El Camino De Santiago: A Walk For Those Who Like To Madrugar

“We tend to wake up pretty late,” my friend Kimberly and I explained to the South African mother and son we met at our albergue in San Martin del Campo. 

“Oh, around 6 or 6:30 in the morning?” They asked. 

Exchanging looks, Kimberly and I burst out laughing. We had gotten this question several times before. 

“No,” we answered, “try around 8:00, or 8:30.”

The usual response from our listeners followed: “WHAT!?”

No where else are you the weirdest person on the planet if you wake up after 6:00 in the morning. 

Just this morning, I woke up at 5:30 to go to the bathroom, and one of the other pilgrims in the room was shocked, thinking that perhaps I would finally get up early. He asked, “te vas!?” (Are you leaving?!), to which I sassily replied, “si, al baño” (yeah, to the bathroom), and then went back to sleep for 3 more hours. 

Everyone has their own rhythm, schedule and purpose on the camino. Kimberly and I have decided that waking up at 3am is not something we’re particularly interested in. This especially considering I am famous for my bad attitude when just woken up. 

Regardless, we’ve been enjoying peoples’ reactions. 

They are baffled. 

They are astounded. 

Some are even offended. 

There is a group think on the camino, and even a sense of competitiveness between pilgrims. Yes, some people wake up early to avoid the sun and heat. But there is also a sharpness. We saw one American couple who was walking around 40km/day, and the man didn’t even stop while the woman had to put bandages on her blisters. 

An Australian catholic priest confessed to us that he actually would enjoy waking up slightly later, but my the time “everyone is shuffling around and  rustling bags and zipping up every open zipper on their backpacks” he can’t go back to sleep. 

It’s an attitude I didn’t expect to find on the camino, but it does make it any less of an exhilarating experience. Everyone finds there way (pun!) and what works for them. I even have to remind myself not to compare my rhythm to that of others. We are all on our own journey. 

Moral of the story: your camino is your camino, and you may scare and surprise people by your choices, but they are yours. 

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