The young Spanish woman sat next to Pete and caught her breath as she transitioned from the intensity of chasing her only ride out of town, to just riding a bus. Pete thought of something clever to say but sat silently looking out the window.
"Gracias" the Spanish woman said softly.
"My name is Pete, this is my first time to Europe." he offered.
The Spanish women spoke slowly with a heavy accent "My-name-is-Estella." Pete shook her hand which felt soft and lifeless. They rode silently for three hours to St. Jean Pied de Port. Pete looked out his window, studying the rolling fields with precision, that´s wheat, that´s potatoes, that´s soy, he thought to himself.
The walk began the next day at 6a as the lights of the albergue turned on and mystical music played from a small boom-box in the hallway. Pete packed his bag, which looked liked like a clump of canvas pouches attached to a metal frame. Pete walked alone for the first hour, which was entirely up hill, panting heavily and mustering "Buen Camino" to each person that passed him. He came to a church and wandered inside. It was cool and calm compared to the warm air outside. Pete sat next to another sweating pilgrim.
"This is some walk, don´t ya think? The hills, ya know?"
The Canadian women whispered "Yah, I´m going to sleep tonight."
Pete responded bringing his voice down to her whisper level "Geez, I´ll just be glad to make it up the next pass. Ya know, I´m going to be the first person in my family to walk across a country. My uncle walked to Canada once, all the way from Iowa, but he´s kind of crazy because he´s actually homeless, so my family doesn´t really talk about him much." Silence grew between Pete and the other pilgrim.
"This place smells just like my Grandma´s basement." Pete announced. "Especially after it flooded after this big rain we had in ´97 and she started having these little black spots showing up on the ceiling. This place must be a 1000 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to live here 1000 years ago?" Pete asked. The woman shook her head without breaking her gaze from the alter. "I sure can´t. I mean, what did people even look like a 1000 years ago? I know they weren´t another species or nothing like that but seriously, they had to look different than you and me, right?" The woman looked down, and cordially said "Well they probably didn´t have high-tech clothes like we do." Pete sniffled a laugh with his breath.
"No way. They were wearing leather and wool. You couldn´t pay me to wear that stuff, well except leather if was like a black leather jacket for riding a motorcycle or something. Ya know, I heard they didn´t even have shoes and they still walked the pilgrimage. I´ve got these high performance army-issue combat boots, and you don´t want to see what my feet look like. Believe me, you don´t want to see my feet."
The woman winced. "Do you have blister´s already?"
Pete took off his boot, peeled away his white sock and pulled his foot above his knee "Look at this. I didn´t even start the Camino and I got these. See, I went on this cultural tour of Spain two days ago. They had us walking all over looking at sites and that sort of thing."
Pete arrived at the municipal hostel 6 hours later, taking slow painful steps inside. "Get me in the shower!" He joked as he walked through the door. He unbuckled his large bag with exagerated gestures like a beast unchaining itself from its captors. The hospitalero instructed pete to take off his boots and put them on the rack with everyone else´s "Um, you mind if I just keep them in my bag. See these are kind of special and I don´t want just anyone walking away with them. They´re offical army-issue, served a tour in Iraq, that´s all I´ll say about that."
Pete found his bed. Only top bunks were left that late in the day. His neighbors were sleeping on top of their sleeping bags. The room smelled thick with an odor like a gym or a used sporting goods store. He stretched the sani-sheet over the mattress only getting three of the four corners to catch, and climbed up the end of the bunk straining himself and shaking the bed violently as he crawled into place. Pete flopped down, bouncing a few times to check the softness of the bed. "This will do." He said out loud.