Sitting alongside the major highways for an entire week huffing on fucking traffic pollution was exactly the kind of rebalancing I needed after going on a spiritual walk across the most pristine mountaintops that I had ever experienced. See Spanish people are like Dutch people in that regard where theyre not going to stop somewhere, going out of their way to help you get on your way (and thats fine). Going to the different roads leading out of Santiago that in turn led to the major highways into the mainland every day for 7 days in a row was a fucking pain. Did I tell you that my grandmothers birthday was also coming up? That I had a sort of deadline? I liked working with deadlines back in those days..
So sheesh, words.. At this time my grandmother (God rest her soul) was ~86 years old and one of the things that drew me back home was that continuing meant that I would not be able probably to go to her funeral let alone share time with her at the end of her life. Also didnt have that much funds. At the end of my Camino it was the 21stof October and I planned on being back in The Netherlands on her birthday, which was the 6thof November.
After sitting by the road for 7 days straight, sleeping illegally in a shower compartment on a campsite in Santiago (police eventually caught me at my wild camping spot, its a long story..), I ran into this woman through a mutual friend that I met along the way and once again, France was here to save my ass.
A woman that I met through a French fellow bum was named Estelle, she was driving back from Santiago de Compostela to Lugo. Now Ive been to Lugo and it was all mountain folk up there, no way I was getting a ride from there so we agreed that she would drop me off on the way. I found that when you needed an Angel there was always somebody offering something to you that helped you on your way. Be it pity, be it service, Im really not picky in these things. The road went alright, she drove like an animal but then again I smelled like an animal and we got along just fine. She decided to drop me off in smallville Spanish town just at the bottom of a mountain. I spent the day there and related to some professional bums that made it their damn purpose to live on the Camino. I mean I was there for about 5 months, walking from the Netherlands. These 2 gringo’s were there for 12 years. One of em had made a flat stone into a necklace that he gave me. Fuck the rope is what I always say so I took only the stone. A most amazing finely drilled or rather scratched hole into a flat stone, its whatever. While I drank wine with them they got 20 bucks from some random Spanish lady. They explained to me that this was doG taking care of them and at the end of my journey, believe me, this made perfect sense.
Hitched a ride the next day with some hunter to the smallest little mountain town you ever saw called O’Cebreiro. Walked into the tavern like it was nobody’s business and even though it was touristic as hell I still met some nice people there. First sat at a table with a handful of Russians that I didnt understand but a golden smile both ways – goes a long way. Of course I had Lucy, the icebreaker with me and a doG with crooked teeth is just anybody’s friend.
An Italian couple invited me for dinner which I gladly accepted. Ofcourse I never kept in contact with them and I STILL BEAT MYSELF OVER THE HEAD FOR IT! They even had a daughter.. Didnt think I wouldnt make use of any daughters being advertised to me ever but c’est ca.
I slept next to a church of St. Frances, patron Saint of Nature (I proclaim) and a Saint that has been good to me along the way. It was crazy cold but then again, it was almost November. The next day there were rumors of snow and that meant I just had to get out of the town, didnt matter how rainy or cold it was. Getting stuck in the snow means having to endure winter there and to be honest, nobody has the money for that kind of shit.
I woke up, met some pilgrims on their way to Santiago, some were doing it barefoot and I offered them some of the sheabutter that Ive been using, it makes your feet harder but I am in no capacity to talk informative to someone who already did 500km+ on his barefeet being fucking Biblical and shit. So I didnt present it in that way obviously. They were on their way as was I, now on my way back. Breath in, breath out..
As I was walking by the road through the rain I held up my shell and my thumb to every car that passed, there were few, but still enough. At some point a car stopped and they offered me a ride to Sarria, where they dropped me off at a gas station that they knew was kind of inhabited during the night. Of course I also didnt keep in contact with these people and OFCOURSE I STILL BEAT MYSELF OVER THE HEAD FOR THIS!@!#
A girl that worked at the gas station saw me breaking into a backroom that nobody ever used but was still warm and connected to the whole of the gas station. I accepted her ride with glee and she dropped me off at some roadside restaurant, perfectly on the way but holy shit, unpleasant and truck drivery (thats not a word) as fuck but I made due. Sleeping in an upright position became my middle name..Paul J. ‘Sleeping Upright’ Wiertsema..
The next day someone in a suit and a Mercedes offered to take me down the road towards wherever and (whois saying no to that). He dropped me off at a gas station on a toll road. Not a lot of people coming through but enough to give me a ride was what he said. He was fucking wrong.. Thank God some nice English people turned up in a camper eventually after I took a nap and I just walked up to them and asked where they were going. They were going to Santander but they were going to take the highway through Burgos which was a very, VERY good steppingstone for me to take. Kind of forced myself through my endless Charisma into their backseat and I, social as I was, slept the entire way, Lucy on my lap and all. In Burgos they dropped me off at a gas station that was inhabited by all kinds of “degenerates” and we drank a cup of coffee and we shared a nice moment. Apparently I was their first hitchhiker ever but they appreciated me, the coffee and felt like they helped me on their way.(WHICH THEY DID, ALSO LOST THEIR NUMBER DAMNIT, PLEASE BEAT ME OVER THE HEAD FFS!).
Late in the afternoon, I was either going to sleep there or try my luck. Not a whole lot in between. I felt lucky and I put Lucy on a leash. I walked up to 3 white Mercedes vans with Romanian license plates, driven by the shadiest motherfuckers you will ever come across. Then again, I am probably the shadiest motherfucker that you will come across as well and it kind of felt on par. Camino shell around my neck, sparkle in my eyes, a fucking doG thats just adorable and a little bit of go fuck yourself aura.
“Romanian, your voice sounds so odd, is something the matter?” he asked.
“Oh I just chainsmoke cigarets all day” squeaked the Slav adding a cough at the end to prove his point. “But Romanian! What big ears you have.” as he stepped a little closer towards the van. “The better to hear you with, lonely hitchhiker” replied the Kosak. “But Romanian! “What big eyes you have”. “The better to see you with, little pilgrim” replied the Carpath.
“But Romanians! what big teeth you have!”