• Women on the GrOw

Camino Day 13: The Middle Way

May 17: Vilajo de la Rioja to Villa Franco de Montes de Oca

20.3 km/12.7 miles

Facade of old church on Camino de Santiago

The 0700 Exit

Chance to lie in, as the doors would not open until 0700. Some Peregrinos wake as early as 0430 to start their day, packing and shuffling their gear without concern. If they were quieter, the noise could have been easily overlooked, but normally, they were not.

A sense of competition was felt with this early exodus, and I was still trying to wrap my head around it.

The House Rules

Silence prevailed this morning. The house “rules” here paralleled my own philosophy. Perhaps we were late in walking a more authentic Camino as Kashi had observed, but this place seemed to comprehend the nuances of bygone Caminos.

Long stretch of fields of grass on Camino de Santiago

Rolling fields of green were passed today, which a local shared would be brown by summer. One small village cascaded into another. All topped by a church tower, spire and the occasional, tall façade front, giving a pseudo sense of height and awe.

The Local Life

The town squares of these quaint villages magnetized one to sit, savor a coffee and observe local life. At one stop we encountered two Finnish guys toting a guitar and enjoying beers. They had a big itinerary for their Camino. They put in long days and often arrived after dark to a hostel.

The Camino Trust

We spoke of the concern many Peregrinos had regarding late arrivals and full hostels. They weren’t worried. I, myself had been tempted at times to book in advance since we were two travelers now and moved slowly through our day, but resolution was made to place trust in the Camino.

Thus far, only once had extra kilometers been walked for a bed.

The boys boasted how they partied in Pamplona and planned to catch more fun in the next big town. They were young and entertaining.

Old wooden green door on Spanish building

The Mental Challenge

My legs no longer ached much and I pondered if I was transitioning out of the physical stage and into the second, the mental challenge. Perhaps this would involve intentionally slowing the mind down to my walking pace.

The Camino offered one the rare chance to divert from the usual fast-paced life routine.

Red wooden shuttered window in Spain

The Middle Choice

The end of the day brought us to a hotel with an Albergue (hostel) in the rear. There were three options for the hostel dorm rooms that were reflected by price. Earlier Pilgrim arrivals that day had evidently chosen either the higher or lower options as we chose the middle and ended up in an empty dorm room.

The Camino had spoken.

Aristotle describes the middle way as the mean between two extremes, one of excess and one of deficiency. Morality would be found in the middle.

An empty dorm room can tempt one to indulge in activities that veered from this middle path.

Old Church facade with pelican nests nestled atop

The Gourmet Dinner

We were informed that the town grocery store had only an hour window of opening. This was common in the smaller villages. We headed over, as there was a kitchen in the hostel and we felt like cooking.

Our grocery staple list often included cheese, perhaps a can of sardines, olives, bread, avocados, etc. Kashi had creative ways to make a few simple ingredients into a delightful dinner. Life is sweet!

Mural of peregrine on Camino