The bus finally comes to a halt. We have reached our destination: Roncesvalles, Navarra. I follow the beeline of passengers, my fellow “walkers” or to put it appropriately, my fellow peregrinos, towards the bus’ side compartment loaded with backpacks and backpacks of all shapes and sizes. I can feel the cold Navarran air brushing against my face as the weight of my backpack is slowly sinking in, making my shoulders stoop a little.
The massive Albergue de Peregrinos Real Colegiata de Roncesvalles is teeming with pilgrims from different parts of the world. I am greeted by three friendly Dutch volunteers who told me to leave my shoes in the shoeroom. I am spending the night here. The man at the reception gives me a smile as he stamps my “Pilgrim’s certificate”. For the next 24 days or so, I will have this paper stamped at any restaurants, bars and albergues I’ll be passing by, certifying that I have done my Camino walking and did not give in to the temptation of taking the bus.
My bed is on the second floor. The room is huge with a total of about forty bunker beds. Some of the pilgrims look exhausted and disoriented. They have already started their Camino in France or Germany. Others look fresh and clean, the new arrivals, I’m sure.
As I wait for my turn to use the toilet, I ask myself again the same question I have been asking myself before coming here. Why am I doing the Camino again when I have already done this twice already? The first time was in 2005 with a friend taking the last 100 kilometers starting in Sarria. We did it in four days. The second was in 2008 where we took the Portuguese route starting in Tui. Again, walking the last 100 kilometers going to Santiago. Religious reasons? Spiritual? Cultural? A promise? Muni-muni? Maybe.
The thing is I am not sure. All i know is I just felt the urge to go. I just felt the pull. This time though, I have decided to start in Roncesvalles, the starting point of the Camino Frances in Spain, walking 800 kilometers in 24-27 days. And this time, alone.
I can’t turn back now. I place my backpack inside the cupboard assigned to my bed and open my sleeping bag. The bed is bare. No sheets no blankets. A sleeping bag is required and for rent. I fish out for my earplugs to protect me from the imminent signs of a “snore storm”. I look out of the window. The French Pyrenees peer through the cotton of fog hovering over this sleepy town. Tomorrow is the official start of my Camino. I need to rest my feet.
Nats Sisma Villaluna is a Filipino student living in Spain. He started walking the Camino de Santiago trail today and he will be giving us a daily glimpse of his one-moth adventure.