May 13 – On my way to Pontedeime, waiting for a train to La Coruna

I am at the Santiago de Compostela train station, with some pop American music playing on the public address system, and just a smattering of travellers waiting quietly for their trains.

I’m on my way to La Coruna, where I will be met by don Felipe Illanes, who will then drive me to Pontedeume, where I hope to find the grave of my first serious boyfriend, my first love, Juan Perez Bouza. More on this later.

Felipe Illanes is the Cuban-Spaniard-once-New-Yorker uncle of the lovely Vanessa. Vanessa is a 28 year-old lover of action and adventure, daughter of a Cuban mom and a Spaniard dad, who live, of all places, in Miami, while their daughter roams the Camino de Santiago.

Vanessa was one of our guides and her cheerfulness and enthusiasm revived my tired spirit many a time, especially in the long uphills at the beginning, when I was despairing in the heat and she would appear, like a mirage, sweeping the trail, looking for strays, which meant the end of that particular stage was near. She would say something simple, like “You’re walking well, Maggie,” and I would believe I could do it and keep going on.

Virginio Gorse was our second guide. Virginio is Italian, late 20’s and a former hospitalero (someone who heps pilgrims in a government run hostel), so he has no sympathy for laggers and probably laughed behind our backs at our little group of spoiled old farts with reserved places to stay and hot showers and good meals.

Both Vanessa and Virginio work for Judy, an American from Colorado, who fell in love with a Spaniard during her first Camino in the early 90’s and decided to move to Spain. Judy created Spanish Steps, a company that arranges van assistance, lugagge, hotel, and meal arrangements for pilgrims.

So, I’m on the train now, a few miles from La Coruna, and the countryside glides before my eyes, but I can’t smell it or touch it, or hear its living sounds. My throat constricts. I begin to see how the Camino gets into you. Its energy seeps into your soul along with the mud and the rain, the heat and the dust, the cow dung and the croaking of frogs. Mi Camino. I miss it already.

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