Conversations Very often when people walk a Camino they get into a fluid community of people who meet each other on and off depending on how far you walk on any given day. On some of our walks we have walked with exactly the same people along with a few “occasional extras”. This time has provided a range of experiences. In the first week there was a typical group. However, we stopped so long in Merida when the boys arrived that we lost track of all of them. Then the section with the boys was slow. We did not do the same distances as most people and got left behind again and again. Also, being such a big group to start with meant we engaged more with each other than others. We were not completely insular, but there was a very different dynamic. One of the girls from “that time” went off to an archaeological conference in Scotland for a few days about the same time the boys left. She returned days later and so we ended up meeting her again. Then we disappeared on our wee detour and so everyone we had just met zipped ahead. A few nights ago, after our long day walking out to San Pedro and then back onto the official route we met a whole lot of new people, but they probably all thought we were most antisocial. We arrived late and so had to race out to get food and by the time we had done our washing and organised ourselves, we more or less crashed into bed. Some of that group also disappeared soon after, choosing to walk to Astorga. But the rest are like a new family. Maybe we will continue to cross paths until Santiago. And the archaeologist is among them as she took a sick day and we caught up with her again!
The kids’ favourite person is up there in the first photo. Adam. 18 years old and from New Zealand. Just like a big brother. What’s more, he’s interested in urban planning and Lego and so the boys have hit it off. This is Adam’s third Camino. He walked with his parents when he was eight years old. Actually, he walked AND rode a fold-up bike that they brought along to make things easier. It did not make anything easier for the dad who ended up carrying it most of the way! They all walked again when he was eleven. That time the parents just carried little Lego figures and small games for him. Ella-Rose looked at me quizzically when she heard this. I am not carrying anything for her! She has to make her own fun;-) And she’s only ten!! Conversation has flowed freely with these fellow kiwis.
Early in the morning there is usually no conversation. Everyone seems to enjoy the solitude, crunching along the paths lost in their own worlds.
Very frequently this is the norm. Just at my heels is the youngest. We tend not to talk. Wee just walk in companionable silence. The other day after two hours I asked her what she was thinking. “Nothing.” Today after nearly three hours she started a conversation: “Do you think we should stop at this village and eat our chocolate. Before it melts?” I agreed, even though it was only 9:30 in the morning. The other kids walk along on their own or as a three some or sometimes they split into pairs or even come alongside me for a spell. It’s all mix and match, quiet and chatty.
We came across this couple picking wild chamomile. We stopped to chat. They explained they sell it to restaurants for a lot of money. The man was convinced that we must be Germans and insisted on speaking to us in German even though I replied in Spanish and told them we come from New Zealand! The wife chattered away as if we were completely fluent in Spanish, which of course is about as far from the truth as you can get.
When we got to this church a lady raced out and welcomed us. She turned out to the the hospitalera for the albergue and was just taking a roll of toilet paper to the bathroom there. I told her I could take it and asked about registering. She was SO lovely. No, no, no. There’s no hurry. You have all day. Just come over to the church later. First go and have showers and do your washing and have something to eat and take a nap and be tranquilo! I’ll be in the church until 1 if you have any problems. But just go and rest now and be tranquilo. Of course you can take the toilet paper, put it in the large bathroom, but do be tranquilo!
When the necessities were completed I went on the wifi-hunt. This time it was to be found sitting in the Plaza Mayor – on a beautiful day like today in the shade of a tree you couldn’t ask for a better location. Italian Juliano, joined me (and brought ice creams!) We had walked together for the last two or three kilometers this morning and had stared the getting-to-know-you questions. We continued with the help of wifi and YouTube, listening to some of his choir performances. Very beautiful. The hospitalera would have been happy – muy tranquilo!
(A couple of hours later – back in the albergue….) Suddenly a horn honked outside. Actually, honked is far too tame a description; it blasted! The kids ran in…. “Mum do you think that’s the pan van?,” they queried. (And the linguist in me giggled that they pronounced the word van to rhyme with the Spanish “pan”, meaning bread – for kiwis reading this, rhyme with “barn”). We had already been to the tienda to buy food for today and hopefully some emergency bread for the weekend. The dear little lady with backache had given us the only loaf of bread. I’d asked if she had two and was instructed to wait. She went “out the back” (and seeing as this was her house I presume, into her kitchen). She came back with a loaf that had the end chopped off. I bought it! But now the pan van was in town. We we raced out to the plaza and bought two enormous emergency loaves. The tienda-lady’s loaf will not go to waste – it will be added to the communal dinner we are spearheading for tonight with the Japanese couple and two (travelling separately) Italians.
Some people, especially on the Camino which is essentially a Catholic pilgrimage, like to talk to saints and statues. It’s not a practice I engage in myself, but I did find myself thinking about what I could say to this statue of Santiago/Saint James. The oldest Santiago statue in Spain, he has been sitting here for a thousand years. Imagine what he must have seen!