Day 1 – July 15th Porto-Lebruge 19 miles

Today I had breakfast at the albergue for 3€. It was prepared by Sonia, one of the volunteers. Last night, I heard a Spanish woman arriving late. I was already on the top bed of a bunk bed. She had the bottom. She asked me if I was Spanish. I don’t remember what I answered but I was already on the mood for sleeping. During the night I heard people singing and partying until almost 1 am. I felt awkward and lonely. Like maybe I was not cut for all that enjoyment. I kind of like it even when they didn’t let me sleep too deep.

At breakfast, I felt awkward again. People eating with their friends and me in a corner, quiet, just listening and thinking about all the food I can take for lunch. Until the same Spanish woman of yesterday showed up and started to talk to me. She gave me a bunch of advice on how to take care of my feet. One of the advice was to put a bunch of Vaseline. A layer of protection. Since I didn’t have, she shared hers with me. She looked like she knew what she was talking about even though I had the sensation that she was the same person that called yesterday to the albergue and talked to another volunteer while I was checking in. The volunteer didn’t have too much patience with whatever the woman was telling/asking him

In any case, she wanted to go with me to make sure we find the start of the Camino litoral route. I didn’t know yet, but she was the type of person that really needs to know were she is going. The opposite of me.  I really don’t care to get lost or make the wrong turn. I know eventually I will get wherever I’m going. And in the meantime I might find something very interesting in between. I care though about knowing how many miles I walked at the end. I love to look on the map at all the random steps I made. It pisses me off more when Strava doesn’t work than getting lost. 

In any case, she was a good person, excited to start El Camino with someone. She gave me the ají en el poto (chili on my butt) to start seriously walking. I warned her I was slow. She didn’t care since she wanted to start easy the first day.  So I found a friend and we walked together the entire day for 33 km. until the town of Labrugue. I learned a couple of things about her. Her name is Mercedes, and was born as me in 1961. Even though she was born in May she kept saying that she was 60. It could be that she will continue to say 60 until the day she dies. She is from Santoña in Cantabria, a beautiful town in the Northern part of Spain  Her mother is 86 years old and live 7 km away from her. She installed an Alexa and a camera at her home and can talk with her mother whenever she wants. She found the solution to keep her mom independent. I even saw the old lady on Mercedes’ phone walking around and saying hi. I said hi back. She is very knowledgeable of the Caminos. Last year she walked El Camino Francés from Roncesvalles in 29 days. She married at 23 year old when discovering she was pregnant of her daughter Carmen. She is still married to the same man, who everyone calls Rizos. He looks like a nice, fitted and handsome man for our age. She showed me some videos of him with her twin toddler grandchildren in a swimming pool. Very cute (the children not the man).

We walked along the mist of Rio Duero and the Atlantic ocean with a brief stop in Matashinos to get a stamp and a pin that now I’m using to pinch my blisters. My backpack was awfully heavy. I barely made it to Labrugue. Everything hurt. I felt I could not continue like this. I shared my thoughts with Steve via WhatsApp and he immediately responded. I followed all his suggestions. Fortunately in Porto, the Spanish volunteer from Valencia gave me a phone number of a service that it was very reliable. With the help of Mercedes, Steve on Whatsapp and my own judgment I managed to get rid of almost 4 kilos of stuff that I put on a bag with 55€ and they will deliver it for me in Santiago de Compostela on July 31st which is my ETA so far. It took a huge physical and emotional weight for me. Now I carry around 7.5 kilos which is still a lot when you start adding food, and water. But now at least is manageable.

While I was chatting with Steve and the service trying to solve my backpack problem, Mercedes went to eat. I was too tired to walk any other step, so I stayed at the albergue municipal, took a shower, washed my clothes and ate an oatmeal that exploded in my backpack and it was not of longer use. I was going to survive. I figured also that both needed some space.

I went to the pharmacy to buy Vaseline and the pharmacist told me that the Camino Central was nicer than de la Costa and if I wanted to see the real Portugal I needed to go there. It was nice to hear reassurance of my idea. When I returned I chatted for a while with the person in charge of the albergue and a young woman from Lithuania. They were talking about men. The young woman wanted to find a man and have children. The hostelera who was in her forties, had one daughter, and was divorced, didn’t want anything with men. She said she like her freedom and was tired of men who boss her around. She said I want to be free. So I started singing Queen’s song and everybody laughed.

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