Tending to the Camino preparations for the ladies these past several months has kept my mind busy and not dealing with the idea of going to Spain, being on the Camino, but not actually walking the Camino. This morning it became real.
Today was the first day of the walk. Yesterday was a travel day and the focus was on making sure everything flowed smoothly, which I’m happy to say it did. The bigger challenge was keeping everyone awake until they could climb into bed for a good night’s rest before the big day that lied ahead. Many had been awake for 30+ hours, as most weren’t able to sleep well on the plane. When you combine the apprehension of the long day ahead, being in a new experience with nine other women they barely knew (if at all), and utter exhaustion, one may have expected a pretty miserable day. Instead, the women were pleasant, agreeable, and fun! It was yet another confirmation of the incredible mixture of beautiful souls that I am blessed to share this experience with.
Joyful anticipation, peppered with bit of nerves, filled our group this morning. We went for coffee and croissants to start the day, then a quick stop by Josie’s café to pick up the picnic lunches that had been lovingly prepared for them.
One quick picture of all the women on the bridge where the journey begins, and then they were on their way. I wished them all well, gave quick hugs, and offered last minute bits of reassurance. Then they turned and headed out on their unique precious path.
I felt a bit like a mother bird watching her little ones leave the nest for the first time. I was filled with emotion. Lots of emotion. I felt so proud to know these courageous women, many of them dealing with personal life changing events, some with medical issues or injuries, and all with uncertainty. But, they weren’t about to let any of those things stop them. They held an intention to lift their lives to a new level, and nothing was going to stop them.
I shared with them the night before not to be surprised when unexpected emotions arise as they walk. I told them to be prepared for that, but I didn’t think that advice would apply to myself. A whole myriad of emotions overtook me as I headed back to the hotel to catch my ride ahead, and in the brisk morning air tears of gratitude and love flowed.
Shortly afterward, I was greeted by a warm smile and friend face. My shuttle driver, Julien, was the same young handsome Parisian who transported our group from the airport yesterday. On my ride to Roncesvalles today, I sat next to a lovely lady in her 70’s from Guatemala walking the Camino with her husband.
When I arrived at the albergue, which is situated on the property of a beautiful old church, I headed directly to get spots secured for our group. But that wasn’t to be. I found that beds couldn’t be held without the person physically being present, even though I had copies of all their passports. The hospitalero informed me that they have 183 beds and he received word from the pilgrim’s office in the town we had just come from that 400+ pilgrims had checked in yesterday. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that was not good news. After checking my guide book and attempting calls to several nearby albergues in my broken Spanish, I was not having any luck. I could not tell nine women who had just walked 15 miles up over the Pyrenees Mountains that we didn’t have a place to spend the night. I knew I needed help, so I solicited assistance from a lady at the tourism office, a man running a bar, and finally a table of hopitaleros having coffee, and a reservation was finally confirmed at an albergue a mile and a half away.
The Camino is always full of surprises and things not going the way you planned, but I didn’t expect this situation to come up so early on in the journey. Circumstances that look like a set-back or problem typically seem to work out perfectly in the end. I expect this new place will offer something special we wouldn’t have been able to experience had we stayed at our original planned place. A familiar mantra on this path is, “The Camino always provides”. I absolutely agree, although you have to be flexible, allow the change to occur, and handle situations as they come up.
This was a good reminder of my unique and important function with this group. Even though I’m not make the actual ‘walk’ myself, I am immersed in the spirit of the Camino and the profound impact it has on those bold enough to brave it’s ever-changing path. I am so grateful for the privilege to support and serve these pilgrim sisters of mine.
It will be interesting to see how this new Camino experience unfolds for myself and for each one of the women!