Villatuerta to Los Arcos y Los Arcos to Viana

Sunset over Viana, 2009

I’m off on a trip for the weekend, so I’m gonna keep this short and leave it at a little Camino hindsight.

Many people have asked me why I feel the need to return–and keep returning–to the same trail. With some so many other places, other trails even, to explore all over the world–why this one? Doesn’t it get old? Aren’t I wasting my time? I’ve learned to stop incessantly questioning myself about this. Walking the Camino is like visiting thirty countries at once where everyone from each place actually has the time to talk to you. It’s as if this massive group of humans collectively hit the pause button on their lives so they could finally see and truly hear one another.

On the two days that followed my sleepless night in Villatuerta, we crossed a shadeless 12 kilometers of desert-like scrubland, sat in a plaza for an inspiring dinner packed with beautiful stories, and ended our two days 50k further, right on the edge of La Rioja, the land of the wine. I drank wine from a wine fountain on the side of a wall, bought a hand-carved pilgrims cross from a woodworker in the middle of the forest, and learned what it was like to feel like you’re sweating ice water.

The “girls in the hats” at the wine fountain

I continuously lost faith that our day would ever end the moment our village’s steeple appeared on the horizon. I sewed more blisters, sent more sunburned selfies to Ben and fortified myself with even more popsicles, cafe con leches, and lemon Kas mixed with beer–the Spanish shandy.

Heading out of Los Arcos at the start of our morning, Christina and I combined all the Spanish we could remember (she did a much better job) and chatted with an older man who walked the same 10k every morning to keep an eye on the trail. He worked for a local organization that kept the Camino safe and clean–a true lifelong protector of our journey. We asked him what he thought of the books and movies popping up about The Camino, to which he explained: nothing can truly capture the heart of the Camino. It’s about this conversation we’re having right now, the long days of solitude and self-reflection, and the connection you have with nature and your fellow peregrinos. You cannot put that on the big screen. You have to experience it.

Los Arcos Cathedral, 2009

As an artist who only tries to do a story justice, this is why I return. You cannot capture the Camino in words, paintings, or movies, though it’s sure nice to try. You have to do it to truly understand. Even my art cannot truly transform it into anything that can be neatly tied up into a commercialized box, and I wouldn’t trade that chance with anything.

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