We’re sitting in the garden of our albergue. There’s a weary hum from the bar, tired walkers exchanging stories; the gentle rush of water over stones from the river; occasionally, the rustle of leaves, figs and twisted willows, near us, further away old apple and pear tres, their fruit still clinging to the branches. The claws of the old Alsatian sleeping nearby scratch at the stones – he’s dreaming of rabbits or pheasants I suppose.
Our albergue is about 5ks from the nearest town and a kilometre or so from San Xulian the nearest settlement.
Our washing is pegged out on a long line with a prop – much like that my grandmother used. The small holdings around here remind me of my grandparents’ place – a few sheep, chooks, walnut trees, as well as fruit trees and large veggie gardens. The only thing missing is Nanna’s perennial flower bed – she was proud of it with good reason. Here there are a few roses sprawling over the stone walls, geraniums, petunias and succulents in tubs and that’s about it.
Once again, since we arrived, the albergue has filled. We passed two closed albergues today, many more will close next week. There’s an end of season feel along the way.
Now we phone ahead not so much to secure a bed as to ensure the albergue we’re aiming for is open. Although there are still plenty of walkers around they are mostly sticking to the traditional stages whereas, for the moment, we have off set ourselves from the main wave. We’ve had the luxury of two days peaceful walking.
With only 60 or so kilometres to go, it looks as if we’ll reach Santiago in another three days. That early anxiety walking over the Pyrenees, through the Navarre, La Rioja, and even across the Meseta about whether we’d be able to do this has gone. In its place : peace, poignancy, and reflection – the latter mostly about the kindness of strangers.