Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Palas de Rei

The Camino has a way of working things out for you. When we were trying to figure out what to do for the next few days, we met two South Africans, Shirley and Lara. A mother and daughter they had been walking for a few days and Shirley was not able to continue. So it was decided Clemency and Shirley would catch the bus to the next town and Lara and I would walk together. It worked out pretty well. Clemency made it to Portomarin with a minimum of trouble and I walked 36 km through soft forest paths, up a couple of gentle hills and through any number of delightful country villages. For most of the way I had the company of a lovely young woman who shared with me some of the reasons she is walking the Path of Miracles. The sun shone, the route was gentle and the scenery as pleasant as any we had encountered.
Just after sunrise, just out of Samos

About 11.00 am Lara and I passed through Sarria and past the best equipped Camino shop I had ever seen. There was every conceivable type of knapsack and boot and stick raincoat and badges galore to stick on every imaginable part of yourself. I wish I had encountered the shop a year ago, but it was a warning of things to come. Sarria is 111 km from Santiago and it is the place where many people start their Camino. From Sarria onward the track became more and more populated.  Around mid day I passed the sadly vandalised 100 km marker, that is, the point where there are 100 km more to walk to Santiago. It was a milestone for me. 700 down and only this few to go!
 Convent garden, Sarria. We stopped to get our credencials stamped, use the toilet and buy Aquarius. Not necessarily in that order.
 Typical track on this part of the Camino

We all met up again in Portomarin and Clemency and I had the most wonderful pub meal with new friends: a couple of Irish and one Dutch . Today I set out again on my own, leaving Clemency to have another quiet rest day busing to the next destination. At least that was the theory. For Clemency it was an interesting day, with interesting being used in the sense of the old Chinese proverb. The bus didn´t go directly to Palas du Rei but through Lugo, and no one spoke English and....
 The way is regularly punctuated with small country bars where you can buy coffee, food, beer or wine Many have rooms if you don't feel like going any further today.

 Portomarin

I entered the track with many hundred new pilgrims. Ahead and behind as far as I could see they stretched out in an unbroken line. The gear was new and often ill chosen. Physiques looked unweathered and sometimes unsuitable. People moved in large groups so were not inclined to interact. And the whole Camino experience changed. The locals, getting on with their lives while literally thousands of strangers passed by looked through me when I smiled or spoke. The usual conversational openings between pilgrims: "Hola. ¡Bien Camino! Where are you from? Where did you begin? Going far today?" simply did not happen, let alone the invitation to a deeper connection: "Why are you walking the Camino?" The track was flat and dull. There were no churches or monuments. There were few cafes and those that were there were crowded and fuggy.

I struggled with myself and two thoughts recurred. One was "how great a crowd of witnesses..." The other was the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. I found myself in the place of the early employed. How dare these latecomers crowd in on my camino, I who have crossed the Pyrenees and struggled up to O Cebreiro! Who do these people think they are with their fresh, unweathered clothing and their new shoes? Don't they know how pilgrims are expected to behave? I didn't much enjoy my day and things didn't improve when around mid day it started to rain. I walked into Palas du Rei around 2, having covered 26 km largely on my own and with only the briefest of stops for food. 

From Sarria onwards the Camino changes. I would guess that about 60% of those who make this pilgrimage walk only the last 100 km. It is different, and I don't much care for the difference but who am I to judge? All the old truths of the Camino still apply, including the fact that no one walks it by accident. God has called each one of these new thousands there for a reason, whether they quite realise it or not. Each one is going to be profoundly challenged and changed by the experience of this walk even if it is only going to be for a few days.
 Horreos, food storage places similar to pataka. They are everywhere in Galicia.
A busy day on the Camino Santiago
Clemency will walk the last part of the track into Santiago. How much of the last part we don't yet know. For me, I am longing now to finish. There is only about 74 km to go, or 3 easy days (or two heavy days) walking left. My legs hurt and my clothes could do with a decent wash but we will dine soon with the same interesting people from last might and the next town beckons. ¡Ultreya!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

'.... corramos [o andamos] con perseverencia la carrera que tenemos por delante. Fijemos la mirada en Jesus, el iniciador y perfeccionador de nuestra fe ....'

Enjoying your posts! Every blessing on you both.

Brian

Wynston said...

May you both find the last stages of the walk recuperative for both body and soul.
Every blessing.
Wynston