Depending on which mileage marker you believe, there are less than 50km to go in this month-long odyssey. Really, it feels like a year. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning let alone what town I slept in yesterday or the day before that. Or any day or any week before that.
Every last piece of it blends together. The sights, the sounds, the trail, the towns, the smells. That seems to be the way of the Camino for most folks willing to talk about it. And most are since that spirit of sharing is the Camino way.
Still, there are things I do recall (mind you, some more vividly than others).
Spaniards revere their elderly. Spend an evening in any Plaza and you’ll see daugthers stroll arm-in-arm with their mothers, sons or couples slowly push elderly parents in wheelchairs down the promenade. It really is touching and special to see.
Make the Camino ‘clack‘ free. I understand why people rely on walking sticks (particularly on steep declines). I do. I have a pair myself (but my carbon fiber poles are purposefully not here). The majority of Caminoers use sticks – which creates a near constant ‘clickity clack’ on any hard surface. Stone. Cement. Asphalt. Uphill, flat, downhill. Doesn’t matter. Clickity clack. It’s like a parade of walking metronomes. It kind of grated on me in larger cities such as Burgos and Leon when poles aren’t of help on flat calles (streets). Could there be a compromise: rubber tips?
Suffer or ship your bag? For 5€ you can ship your backpack to your next lodging to save yourself the wear and tear. Yet there rages a great debate among purists (“Shouldering a full pack is part of the experience”) vs. ‘ship ahead’ folks who contend it’s individual choice since everyone walks their own Camino. I’ll admit to being envious of the pack-less crowd that breezes by me and my 17 lb. load like I’m standing still. But I’m not ready to take sides especially if someone is injured or otherwise disabled.
Small scale farming is the norm. Except for the far-as-the-eye-can-see gigantic wheat fields in the Meseta, agriculture in Spain seems notable for teeny tiny farms and plots, especially by U.S. standards. My guess is the produce and livestock are grown at home – and eaten at home. The Camino literally traipes through and between farm buildings (often bordered by ancient stone walls/fences) so you see – and smell – Spanish agriculture up close and personal.
The Spanish do a lot of things right. Perhaps the ‘people’ highlight – among many – of the journey occurred as I ate alone in a cafe in the crowded central plaza in Villafranca. To say Spanish waiters/waitresses move at their own pace is an understatement. But I watched a harried waiter at the very moment he first saw a couple escort a very elderly man – the father of the man or woman, most likely – in a wheelchair toward the restaurant. They were easily 10 – 15 yards away and in no hurry to make forward progress. The waiter instantly set a tray of dishes down and ran – not walked – into the working area of the restaurant. Seconds later he re-emerged and, now at a very fast walk, made a straight line for the elderly man. And in the waiter’s hand: a glass of wine, rose most probably. He delivered the wine to the senor before the trio even reached the cafe and with the delivery was a handshake and hug and some lively chatter I couldn’t understand. What’s more, the threesome never entered the restaurant. They continued their evening loop past the cafe and crossed the Calle as they had undoubtedly done before. The old man had his wine and the waiter had my respect. The waiter went back to his tables and the trio went on their way.