When everyone in my room was up and moving around at 5.00am there was nothing I could do but join them. On the way into Arca I spoke with a pilgrim who confirmed that it has been like this for as long as she has been the path: pilgrims are up early and race to the next albergue to ensure a bed. Walking a Camino should not involve a ‘bed race’, but during the summer months it obviously does. My advice to anyone wanting to walk the Camino Frances is to do it between April and June. It’s spring time, the mountains are full of beautiful wild flowers, and getting a bed in an albergue is a matter of course.

When I walked out of the albegue at Arzua with a big breakfast on board it was
6.40am, and still dark. I have enough trouble seeing the way markers during the
daylight hours. To take the challenge out of it I just followed other pilgrims, and there were plenty of them with flashlights and headlamps. I had a slight fear that in the dark I might roll an ankle on a loose rock, but that never happened. My eyes were firmly on the ground immediately in front of me. By 7.00am the flashlight crew had turned out their lights.

My assessment of the pilgrims who have walked the Camino Frances is that they are a jaded lot. It must be those early morning gallops that are taking their toll. Try as
I might I found it difficult to get an enthusiastic response to my ‘Buen Camino’. Most could barely reply.

I was at the albergue at Arca at 10.30am. It didn’t open until 1.00pm. I occupied myself by eating and writing. One of a group of four Spaniards who I have been talking with the last few days approached me at the albergue and said he’d heard I’d walked from Rome. When I confirmed what he’d heard he asked if the group could have their photograph taken with me. It’s happened before. I don’t take it too seriously, and of course I agreed today. They joked about me being their hero. I was surprised to learn that they only had 6 days of holidays and were fitting in as much of the Camino del Norte as they could in that time.

I couldn’t avoid the wall of pilgrims today. At any given point I could see up to a dozen or so ahead of me, or as was more likely, passing me. I had to put aside the need to feel I was the only pilgrim on the road.

I had a hair cut in Arzua yesterday at a barber shop. Now this is significant. I thought about now long it had been since one of them had cut my hair and came up with 1972. I still remember my first cut (and blow dry) at a male/female salon. I can visualise the layout of the salon which I think was owned by Lloyd Lomas. I
thought my masculinity would be under threat on that first occasion, but as in life, reality can very often be quite different to our pre-conceived views.

When I registered for the albergue this afternoon one of the two women doing the registrations asked me if I was traveling ‘solo’. I said I was. I saw one say something to the other, but I took little notice. When I got to the top of the stairs I was making my way to one of the two big dormitories with which I was already familiar when one of the women who had done the registrations motioned me to another room. To my surprise it had just two beds. I had it to myself until another
solo pilgrim arrived around 6.00pm. It has a bathroom opposite which is not used by other pilgrims to shower. I’m treating it as my own although anyone can have access to it.

There’s a real festive mood in the albergue tonight. The jaded ones have come to life with less than 20km to walk tomorrow.

The curtain is closing.
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