As Christmas is only a couple weeks away and the end of the semester is days away, I can’t help but dream of my next escape. And by escape I mean adventure, of course. Whether my dreaming is actually going to see itself into reality and happen or not is another matter. Since I’m in my everyday routine right now, and not sure when my next trip will be, I love reminiscing previous travels. One of the most impactful trips to date was the spring of 2017 when I convinced my sister Hannah, and mom to fly to Spain with me and hike 250 miles.
I remember hearing a family friend’s stories about hiking the Camino de Santiago and knew I had I would one day have stories from hiking it as well. A couple years later, I’m not quite sure how the idea came back up, or why they agreed, but next thing I knew, my mom, sister and I were trying to shove our fully equipped 36L backpacks into a plane’s overhead carry-on compartments. This was the first time I’d been on a plane, first time out of the continent, first time backpacking, and first time traveling with only 2/5 of my family members. We landed in Madrid and the realization hit: we had done a little research, but we were definitely winging it. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing, let alone know the language. We frantically ran from airport vendor to airport vendor to try and figure out where the bus was that we were supposed to be boarding in 20 min. My sister had taken Spanish in high school but was having a difficult time understanding and speaking it to native speakers. We finally found the bus company’s kiosk and managed to get directions, dashing off to the platform just in time. The bus was a 4 hour ride to Astorga, where we would begin our hike. When we reached our destination around 2pm, we immediately began searching for an albergue (hostel) because we had no place to stay. My mom had an idea of where one was from the guide book she had purchased, but it was no where to be found. It was also siesta so no one was out, and then it started raining.
We were completely lost with no way to communicate besides our trusty high-school level Spanish speaker, Hannah. Since we had been up for over 36 hours at this point, I suggested we just try to sleep under the awning of a church we had stumbled upon. My two companions wouldn’t settle for this so we continued to walk in circles for what felt like 2 hours. We came to the conclusion that we would just have to start walking on the trail and hopefully find another albergue on the way. About a mile in we found one…and it was completely full. My mom was about to loose it. Marta, the lady who owned the albergue, didn’t speak any English but she continued to speak Spanish to us “tres chicas” whom she could tell were falling apart. She literally started crying for us, something we were too exhausted to do. She called for her grandson to come and help translate.
We found out that she felt really bad for us and wanted to help. There were 3 beds that had been reserved earlier that day but the people who reserved them hadn’t shown up yet, and it was nearly 5:30pm. They had left no phone number so she couldn’t call them, but the reservation expired at 6pm. With that glimmer of hope, the energy started to come back. We patiently waited, hoping they wouldn’t show up. At 6 o’clock we all, including Marta, jumped for joy and she showed us to our beds. She assured us it was fine and the other people probably stopped further up on the trail. Marta was the hostess with the mostess and our savior that day. She was so kind and welcoming and even though we couldn’t directly understand her, nor her understand us, we connected right away.
Once we were settled in, we walked back into town and got dinner. Marta helped us reserve beds for our next stop. We were all still in a minor state of shock from what had just happened and we all questioned why were were doing this. I only slept a little that night, wondering if that was how the trip started, what the rest had in store.
To be continued…