lost on the last day of the Camino

 each day at noon, mass is celebrated in the Cathedral in Santiago. while all manner of tourists attend, it’s designed for the weary peregrinos who’ve stumbled into town during the preceding day or so. we allowed nearly two full days for Santiago and could easily have waited to attend mass on the second day. but what kind of joyful, celebratory arrival would that be? instead, we set the alarm for 4:45 a.m., got into bed while the sky was still light and endeavored to temper the jubilant anticipation and get some sleep. the beds were a great help — some of the more comfortable ones of the Camino — once I got to sleep, but it’s hard to convince your mind to rest after a relatively easy 22 kilometer hike the night before you reach the destination you’ve been challenging yourself to reach for over a month. my journal entry from that night waxes a lot more philosophical than many of the others, which were largely contained to observations of the day, hike, meals, fellow peregrinos, and the like.

but arise at 4:45 a.m. we did. and promptly got lost for the first time on the Camino. I blame our initial misdirection on the circuitous route by which we approached town; I thought heading one way would shorten our route out of town … but instead it took us back to the east, something that would have been easy to rectify had the sun been up yet. fortunately, there were plenty of other peregrinos out to set us to right.

hiking through eucalyptus groves by the light of headlamps is a singular experience; both unsettling and serene. we weren’t in the trees very long, though, and when we emerged the horizon had just begun to lighten. despite the people we’d seen leaving Arca, there didn’t see any on the other side of the grove and reverted to following the usual trail markings … which ultimately proved somewhat problematic.

along the Camino, the route periodically joined with recreational trails with their own unique and regionally distinct markings. we’d never seen these recreational trails diverge from the Camino, as it was usually the best-groomed trail in the area, and got used to those directional signs accompanying the ubiquitous yellow arrow or walking peregrino sign. and on our last day on the Camino, we followed signs for the recreational trail as it diverged from the route we wanted. instead of heading down into the valley through Amenal we headed up and to the right, following a forestry road that eventually ended. without any indication of where the recreational trail might go from there. our map was woefully inadequate as to provide anything resembling assistance in determining how far off the path we’d gone and we were reluctant to use our mobile device to try and access a map that probably wouldn’t have a realistic pedestrian solution to our quandary.

fortunately, we had a pair of nice big landmarks to work with — the convergence of two major highways (N-547 and N-634) and an airport. we could hear the autopista from our misdirected location and worked our way towards it. the Camino crossed the road at the roundabout where we emerged and so, without any notable delay in our progress towards Santiago, we got ourselves unlost.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.