November 01, 2018

The end of the line 

It seems like I’ve been walking the Camino forever. Feels like it too, especially on my shoulders.

Today was the last day, around 20 miles with a steady rain for the last hour. Yesterday was even longer. Let’s just say that after around 640 miles I feel done.

It would be hard to come up with a coherent answer yet  to the question about what I learned. It would sound pretty dumb, like “shit is deep” or “I need to talk less and not react as much to stuff” or “archetypes have their own reality beyond the literal,” or “shut up and walk “

Anyhow, that is not the kind of essay one can compose with thumbs on a phone.

The last three days did make me think about losing my way. The walk back from MuxĂ­a isn’t marked well and I lost miles, energy and time I didn’t have to spare.

It reminded me of the first line in Dante’s Inferno: “in the middle of our life’s journey I awoke to find myself in a dark wood, having lost the true path.”

Rural and even small town Spain seems like a series of ghost towns, with plenty of nothing in between. Plenty of cats but very few people.

The weather can go south really fast. The dialect is tough for my limited Spanish. And I didn’t have a lot of life force to spare at the moment. It wasn’t quite scary but it was way on the other side of fun.
At times I almost felt like flagging down a car and begging for a ride to where I could catch a taxi or a bus. But that would have broken my hard ass Camino code.

A classic line from A Streetcar Named Desire has often been in my mind this trip. It was Blanche saying “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

It worked. A friendly woman working in a pharmacy pointed me in the right direction. And an angel of a bartender drew me a precise map that got me to shelter from the storm.

And it was such a relief to get to a place where, as Dylan said, “I can follow the path, I can read the signs, I can stay right with it as the road unwinds.”

It would be nice-but maybe too much to ask-to keep that feeling

I’ll close with a quote from a book of true survival stories (it’s shown up here before): “what saves a man [sic] is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”

October 28, 2018

Camino magic 

People who hike the Appalachian Trail or the Long Trail in Vermont often talk about trail magic. I believe in it though I’ve not experienced it there. I have had more than my share of Camino magic over the last month.

A recent example is what I originally called “the little albergue of horrors.”

I had been walking 18 miles or so and was soooo done when I came to a bar/restaurant that advertised itself as the last food or drink for 15 kilometers. And 15 k more just wasn’t going to happen that day. They also had an albergue or hostel off site

I was relieved to find my walking friend had already checked in. I did the same but had to wait for a ride to the albergue, a confusing distance away.

When I first got there, things seemed pretty crappy. There were six strangers from six countries (Canada , Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Israel and the USA) in a tiny room crowded with all kinds of gear.

Nothing electrical beyond lights seemed to work, including WiFi. The shower seemed designed to spread water as far as possible.

We were told we’d be picked up for dinner by 6:30 but no one came till nearly seven. Then an absurd number of us had to fit into the car like circus clowns in a VW beetle. For dinner, we were crowded around two small tables.

It seemed awkward at first but then over dinner—yes, and wine and such—we bonded into a tight little community.

Deep conversations happened fast and were continued over the next few hours and days as the miles went by. I have a feeling I’m going to stay in touch.

The Little Albergue of Horrors turned out to be the Little Albergue from Heaven.

I suspect the difference between hell and heaven has more to do with how the inhabitants treat each other than external circumstances.