Pilgrim Days – Camino de Santiago

As a lead up to the release of my book “SU Camino…”, I’ve been posting here portions of my poetic portrayal of a pilgrim’s day on the Camino de Santiago, from my perspective, as we walked 40 kilometers per day on the Camino Francés during the hot summer month of July. Below, I’ve included that rendering in its entirety:

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Up into the Pyrenees from St Jean

Parts of parts: In his delightful Camino narrative “I’m Off Then”, Hape Kerkeling says the pilgrim’s day is a “microcosm” of one’s total Camino journey; hard to get going in the beginning and exhausted but happy in the end. The pilgrim, the thru-hiker, the spiritual-adventurer takes to the day, sluggish but expectant and experiences a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, day after day, Camino after Camino.

Rising: The day begins, senses dull from the previous day’s exertion, perhaps an hour before good light. Eyes held closed as long as possible as other walkers of the Camino are heard nearby, rustling through bags, dressing, finding a lost whatever. Each morning starts the same. This fight to put off the inevitable. Putting off the effort to get up from the bunk, wriggling out of the sleeping bag and finding your backpack, digging around for those clothes that smell the least. Then grabbing toothbrush and toothpaste to seek out water and become at least a semblance of human, presentable and hygienic. Only a half hour has passed, it seems forever in slow motion, dressing, primping, repacking for the day, and worst of all, strapping on those dreaded trail shoes before leaving the albergue. It does get better.

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Traditional Camino markings

Café con leche: Without caffeine, senses still dull from the early hour and the many kilometers behind, legs heavy, the pilgrim finds the Camino markings of yellow arrows and scallop shells in the early light and seeks out breakfast, but more importantly, café con leche. And too, maybe, a croissant or better still, a slice of Spanish omelet. We awaken. 

Vistas: The morning hours prove delightful—once the senses have awoken. As the sun slowly rises a church steeple casts a shadow over its congregation and the vast countryside brightens before us. This time of day provides great lighting for those pictures we take back home, on camera or in our minds. Rolling wheat fields. A village in the distance. Pilgrims fore and aft. We are alive.

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Sunrise on the Camino

Avoidance: To avoid the heat of the day, the pilgrim covers just as many kilometers as possible in the cool morning air. The pace quick in these early hours, stopping only for a picture or two and then for lunch, our bocadillo. How many k shall we walk today? Depende (It depends).

Bocadillo: Lunch is found where it is found, occurs when hungry, trail side, in a bar or in a restaurant. Where hunger and possession meet, we eat the bocadillo. Hunger and possession. This midday meal is often had in one of the many villages or towns at one of the many restaurants or bars along our path. The goal always to have a cold, refreshing cola, beer or Kas Limon while we rest our tired bones, backpack nearby. Or, we buy the bocadillo earlier and eat it trailside, nothing cold. Where are we?

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Oh, I love the Meseta

And we’re—moving on: On goes the Camino, snaking through countryside, pueblo and city. Past grand cathedral and red corn poppies. Oh, the red corn poppies. The heat of the day presents itself before we are aware. Now we sweat (or perspire) and our pace slows. Should we rest in the shade or get our trek over for the day? There is no shade.

The perfect albergue: A siren calls. There must be room at the inn. She is adorable, or she is plump, or she wears white linen—a uniform perhaps—but she beckons, calling us to her albergue. Is this perfection? Yes, always—in some small or some grand way—always. Washing, always the washing, happy to do the washing. Too, the Pilgrim’s meal, a filling, delightful, satiating repast. Oh, the vino tinto.

Slumber: Satiated. Clean and refreshed, thrilled by a shower, cool, warm, or hot. Reflecting on the marvels of the day. Looking towards the wonders of tomorrow. De-packing, repacking, always the packing. Read a little; headlamp lighting the page or eBook page lighting the head. Who will snore; will it be me? Slipping, slowly, into slumber.

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