. I know it was hard for Lisa to leave her room at the Parador, but we wanted to get to Belorado early to enjoy what the town might offer.
We are creatures of habit as evidenced by our daily routines. Every night before retiring, I make sure my backpack and string bag are packed and ready to go. From bottom to top, my backpack consists of spare insoles, hiking shirts and shorts, dress shirt, baggie with underwear, socks, micro towel (so far unused), laundry bag if I have any, tee shirt (that I sleep in) and toiletry bag, the latter two packed in the morning. In the string bag I keep a bottle of water, a bag of almonds, bananas if I have any, and an assortment of ointments like Aquafor and sunscreen. I try to have a quick shower in the morning and give my teeth a breath-cleansing scrub. I dress, including rubbing Aquafor on my feet and pulling on my wool socks and tie up my trainers, clamber into my backpack, sling the string bag in front, grab my Tilley hat, and I am off. Breakfast will come about 5 km later.
Breakfast consists of a cafe con leche grande and, depending on what is available, a tortilla, croissant, or toast, on that order. I will also eat a banana if available (gotta get my potassium!). Later rest stops might include another coffee or an isotonic drink. I have found that a glass of beer or wine is best left until the destination is reached. I fill my water bottle if necessary.
I prefer to walk alone, but I don’t mind a bit of company every now and then. Sometimes I will start the conversation, sometimes another pilgrim. And as we are all getting familiar with each other, conversations strike up easily and at any time. At first the questions were always: “where are you from?“; “Where did you start?”; “Are you going all the way to Santiago?”. Then the questions were “What made you want to do this?” and now I get a lot of “What was your favorite day?” and “What was your favorite stop?” And then lots of personal questions or comments – but there is an etiquette in how far to push these enquiries. Sometimes I get snippets of other conversations going on around me, some interesting and some that I am glad I am not on the receiving end of. Examples of the latter: a computer program that is easy to learn and difficult to master; the complete rules of how to play Nickels; all the aches and pains and blisters of the Camino.
My feet have been giving me some trouble over the past few days: swollen ankles, soreness, etc. Now here is an amazing fact: if I start talking with someone, I become oblivious to the pain. Then, when that person moves on or falls behind, the pain is very slow to return. There is an a anaesthetic quality to social interaction.
Tonight, a young Colombian priest said mass and gave the pilgrim’s blessing. Tomorrow we are off to Atapuerca, near the site of some early man digs.