There is a rhythm to life now. Rise at six, pack, make tea, start walking at 7 through achingly beautiful countryside. At one of the villages buy bread and something to eat with it. Breakfast, generally around 8 or 9. Walk on. Lunch around the middle of the day similar to breakfast. Visit any church that is open. Take a few pictures. About 2:00, after walking 20-25 km arrive at the Albergue. Queue, get the credential stamped. find a bunk, shower, do the laundry, write the blog. Look at the town and then find something to eat for dinner. Sleep. Start all over again.
The trail has now been joined by another pilgrimage route and the number of people has about doubled. There is a steady stream of people winding their way over the Spanish landscape, as they have been doing since before the time of Christ, all heading for Santiago. There is a set of legends which explain why we are all joining this ancient stream but they are just a rationalisation: a way to explain the scallop shells and staves. The real reason we are all walking runs far deeper, and it is different for everybody. I could say that it is about hearing the call of God and expressing that, but that explanation really says nothing. The great primeval call to pilgrimage is described to ourselves far more personally. For me, I suppose it is about remaking myself after all the eath moving drama of last year. For each of the thousands of others there is something else. I am told tyhat later in the year there will be large groups of French for whom it is a cheap holiday. There will also be Spaniards who, having seen the pilgrims for years and thought about it, are far more articulate about the religious reasons for pilgrimage. But now, there are mostly people, alone, and a few couples and a very few groups of three or four. There are people from every imaginable country, and a Babel of languages. During the day we talk freely - as far as language differences allow - as we catch up with and pass each other or as we stop for lunch. Everything is very immediate. Communities form and disolve many times during the course of the day. We welcome each other´s presence but everyone, even those who came with someone else, is on a pilgrimage alone, and that is understood and respected. There are people moving at about our rate with whom we have become quite good friends. There are shared meals in albergue dining rooms, and over the days reserve drops and people share more deeply the reasons they have taken this strange way of spending a month. Knowing and being known - the basis of all relationships. We share food and become companions - the word means literally those who are together over bread. I am intrigued that few of the people we have met are expressly Christian but that almost all of them are on the camino as some sort of spiritual discovery. I see this as yet another piece of evidence of the abject failure of the church to express itself properly: a failure to allow the deep rich treasures we have to be seen and used by those who so desperately need them.
So the day's pattern is running its course. Time now to walk through yet another beautiful Basque village with its ancient church and roman ruins and strong, good willed people before seeking companions and breaking bread together.