Friday, 16 May 2008

Journey´s End

So much can happen in a week if you just go away.

I went from The Peaceable a week ago and had a very memorable and physical series of adventures along the Camino Ingles. These involved:
  • meeting Alexandre the Ultimate Horrible Tourist Pilgrim on the train to Ferrol,
  • buying a 3€ umbrella that immediately paid for itself,
  • walking for many many miles over mountains and valleys, meadows and highways,
  • seeing lots of baby animals and exotic birds,
  • cursing the people who supposedly mark the path with yellow arrows for falling down on their job,
  • cursing myself for trying to do this rather byzantine path without bringing a guidebook or real map,
  • meeting a really nice Pakistani guy who runs a Turkish restaurant in a lovely Galician fishing village,
  • discovering a surreal 1880´s theme park in another Galician town,
  • and walking 30 kilometers each day for 5 days in a row, and as a result discovering a perfect pilgrim painkiller appropriately labeled "Johnny Walker."

This Camino isn´t as tough as the Aragonese, the mountain path I followed last June. But it was really hard, especially the last 5 km. of every day.

This is a picture postcard from a very good website. I didn´t bring my camera. I find a camera sometimes comes between me and the place where I am, and there are already plenty of photos out there of The Camino Ingles.

I can recommend this path for anyone who wants just a taste of the Camino experience, has a decent-enough grasp of Spanish to understand Gallego, (the local language, a sort of Portuguese-flavored dialect) and who doesn´t mind traveling solo for long periods.

Once I made it to Santiago I met with Ivar, a Norwegian expat whom I hope to start podcasting with sometime soon. And just after that, in a raging downpour, the 3€ umbrella morphed into a flesh-eating maw of razor-sharp ribs. I escaped with lacerations and a pierced fingernail. Tough town, Santiago. (Arriving at the cathedral square still moves me to tears, though. Even before the assault umbrella.)

Another happy thing about the trip was losing Alexandre. When I met him he was dropping out of the Camino del Norte, because it was so poorly waymarked, he said. (and populated by Spaniards who did not meet with his concept of Pilgrimage. Which is to say they did not offer him everything for free.) I begged off his offer of dinner and someone to hike with, but resigned myself to re-encountering him during my pilgrimage.

The next morning, after struggling to find a single marker to point the way out of Ferrol city, I realized Alexandre was no longer a threat, as he was never going to find his way. I will not see him again, thank God. And I didn´t see another pilgrim for the following three days!

I got my Free Pass from Perdition at the cathedral, and took a long train ride home from Santiago to Sahagun, and from there hiked the 9 km. to The Peaceable, which was anything but.

Anselmo had gone, leaving behind a beautifully stacked store of firewood and a big, clear spot out back. He had been replaced by Tomas from Holland, the pilgrim who brought Mimi to us. Having biked to Santiago, he had reappeared here in search of work. It was San Isidro Day, the parish holiday that takes a statue of said saint out of the church and into the fields so Don Santiago can bless the crops. The event comes with skyrockets and petards, which petrify Una. She´d run away, and no one could find her. Doggone. Paddy was beside himself. And we´d run out of wine. And other company was expected.

So I leapt into the breach, and the Kangoo, drove to San Nicolas and bought some vino from Casa Barrunta, stopping all along the way to shout for the dog. On the way back I had a flash of inspiration, wondering where I would hide in Moratinos if I was a small creature and a loud noise was driving me insane.

I was right. I parked the furgoneta in the plaza and walked the path around the bodegas, shouting her name. And from deep in one of the collapsed and abandoned caved emerged a dusty little dog, yipping and shouting with joy to see me! So now her favorite person is back, and I know where her best hidey-hole is.

The company who arrived was The Rev. Clare Edwards, Canon Pastor of Canterbury Cathedral in England, now converted to Santiago pilgrim. In exchange for a nice meal and chat and a bed for the night she blessed us all and our new house, which I thought very nice indeed. (I think Tomas found it all pretty odd, but you meet all kinds out here on the perimeter.)

Clare is a middle daughter like me, and a good down-to-earth Anglican priest. Just having her around reminded me how much I miss my old church and its splendid spoken prayers, blessings, and liturgy. In English. It´s poetry.

This morning Clare was off, and soon her place was taken by the Kitchen Man, who finished his installation right up to, but not including, hooking up the plumbing in the sink. It is a thing of beauty, that kitchen. Someday soon we will use it!

Tomas is a handy man, and he´ll stay around for a week or so, re-doing the chicken house roof, plastering the zaguan (the entryway), and helping us stucco the inner walls of the garden out back with cement. So there´s more heavy-duty fun on the horizon hereabouts, and several more interesting pilgrims say they´re on their way as well.


Anonymous said...

Welcome home

Anonymous said...


Excuse me, but Gallego is no dialect at all. We use sounds, words and expressions that cannot be found in Spanish. Never ever. In the Middle Ages Portuguese and Gallego were the same language (called Galego-Portugués, Mediaeval Galician or Old Portuguese). In the 8th century, Galicia was a political unit within the kingdoms of Asturias and León, but was able to reach a degree of autonomy, becoming an independent kingdom. Galician was the only language in spoken use, and Latin was used as a written language. Until the 13th century, then both Galician and Latin were used in notarial documents, edicts, lawsuits, etc. Galician is now co-official with Spanish in Galicia, taught in schools, and there is a public Galician-language television channel, TVG. There is also a Real Academia Galega, the official royal institution responsible for regulating our language.

A Galician woman.