In May 2015, I walked the entire Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port to Finisterre— `528 miles in 29 days. For most people that would be enough.
But when I met a group of guys from Belgium in Finisterre who said they had just walked through the night, I said “I want to do that!”
It is always a bit sad to finish the Camino. There is a peace and grounding about this shared community of people moving together directed by yellow arrows and shells. One more day of walking sounded nice.
My walking buddy agreed to go only if we could attempt to walk 100km.
So instead of taking the bus back to Santiago for my flight, we decided to walk back—the long way through Muxia so we could see new scenery.
We set out at 11am. I was a bit tired that day. And nervous. Would I be able to do this?
We had a usual walking day, stopped around 7pm for dinner, and then headed back on the road.
As it started to get dark we realized we kept getting lost. The signs are marked for Santiago to Finisterre but not the reverse.
It quickly became clear that we would not be able to follow the signs.
My walking buddy said we would just have to walk on the road. The road was not a highway but it was not meant for walking. Especially in the dark. It had no shoulder, there were a lot of curves, and cars were going fast and not expecting walkers in the middle of the night.
For me, that defeated the adventure. Walking on a busy road through the night was not what I had in mind.
My walking buddy mumbled something under his breath.
I said, “What?”
He said, “Well, if I was alone I would just use my compass.”
Perfect, that is what we do. I trusted this guy. He is like the guy you want on your sinking ship.
So we headed out with his compass. I knew that we could not get too lost on foot. And if we did then it would just be an adventure.
At one point he took us on a narrow path. The path kept getting more and more narrow. I assumed it would just end and we would have to turn around. But I had put my trust in my walking buddy. So I proceeded.
After about an hour the path ended at a road. And right in front of us was a yellow arrow and a Camino shell. We had found our way back to the path.
The joy I felt at that moment was indescribable. The feeling like you put faith in the process and it worked. This happened over and over that night.
Like many things on the Camino, it was a great metaphor for life. Sometimes you feel like you are off the path, but then something comes around to show you that you are still on it. That is what makes the Camino such a special experience—you are guided by arrows the entire way. If only life was like that!
There were many adventures that night—we ran up a hill through a thorny mess to avoid getting attacked by angry dogs, met a group of men at a bar in the middle of the night watching the European Song Contest, got lost and then found the path repeatedly.
Around 3am, it started to rain and it got very cold. But we continued on, exhausted.
At 6am, cold and wet, we arrived at an albergue (a pilgrim hostel) that was just opening for breakfast. I was so happy as I drank my coffee. Then I put my head on the table and slept for what seemed a long time.
I could have stopped right there. But I had made a deal with my walking buddy. So, exhausted, I continued on.
At one point, something happened and I stopped fighting the exhaustion. I was just in it. There was a sweet peace about it.
And then around 11am I got a second wind.
We did not make it to Santiago. My walking buddy was injured and needed to stop.
But I was already a winner. I had made my goal to walk through the night.
I learned a lot about life and myself that night. It was a fantastic adventure.
I have walked through the night several times since then. Each time has it own sort of adventure and story.
**If you want to walk through the night—whether it is on the Camino or somewhere else in the world, let me know and we can arrange something.
Photo credits: https://trailtopeak.com/2015/06/09/24-photos-that-will-make-you-want-to-walk-camino-de-santiago