After my post last night I went out to have some dinner. I ended up speaking to some of the ladies who had been present in the river.
One of them mentioned that I looked like out from Father Ted, to which I laughed. Oh how close she might be to the truth!
After that one remained. I had seen her a few times before and we chatted about the camino. She had started in St Jean pied de port (where I also started 5 years ago) but her start was closed due snow and she had to manage without the 10+ hours in the mountains where Napoleon invaded Spain. I think we connected in some way, especially in the invisible threads that connect pilgrims from different backgrounds. She was waving hello to several other pilgrims as a surprise reunion of friends. She had touched many lives, including mine, yet she was not sure how and whether she would have changed when she would return home. I tried to reassure her that I thought the changed had already begun, how she was attuned to the camino and to herself, and how she had reflected on the pacing of life in the camino. Sometimes we might need to be reminded to slow down and stop. We also reflected on the graffiti incident we both witnessed and said nothing (she was one of the 6 present) and how that had affected us. I do not think I mentioned this before, but essentially a group of 6 of us walking noticed another group of pilgrims under a bridge drawing some graffiti. Nobody said anything but I’m surt we all expressed some sort of anger internally. I thought about it, and I decided to let it go. It was unimportant, under a bridge and, to be fair, nearly expected with the amount of graffiti in many parts of the camino (distance markers, road signs, bridges, etc) so would one more make a difference? I doubt it. They looked like troubled people trying to simply get something out. I agreed with her that they looked completely out of place but at the same time that we hoped they would find what they were hoping to find.
I hoped I was able to reassure her.
Today I saw an inscription in a bin that read “the camino stopped talking to me in Sarria”. Sarria is the place where the ‘bare minimum’ can ver achieved to obtain the compostela, which is slightly over 100km (compared to 600+ some people carry by then), so there’s some sort of snobbery about the property of pilgrims vs tourists. I understand that feeling of silence, but maybe the camino speaks differently at each stage.
Initially you have the pyrinees. They begin with a test of your body.
Then the plains of Spain. Those test your inner strength.
Then the massification and the rest of tourists. That will test your patience and tolerance on others.
I also thought (prior to writing this) how it might reflect on the evolution of religion. Firstly the raw element, rock and mountain. Then the inner path of self discovery in the plains. And then the organised groups where there is a lot of noise and we may forget where God is. I think they are quite similar to each other, in a way.
Today I also felt like utter despair, wanting to cry my soul out. I was too exhausted to actually emit anything other than a quiet sigh, but the feeling was there. My travelling companion ordered his food and at no point he noticed or cared much about what I was doing. Once he got his food ready (for which there was no menu and only the counter stuff) he simply left to the toilet leaving me without an order, having his to deal with, and still having to place my own order. The lady at the bar did pay me some attention and whilst speaking to another chap (she was glad I could speak the language) she cheerfully asked him where he was from. He said coke and croissant not understanding what she was going on about.
She proceeded to stop preparing my order and complete his.
I felt in the middle of nowhere. Isolated yet able to understand what was going on. Lacking strength to even process or say anything, even struggling to wait, cry or moan. I felt utterly ignored and trumped by everyone.
I never had coffee there. I wanted to have some at the following bar (which also featured on the BBC programme and included the hand drawn stamp) however once more ‘we had just left the previous place and didn’t feel like stopping again’.
I eventually made it to the destination. I wondered why I bothered with today.
Tomorrow, Santiago. Under 20km to go.