Gastroenteritis tends to color your world-view.
Be warned. I have a bad attitude today. Something has gone wrong with my tripes. My innards are all crampy and painful, and I cannot remain very far from a bathroom for very long. Which is not a happy situation if you´re trying to walk 20-plus kilometers across wild country each day.
So far I am walking this camino alone. As noted above I did make a couple of nice friends early on, but after one fun evening of beer and instructions on the difference between a "dumbass" and an "asshole," we kinda lost each other. Maybe I will find the Dutch guys again. They are a trip. And they are traveling with a full-size Gouda cheese. (This one of the earmarks of a True Kindred Spirit.)
There are a few reasons I am going alone a lot. One is my evident devoutness. I promised a bunch of people I would pray for them on this pilgrimage, and I am doing it. To keep myself focused I use a big old black Rosary that once belonged to a Canadian nun. Hiking along with a rosary swinging from your hand is a clear signal to fellow believers that you´re kinda busy right now. To non-believers, it might as well be a live grenade. They steer well clear.
I am not a bang-you-over-the-head Christian maniac, just so you know. But I figure this trail was a Christian pilgrimage for a lot longer than it´s been a hiker´s cheap holiday. I have a right to be here, doing this. And so I will. ( I realized yesterday I am really quite devout, and I shouldn´t feel ashamed of it.)
The other reason I walk alone may have to do with a diet rich in apples, oranges, bananas, nuts, and lentils. And tripes that are unhappy. But I won´t go into that.
Walking alone (between rosaries) gives you lots of time to think and observe. One thing I think is the people who plot the Camino trails are not hikers, and they dislike actual pilgrims. Or they are hit-you-over-the-head Christians who think salvation can be earned through suffering and frustration. Today, for instance: I was still smarting from being over-charged in Puente la Reina, when the trial took us down a long, beautiful valley, past a fragrant sewage-treatment plant, round a quarry and up a very steep hillside... all of this with the new arrow-straight highway to Estella in plain sight overhead. I know they strive to keep pilgrims and motor traffic seperate, and that is a noble pursuit. They try to send us over historic Roman or medieval paths that Pilgrims Of Old probably walked, or among trees and fields and flowers.
All of which is nice. The Pilgrims Of Old wanted to get the heck to Santiago, and the road they walked was probably the only one available. Today´s 21st century pilg demands something different: Good footing. Scenic vistas. Wrinkly peasants and cute donkeys to take pictures of. Safety. English-language menus, signs, and directions. Good food. Perfect cleanliness. Heinz ketchup. And all of that for 10 Euros or less. (Oh, and NO tourists! No one hates a tourist more than a pilgrim. Except maybe other tourists.)
I want Gouda cheese, and a more direct path, too. Got that, trail planning guys?
Anyway, today I am in a very clean, safe, scenic pilgrim albergue in Lorca. It is raining outside. I rolled into town just as the downpour began, and the bells were ringing for the Mass of San José. Lucky me! A church, open and lit up, with people inside singing! Spain is full of knockout beautiful churches, but they are rarely open. And a church with a service going on is a church in full operation, I think -- you see it in action, doing what it´s designed to do. This one was great. I met a German guy who lives here. He and his daughter asked me to come over to dinner, if I´m staying in town. And so I am. (thank goodness for them. I am running short of cash, and tomorrow is the next ATM machine..)
And now I do not have the albergue to myself -- two very tall Germans just arrived. I think they want to use the Internet. And so I go. To the bathroom.