This was a 4-5 kilometer walk which was quite a joke. We practically flew in on our boots. Journal Excerpt, June 12, 2006.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of Robert and Claudette and Xavier quietly getting their things ready. It was the usual hour of the Crack of Death, still completely dark, and when this dawned on me I began to question what the heck they were doing getting up so early since Santiago was only 4-5 kilometers away. The utter lack of logic was incomprehensible to me. We had, for the first and last time, a room to ourselves. It had four walls that went all the way up and attached to the ceiling, not to mention a door one could shut and even lock. None of us snored, so there was no snoring. There was no rustling. There was no pee-shuffling. There was no "accidental" leaving the door open with the light on outside so that someone could find their way to their bunk. There was no Squirrel Interruption Noise. There was no zipper this, zipper that. There was no strob light effect from some pilgrim's flashlight making the albergue into a disco hall. There were no whispered conversations gradually creeping louder and louder into full voice. No throat clearing. No belly scratching. No thunder-clapping gas letting. No bunk tossing overhead. No bunk tossing below. No flip-flopping of flip flops. No door shutting. No door opening. No "me thinks me needs to roar like a lion" air gasping and vocalizing during a first morning yawn and a stretch. No birds singing outside our window. No roosters crowing. No crickets rubbing their legs together, no, not even back in Marc's beloved Provence. Yea verily, even Crinkle was uncrinkled and still. What there was in that room, was the rare potential for silence. Peaceful, sleepable, drinkable silence. Life giving, I could curl up into a little ball and crawl back into the womb and float there in the peaceful inner space until I feel the urge to be born again, silence. When I look back on that moment I'm often reminded with humor how one can suddenly appreciate anew such biblical references as, "The kingdom of heaven is laid upon the earth, but no man sees it." And while we're being biblical, then "lead us not into temptation" to forget that beautiful co-conspirator of sleep known as darkness. Darkness in all its splendor and devoid of all and any fearful connotations. Calming, relaxing, heavy eyelid inducing, wrap me up in my blanket like a burrito, comforting darkness. I didn't know what the Camino gods were trying to teach me by making me wake up for no good reason after walking nearly 500 miles, but I could be sure of one thing: I wasn't going to get to sleep on it to find out. I was also beginning to suspect that the Camino gods were all named Xavier, which indeed would explain everything.
On the great other hand, it was a bit naive for me to have expected anything else or more. It had been the same all the other days, and I say again with deepest sincerity, that I would not have traded it for anything. I could not blame anyone either, I was free to go at any time on my own. But strangely enough, there was also comfort in knowing that once again sleep had been denied, robbed, stolen, gone unnoticed, or simply shortened. It too had become a ritual. This was the real Camino, and all the way to the very end this was going to be part of the intensely real deal.
I continued to sit up on my top bunk for a few minutes, getting dressed discretely in my bag, trying to shake off how tired I was, knowing full well it made no sense to get upset, irritated, annoyed, or even dare to beg the question why anyone was conscious and more importantly, in a vertical position. I also needed to make sure I didn't attempt to climb out of my bunk only half conscious. After all, like back in Burgos de Raneros, should I nearly fall out of my bunk like one pilgrim in our room did, someone might call out "Hola!" I climbed down the bed and slowly and quietly walked towards the door in the dark to go use the restroom. Near the door there was a small counter top, like the top of a drawer of an built-in closet. There was Robert with a little propane heater, its deep blue flame boiling up hot water for instant coffee. I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn't believe it. The whole last two weeks I had never seen him use it once, and here on the last day we would be together, he had whipped out a propane heater complete with a beautiful metal pot in which to brew things, like a rabbit out of a magician's hat. I wanted to say something like, "Hey! You've been holding out on me! Had I known you had that puppy, I would have carried enough loose tea for everyone these last two weeks!" Since I couldn't quite construct that in French, especially the part about the puppy, I stood there dead in my tracks with my mouth dropped open and made surprised grunt-like noises while trying to form words that failed me. Robert looked at me and after some seconds of reading my tortured expression, let a smile crawl across his face showing complete comprehension. I shook my head in disbelief still trying to form words and then continued my walk down the dark hallway to the restroom, all the while counting the cups of tea I could have had in the last two weeks. Then, just as quickly as I had thought about that, I realized how soon I would be having my tea again, and with that a flood of thoughts about arriving in Santiago and the aftermath of the journey came rushing back in. When I returned to the room Robert came over and offered me and Marc a coffee. I took it, tried to drink it, but honestly, if you're going to carry around a propane heater all those kilometers (Robert and Claudette had started in Le Puy en Velay) then you would be wise to have something better to brew up than instant coffee. It was so bad, I think we should have the Supreme Court declare it a crime against humanity. I even think 4 out of 5 coffee beans would be willing to testify that they themselves deserve a better fate. In any case, everyone was now up, if not because of the lights and usual packing and movement, then certainly because of the jolt of having had exceedingly bad coffee, and in no time most of us were waiting outside in the cold for the final walk together into Santiago.
We were, of course, the only pilgrims insane enough to be getting up before the sun to walk the 4-5 kilometers into town.