The Camino for beginners!
I know there are many blogs about the Camino journey on the Net, often covering the 700+ kilometres the full journey takes, with lots of pictures and insights. So I don’t want to be just another one, and in fact I can’t as Matt and I are only doing 140 kms into Santiago. Yet already it has been a fantastic experience in so many ways, and I can now see how people get the Camino bug and want to do more!!!
So I just want to write down a few things…
There is something about travelling a path followed by so many people before us, people of faith and people of no faith, responding to this simple urge to walk and walk and walk, and along the way to maybe reflect a bit on life, that is very therapeutic. Walking is used for meditation in many faith traditions and I can see why. One step at a time, getting into a rhythm places us firmly in the here and now, not looking too far into the future and not looking back. It gives us a different perspective and removes many of us from our crazy lives, if just for a little while.
We pass a lot of stone markers that point the way on the Camino, ancient signs that direct the traveller. These are very comforting, for those of us lacking directional sense. On them are often written notes, or notes are placed under stones. Many others have piles of stones on the top without notes. It seems symbolic, this ritual placing of the stones, as people shed things as they walk, giving up what is unimportant and superficial to them and perhaps discovering what is real. Some walkers don’t do this and some of the school groups leave graffiti or their names rather than anything more serious. And there are lots of school groups in July!! We have not placed a stone, but perhaps we will, that’s the good thing about the Camino, it is for each person alone to do what they feel called to do.
However the Camino is not just a reflective walk, it is also a very beautiful walk. Along the way there is time to admire the lush green countryside, full of trees and rolling hills and lots and lots of corn, and tiny hamlets and stone churches. And to meet and talk to fellow walkers, some religious and some not, but always with great stories to tell. We already have been blown away with the diversity of nationality, of age, and of past history that goes with walking the Camino. We have met a catholic couple from Mexico City, a family with 5 girls, the youngest only 8 years old from Madrid, a beautiful couple from Washington State, who told us this amazing story about hope and love which I will share later, and wonderful Spanish owners of bars, restaurants and shops. And of course our French companion Anthony, with his donkey Martin and dog, Uno. We have met him over the past 3 days, and today shared lunch and a stroll for a few kilometers….
This has been one of the greatest revelations of the walk so far. The camaraderie is palpable on the Camino, greetings in Spanish even if not a fluent Spanish speaker is the order of the day. “Ola” meaning hello or hi rings out everywhere while “buen Camino”, have a good Camino, is spoken as we pass fellow walkers. While most understand “buen Camino” as a greeting, a wishing well, or happy travelling, it also means good path, or right track, and acknowledges someone who is searching. This encompasses the pilgrimage intent of the walk, which is to become your best self, what God intends you to be. Mind you, as one who is not great with languages it took me awhile to get the greetings, and Matt was found rolling around laughing when I said “Olay” instead of “Ola”! Rather a slip that meant the people I directed it to would think they have to look out for bulls or wonder why I was referring to a face cream! Even the “buen Camino” is slightly tricky, some of the Americans say “Bon”, I think they are also confused. But it does not seem to matter, for we are all in it together, for whatever reason.
So our experience of the Camino so far is one of joy and light, even with the occasional blister, aching legs or sore neck. We already know that we will be back to do some more, and maybe one day do the whole thing in one go, you never know!