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A transformational outdoor adventure – It’s gonna be a long walk home – Part 7

In this mini-series of blog posts, I revisit my translated travel notes from 15 years ago, when I quit my job in Munich to start a new life. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

It’s gonna be a long walk home

January 21, 2008 – 6.25pm I remember Jim’s words before I left his apartment: “It’s gonna be a pain in the ass.” He was referring to my guitar, which added quite a bit of weight to my backpack and there was no good way to attach it, so I had to carry it by hand. Thanks to Jim, an American from Boston, I had a cheap place to sleep, and his words kept coming back to me as I set to walk the Way of St. James, taking the longer route from Montserrat (Camino Catalan) and starting in the unfavorable cold season when most hostels were closed. Upon arriving in Montserrat, a picturesque mountain town, I registered as a pilgrim, catching the attention of the man at the reception. To my relief, I was not the only crazy one starting the journey from there. I was given a free room in an empty monastery and set off the next morning, only to get lost within 30 minutes. The poor signage and rough terrain cost me an extra hour and a ruined shirt.
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There was a bit of fog
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The mist created a beautiful atmosphere…
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…but it didn’t make it easy to see where I had to go
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Should’ve brought a compass
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The first meters after leaving Montserrat and starting my journey to Santiago de Compostela and Fisterre
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Follow the yellow arrows – easy!
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Nice view! On any other day.
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Off to a great start
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More mysterious mist
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As I continued on my journey, the weight of my guitar and the ill-fitting backpack began to take a toll on my arm and mood, made worse by the fog obscuring the beautiful valley view. I stopped at a small bar in the middle of nowhere, Castelloli, and ate bread and salami. By nightfall, I arrived in Jorba, exhausted and sore. A kind local named Manolo offered me a ride and we ended up at a Catalan bar, chatting and having a small beer. We found out that my hostel was closed and drove to an alternative one in my guidebook, which was also closed and wouldn’t open until May. Luckily, we saw the owner behind the window watching TV with friends and gestured for him to let us in. After some persuasion, he reluctantly gave me a hotel room for 20 Euros, a fair price considering the cheap hostel I had stayed in the night before. I had the whole hotel to myself. The next morning, I continued my journey towards Cervera, feeling the pain from my various injuries and having to discard some of my belongings for weight reduction. The downhill journey seemed easier but resulted in even more pain.
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Upon arrival in Cervera, I found that the hostel was closed, again. I spoke with some locals and a man with a long beard and long hair approached me, speaking in Catalan and taking me to a hostel for pilgrims (which was actually a children’s home) where an old granny welcomed me and stamped my pilgrim’s passport. I tried to sleep but couldn’t, too much going through my mind.
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Walking on the Way of St. James, I encountered many different people and observed their reactions. Some greet or say a prayer when they see a pilgrim, others stare with their mouths open, while others honk their horns. Some ask why I am doing this or wish me good luck. Along the way, I have also encountered dogs that sometimes think I am a sausage, which is why it is good to have a walking stick. However, since I was once attacked by five sheepdogs in my village in Italy, I am no longer easily shocked by dogs.
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Onward I go, from Cervera to Castellnou de Seana. I ignored the advice from my guidebook to stop in Tàrrega in a hostel that offers a 50% discount for pilgrims, with a single room, shower, and everything I need. Though it is hygienic and modern, I couldn’t find a laundromat to clean my clothes. I am tired and hungry, and need to organize some things for tomorrow. Until next time, pictures will follow!

The adventure officially has begun! 15 years ago I was ready, hopeful, energetic, and – reading the diary from 15 years ago – incredibly unprepared for the journey that lies ahead. I had bought a great backpack but apparently didn’t care about learning to set it up properly or learning the basics about distributing the weight in such a way that it would be easier on my back and shoulders. Let’s not even mention the foolish pursuit of bringing along a guitar – no doubt a romantic, but honestly stupid idea.

But maybe that was the entire point. Letting go of the notion of being prepared for everything, and just stepping into the unknown. Admittedly, very ignorantly, but with a youthful and brave attitude and a bit of overestimation, with the confidence that I could handle any situation.

The adventure was off to no good start. I instantly got lost, and couldn’t see much due to the heavy fog, it was cold, wet, and damp, I felt miserable and was in pain after just one day of walking. However little helpers showed up at the right moment. Long-bearded characters, hotel owners, and old ladies, all played a fundamental role in this play.

Will younger Sal from 15 years ago make it to Santiago and beyond?

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