So, halfway through a solitary camino I fall into a little community of pilgrims.
It is very good to walk and talk with someone, especially when hiking across the long, spare expanses of Roman road after Calzadilla de Hermanillos.
I walk and talk with Rory, a gifted young South African who works in northern England. We were almost to Mansilla when I realized something interesting:; I walked these long miles nine years back with another tall, rangy young minister wearing an Indiana Jones hat -- this one is Methodist. That last one was Dick, a Catholic priest from Holland who is still a dear friend. Cool. Can't shake that clerical affinity, eh? Not only do they discuss Karl Rahner and the Pietists, they are amazing cooks, too.
Even the wild sections of the Camino are bulldozed and channelled and planted with skinny trees. No one can leave anything alone around here. The only thing not renovated since 2001 is the rickety bunks and squidgy mattresses in the pilgrim albergues. Eeugh. I keep telling myself that when I get to bigger towns I will stay in nice touristy places, but so far I have not. At least until I really really need to get a good night's sleep, or get some laundry done. Or get away from someone.
Rory is only one of four of us. There's also The Other Rebecca, a German girl from Dortmund, and Elizabeth, privileged young San Franciscan who's walking out from under the shadow of her powerful father. She speaks fluent American. She is the only other American I have met on this camino,and she´s even met up with some people I know from the West Coast pilgrim community.
We walk together sometimes, seperately other times, but we walk a similiar rates. We meet up again at the end of the day. And in Leon, at the end of that day´s walk, we met up at a Pizzeria, to celebrate my birthday! Paddy called to wish me well, and in the background I could here Nabi Dog singing out a "woowoowoo" greeting, and it made me homesick.
The Leon convent pilgrim accommodation was almost full, and featured a Snore War in the men´s section. (I was way over in the opposite corner with my earplugs installed, and heard not a thing! Yay!) A storekeeper today told me 500 pilgrims started their caminos back at Roncesvalles on Good Friday. Thank God that wave is well behind us..
Cool and sunny these days, the wind has FINALLY died down and walking is beautiful. I feel very fit and well. I am looking forward to Ponferrada, and taking The Road Less Traveled from there: I will follow the newly "rediscovered" Camino de Invierno, a 12-day path that follows the River Sil instead of climbing over O Cebreiro with the the ever-growing pilgrim throng. I kinda wish I had someone to walk it with me, just for surety and to help take notes (I´m going to contribute trail notes to a new English language guide). Maybe the Trail will provide. Maybe I will be alone again. Maybe I´ll get another one of those wonderful Inspiration Afternoons out there, and book into a room with a desk where I can just scribble away the afternoon...
Sorry there´´s so little of inspirational nature here. I am just bobbing along on the current here for now, enjoying hearing someone say "Right On," and "Ooh yeah" and maybe even "Jesus H. Christ!" (We are staying at Vilar de Mazarife, home to Refugio Jesus -- the last remaining hippie-style accommodation that is right now also undergoing a transforming renovation job. You still get to draw and write on the walls, though. And there´s a polystyrene Viking ship out in the back garden, left over from Carneval. And you can sleep out on the porch if you want. So all is not lost...and maybe with the shiny new kitchen I will not get food poisoning here this time. )
So, Come to Jesus and Find Rest, Ye Weary Pilgrims.