We started out the wrong way to the bus station, under my leadership, then reversed direction. It soon became obvious that it was the pensioners day to go to Merida. There was a swarm of canes and white Q-Tip hair-doos as we all bee-lined for the autobus. We reached Alemendrajo in 15 minutes, which would have taken us all day to walk. In another 15 minutes we were in Merida, 2 days walk away. It was like stepping from one century to another in an instant.
After a full day in Merida, we went to the Plaza de Espana to watch people come out and the sun disappear. The plaza was full, and we began to see many Pilgrims we knew. We talked briefly with the French people, Dora and Bernard. Katerina and Matias were gazing into each others eyes longingly. Alan, Steve and his lady Claire, the Australians, and Julio, the Spaniard, joined us. Everyone spoke of the difficulty of walking such a long distance in the heat. It was 95* F, or about 35* C, today on the shadeless trek.
We had watched Katerina and Matias struggle into town, hardly able to think, and we had to admit that we had taken the bus. I felt very bad. It made me feel like a faux-Pilgrim. We should have at least tried to walk it out. If we could not possibly make it, we could have gotten a ride at that point. We did not even try. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, like I was a quitter. It is entirely too easy to justify taking the easy way, and once you begin it can become a habit. Every parent has said to their children, “Just because everyone else is doing it does not mean you should. If everyone jumped off of a cliff would you jump?” The Camino is, of course, a metaphor for life. Do we give up, or never try something challenging to begin with, so that we won’t fail or be uncomfortable? Do we take charge of our lives and do what we know is right for us, or do we let life happen around us and push us with the tides without a focus or goal? Stepping outside of our comfort zone is the only way we will ever grow. Each time we achieve that growth, it is ours forever. We become stronger and stronger, gaining new knowledge and confidence, each time we try.
What did I come to Spain for? I came here to walk. As the landscape zoomed by the bus window in a blur I wanted to scream, “Stop! Slow down!” I came to see this amazing country at a foot travelers pace. I miss the rhythm of walking each day and slowing into the landscape. I want a journey of uninterrupted continuity. I want to feel the sunshine on my face, the wind in my hair, and the ground firmly under my boots. I want to feel my fitness building, as well as completely un-plugging from the fast pace of my normal life. It is a profoundly beautiful and intimate way to see a country.
As we talked with Alan about these feelings, he just listened patiently with a gentle smile on his face. We spoke of our regrets. He simply and wisely said, “Your Camino begins again tomorrow.” Never a truer word was spoken. I am resolved to begin again and not look back.
Distance from Villafrance de los Barros to Merida=27.34 Miles / 44 Kilometers
Actual Distance Walked= 8.99 Miles / 14.5 Kilometers
Accommodations= Hostal Senero. 16 Euro per person, per night, in a double or triple room with an en-suite bathroom.
There is a new Albergue near the river. 12 places, 5 Euro per person. We chose to stay in a hostal because we were staying 2 nights.
If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”