Friday, October 23, 2009

Buen Camino

There’s nothing like a short day under friendly skies to a pleasant town. Walking out of Hospital de Órbigo this morning past Villares de Órbigo, looking back at the morning sun reaching out across the trees made you wonder why everyone doesn’t want to walk the Camino.
After passing Santibañez de Valdeiglesia, we started across a stretch of the path Susan and I had walked on our driving/walking trip along the Camino 18 months ago. The same strange fellow was still camped beside the Camino in an open-air lean-to. Random rocks for a kilometer before and after his station were still daubed with yellow paint (presumably by him), and this year he has added a slightly larger than life-size cutout of a pilgrim standing beside his lean-to. Unlike the last visit, however, he didn’t follow silently behind us off to the side of the Camino clearing, at the edge of the tree line. He did that for almost a kilometer last year, which was more than slightly disconcerting. Today, he settle for a simple greeting when I said, “Hola!”
The path itself was a joy after several days trudging alongside the N-120 national highway (although the provincial government was still posting signs even today saying that the real camino was the rocky path it has installed beside the highway). Hopefully, as we leave Leon Province and climb into Galicia this notion that walking beside a busy highway is really better will disappear permanently.
While we were having lunch in the plaza in Astorga, the older (i.e., my age) Australian fellow who’s been walking for several days with a young Dutch girl came over when they got up to shoulder their packs and I asked how far they were going. He said they were planning to reach Rabanal, a 25 mile hike from our mutual starting point in Hospital, even though they hadn’t gotten an early start “because she was texting her boyfriend, and he kept texting back, and on and on.” He continued, “But she speaks English, and so few people on the Camino do” (true enough).I wondered whether this careful mention that she had a boyfriend (not him) and he was walking with her because of her language skills (not because she was a young hottie) was to disabuse me of any notion that he was up to more than English small talk. Not unreasonable. I suppose in the same situation I’d think that the eyes’ of everyone my age were burning into me with a mixture of suspicion and derision.