What kind of people walk the Camino de Santiago?
There are retired people, gap year young people, people trying to find an answer of some kind, people on spiritual pilgrimage, people walking in memory of a friend or family member, people on religious pilgrimage, people on a holiday, people on their first Camino, people on their twenty-third Camino, teenaged people and eighty year old people, couples, singles, groups, lone walkers, Americans, Spaniards, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, British, Irish, men, women…
All kinds of people.
On our 33rd day on the Camino we had a couple fall in behind us who were part of a tour group on the Camino. Their organizer would drop them off and then drive on ahead of them to a point where the Camino crossed over a public roadway and then as they approached, he’d take a bunch of pictures of them. Later, at our destination for the day, we saw a table full of this group where we found dinner. They were obviously having a great time on the Camino.
Walking behind us most of the day I only wanted to ask them to do one thing.
They didn’t stop the whole time they walked behind us.
We’d seen this once before when we came upon a young couple walking the Camino. The young woman was talking with her hands so we saw her talking before we heard her. As we caught up to them, she continued on talking to the twenty-something young man without a pause and in my memory he looked at us, pleadingly, as we passed. We could hear her talking non-stop to him until we were finally out of range.
This couple from today who had fallen in behind us were older and the talking was mutual, but it was similarly non-stop. We would speed up to move on ahead of them and they would speed up to stay within 6 feet of us. We would slow down to let them get past us and they would slow down and stay tucked in behind us.
The conversation kept pace as well.
It was maddening.
One of the great gifts – for me – has been Bill’s willingness to talk or not talk, to walk in silence and be comfortable with it. The time and space for contemplation has been amazing on the Camino. It will be one of the hardest adjustments to make when we get back, I think. The background noise of ordinary life makes this kind of quiet impossible.
On day 33 we had a longer walk and we covered over 19 kilometers. That was more than we had left on the path of the Camino that remained ahead of us. I can hardly accept that we are so close, that our journey is so near its completion. We have woken up, walked, washed, ate, and slept – over and over and over for 33 days now every day still seems new and fresh and full of anticipation.
O Pedrouza was our stopping place and we stayed in a nice albergue, once again on bunk beds. Most people would walk all the rest of the way to Santiago after a stay here but we will come up just short of Santiago tomorrow. Again, intentionally, due to schedule and to prepare for what comes next. I had the top bunk and Bill was on the bottom bunk. After cleaning up and sorting our things, we walked to the Cathedral for the Pilgrim’s Mass.
We had met two women along the Way today who were giving stamps out along with info about the pilgrim’s mass tonight. It was at 7pm, they said, and you can only get your stamp after the Mass. We attended and once again I was moved by a Mass in which the presiding priest spoke different parts of the Mass in the many languages of those who were gathered together to worship, pray and share the Eucharist.
Tonight, before bed, a Scottish lady stopped by our bunk as Bill treated one of my many blisters. She was offering him some un-needed advice when one of the younger pilgrim’s shushed her and told her to be quiet as they were trying to get to sleep.
And it was on.
The older Scottish pilgrim unloaded on the younger women. I’m not sure if it was the age difference, the tone she’d used or just the fact that we’d all been walking a long way by this point but Bill and I both felt like we were about to see our first throw-down on the Camino de Santiago. The younger woman didn’t back down but the Scottish woman was not having it. Not a bit of it. She verbally sorted her out and then we all settled in for a tense night of rest.
One thing I knew at the end of this day, somehow I had become one of those people who would never be content to have walked the Camino de Santiago only once. In my mind, as I fell into sleep, I started to make plans for my next Camino – even as another part of my mind wondered – what is wrong with me?