TALES FROM THE WALK BEHIND ME, NO.3 – I’m Rich Because Walking Is My Purpose

End of Day Wear & Tear – Albergue Solar De Hidalgos. Santillana Del Mar, Cantabria. Spain.

Okay, so I officially abandoned the idea of posting one of these tales daily.

I will definitely continue to be posting these as frequently as possible within the coming weeks until all 14 are out. The words are transcribed into my blog, but editing, formatting, and hunting through my phone for images/videos that coincide with each journal entry is taking me a little longer to finalize than I originally thought.

If you have been expecting one on the day with my intended words, I apologize because I have failed you my good people!

Whaaaat, you already forgave me? — Super!

Let’s move on!

The following is Number 3 of 14 in the series of blog posts called “Tales From The Walk Behind Me”.

If you missed part one, here it is — Click Me!

If you’re new to these, it is a series of originally journaled entries through a few of my days —events, experiences, thoughts— along the Camino De Santiago.

This was my second Camino that took place over 26 days through September to October, 2019 that covered 1010+km along the Camino Norte route, including Muxia-Finisterre.

This is my standard cut and paste disclaimer from the tale before, I will give you the bit of warning because it might not be what you expect– my thoughts can be ugly because I’m a weirdo.

Furthermore, the content will vary, and the timelines will be all over the place because my mind loves a wild goose chase.

You also may question my own benevolence as a human being.

Here we are again, Take No. 3, lets go!


Wednesday September 11, 2019. 6:30pm

Man I should stop leaving you hanging like that, but, I am an impulsive recluse!

When I don’t feel it– especially with writing— I’ll damn well stop it because the writing itself suffers.

Truthfully, it’s one thing if this is painful to you reading this–whoever you are— but it’s more of a problem when the writing becomes painful for myself.

I’ll always be my biggest fan next to my mom, but if I lose myself what’s left?… Well I guess my mom, but that doesn’t count– sorry mom #heartless #jk #stillloveyou

Okay there let’s see where my feet took me today?

For starters, I slept loads in Santander last night since my 45km adventure the day before. And though I did give myself some extra time to sleep in, I woke up feeling rather lethargic as a result.

It is funny to notice that my body feels more alert with less rest. And like most extremes, there is a definite point of diminishing returns when trying to balance the right amount of rest with too little or too much rest. But for the most part, I personally feel loads better with more movement and less physical bed-rest.

With more time clocked into my sleep upon waking up this morning, I litterally rolled my way out of bed and to the floor to organized my pack — The floor helped considering I slept on the bottom bunk. After pressing for the washroom to pee while having a brush at my teeth, I limped through the door and made my way taking my time on pace to exit Santander– a slow morning start as I nestled into the miles with aching feet, tendons, and all else.

It’s quite funny, I don’t necessarily mind the walk getting into a major city while walking out of most of them has quite a different feel for whatever reason. Typically, it’s such an ugly walk as you often make your exit while trodding on through highly industrial or polluted zones. To be honest, the scenery kind of reverses itself much like when you’re descending into the city, but I guess the difference lies with the feelings and good vibes that come attached to the completion of a long day walked.

Bilboa was exactly like that… The city itself was teeming with diverse character and life. When I descended into the city, almost half of my day had already been walked through the early hour of the morning while fasting for 15km on an empty stomach.

I took a seat to break my fast in the downtown square in front of the Cathedral De Santiago where I indulged plentifully to enjoy a marvelous Spanish tortilla omelette, some yogurt and granola, two white nectarines, one giant chocolate croissant, and two cafe con leche — grande.

Cathedral De Santiago – Bilbao, Biscay. Spain.

The moment to relax my blistered feet and to satiate my belly meant people watching the world to see how others enjoy both downtime and routine in their mid-morning lives. Life was both fluid and still, as people walked by on their own way, or sat in the square to replenish or treat themselves to something delicious. A wedding party collected next to me where they enjoyed a gathering in exhuberant joy. In the same moment, a group of policemen also stood in place observing the state of affairs in the town square. It was truly a multifaceted, and interesting dynamic.

When it was time for me to make my move through Bilbao out to the next town, the cities character was further impressed onto me while skirting alongside the many unique storefronts, food markets, or fruit stands catering to the varying socio-cultural feels of their own.

As I moved through the core areas and the surroundings, the stroll meandered further into dwellings that blurred many lines in their own identity. One beautiful house situated next to a dilapitaed one, or another beautiful home with a plentiful garden that sat next to an open plot of rubbish and debris.

The further I walked, the ugliness was exacerbated because of the highly industrialized areas that seemed mostly abandoned. The plethora of shattered windows alongside the bland politically-inspired graffiti was noteworthy enough for most pilgrim’s guidebooks to recommend skipping out on this part of the walk.

On the other hand, I was meant to walk because that was my purpose. And whatever experience layed ahead of me was meant to impress me in whatever way it would — good, neutral, or bad.

The profound takeaway from the experience was that it was a necessary stroll of ugliness as it bridged perspective on what I do like, and what I can appreciate from life in modern society. I spent what seems like a lifetime now escaping the urban jungle of Toronto that I grew up in, yet here I was learning to appreciate the experience in contrast within this Spanish city’s limits.

One Without The Other

It’s like what Einstein said,

“What is darkness but the absence of light“… If he even said that at all.

Or maybe it was whoever said something like,

“There is no such thing as cold, only the absence of heat

Or rather, it was someone who said,

Evil does not exist without the the absence of good”…

I’m not entirely sure if Einstein said these things or not, but it doesn’t really matter because they all pitch stories on the same side of the coin…

Meaning that you don’t know one without the other.

Walking the ugly intown garbage, I came to fully appreciate the rural and clean beauty ahead of me more wholefully.

But Back to today

En Route – Polanco, Cantabria. Spain.

I stopped rather quickly to break my fast this morning after only accumulating about 10km on the physically slow start. The feed gave me a boost in spirit and energy, but I allowed myself to stop again after another 10km for a nice coffee, but mostly because I had to make poops.

The waitress there had an attitude — she wasn’t rude, just unhospitable and cold, and to-the-point like — It seemed like I had disturbed her to ask for a coffee, or maybe it was because I smelled like litteral ass… I bathed, but my clothes smelled like yesterday’s sweat. — How tasty.

Past this point, I did not stop again for the next 16km, and I was hurting because of it. I was blessed to notice that my hip felt great this morning since day one running out 65km in 19-or-whatever hours through the night. It fellt good enough to say that it felt healed, but fast track my thoughts to the end of km 44 on this day and the repetitive pavement had me limping painfully to a finish.

I was relieved to reach the munipal albergue, but I was immediately turned away because it was full — the drawback to walking long distances that stretch later into the day. I walked 4 painful minutes further to another albergue called Solar Di Hidalgos. The cobblestoned streets of Santillana Del Mar were very beautiful, but with my right hip feeling entirely sore-ass, I fervently cursed their cobbled beauty.

Cobblestones – Santillana Del Mar, Cantabria. Spain.

When I got to the entrance of the other albergue, I found myself questioning if it was in service or not. The door was dark and the lighting was marginally less so as I peered inside through the glass. I was reluctant to walk any further as I motioned my hand forward to give the door a test.

Lucky me, the giant heavy door with an old and peculiar romanesque history slowly opened under its own weight as I continued to bring myself through. I paced another 20meters in through the dark corridor where a short, robust, and bold character dressed in a black polo, black sweats, and black sandals spun around into me after speaking to other pilgrims out the back door.

With no surprise he greeted me, “Hola! Hello! English? Espagna? Francais?”

“English… Albergue?” I replied.

“Yes, Okay… 10 euros!” He stated.

We proceeded to the front desk that was situated in the middle of the hallway and sectioned out from the wall from where we stood, a very peculiar setup.

He then asked me for my pilgrims passport to start the check in process, as I did, I also asked him if he had change for the €100 european bill I had left in fanny pack— err, ahem — my wallet.

He looked over to me and said half jokingly,

“Yes. How much you have… €500?”

As I handed him the €100 bill he began to smile wide-eyed and laughed.


** To be read as –“oh… one hundred… you rich.” **

He then lifted it into the air while he danced with it to his own ho-humming and hoo-haw’s as he inspected the bill’s legitimacy half joking, half serious.

I barely smirked from the fatigue of the day, but his theatrical display had me overly entertained. And though I hardly moved on the surface, I was laughing with intensity on the inside — He had really made my day.

Satisfied with his performance he gave me my change with rhythmic hand movements and shuffling dance steps in between the smaller bills and coins.

Vous Francais?” **“Are you French?”** He asked as he motioned over to my Canadian passport.

“No.” I answered bluntly.

“Are you from Toronto?” He furthered.

A complicated question to answer for me these days,

“Well, not anymore… Griego.” I furthered, which means Greek in Spanish — at least I think it does.

He entertained that thought as he continued running the joke by smiling €100 bill, with a few jokes between the phrasing of how what to call someone like me, or whether I was a Greek-Canadian or a Canadian-Greek. I chuckled until he looked at me in a momentary pause of all-seriousness to say,

“Greek’s are good people.”

Another day-making compliment, this robust individual in both stature and character was definitely in my good books, he had such enthusiasm and energy for lightheartedness and humor.

Almost There – En Route to Santillana Del Mar, Cantabria. Spain.

We moved away from the front-side desk as we made our way on to see the sleeping quarters along with the rest of the amenities of the albergue.

He wasn’t particular about where I slept and gave me my choice between the remaining bunk beds. Some albergues are particular about where to keep your shoes and your rucksack, especially concerning the well-known issue with bedbugs along the Camino — He could care less where my stuff went when asked, given that I did my best to keep it off of the bed itself.

When that was sorted he then showed me with instruction on how to use the most intricate shower that was waiting for us in the next room. It was definitely the most intricate shower I have come across in an albergue to date, and quite possibly my life. The thing came complete with two radial dials — one for temperature selection, and another one to turn it on while simultaneously selecting which of the two shower heads you wanted on, or for selecting row of 10 mystical jet sprays for your body — Truly a thing of redundancy I tell you.

After the 3 minute demonstration on how to operate the shower features he pointed to the mop in a corner across the room.

“When you are done, clean up after yourself.”

I nodded with a reassuring okay.

He smiled, slapped me on the shoulder to say,

“Good Boy.” as he set off.

Cafeteria Avenida. – Santillana Del Mar, Cantabria. Spain.

And here I find myself — having already set up my bed and using the nonsensical shower — up the street on the patio of a local cafe. The sun beaming against my already tanned face, I sit here sipping away at my coffee while writing out the words to this story.

what a beautiful day!

G. Kourtesiotis, September 11, 2019.





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