Last night we had dinner in a small bar/cafe in the small town of Villatuerta. We were seated outside where a large table of families and children had gathered for a 5 year old boy’s birthday party. What was interesting about the party is that it had a Michael Jackson theme – Jackson’s greatest hits were being played over the sound system, the little boy got a shiny sequined hat for his birthday, and he (with his mother’s prodding) performed an excellent moonwalk among other signature Jackson moves. It as great to have a bit of entertainment and childlike innocence to go with our hamburguesa.
One of the great learnings of the Camino is finding one’s way. Sometimes it takes trust (as in trusting my partner’s wisdom and sense of direction), often it takes looking for way markers. While the Way is marked fairly well through most of Spain, one needs to know what to look for. Sometimes you will see a simple yellow arrow painted on a wall. Often you will see a yellow stylized scallop shell on a blue background placed on a concrete pillar. Sometimes a similar scallop shell will be found as a metal disc embedded in the road. On a good day – the shell seems to even be oriented as if to point the way, the design mimicking an arrow. But there are times where no markers appear. There are days when it might be easy to get lost. I am so grateful for those who mark the way here in Spain. Maybe that’s a metaphor for those who mark the way for us in life…
One thing every peregrino (pilgrim) carries is a credencial. It is essentially a pilgrim passport. We are required to show it at every pilgrim albergue we stay at. You can’t stay there without it. Each time you show your credencial you get a sello, a stamp on the document, to confirm that you have stayed or visited that particular place. We get them at albergues, but also at churches, bars, or other places of interest. Having these stamps is not simply a bit of fun, but confirm that you are actually making this pilgrimage. When one arrives at Santiago the stamps are reviewed to show that one has truly made the journey before one gets a compostela, essentially a certificate of completion. It is an interesting part of the journey, a bit like getting a postcard from every world city you have visited.
Today was a very hard day. It was our longest – about 18 miles. It was one of the hottest. Our last 3 miles, though flat, were completely in the sun. (Neither Lena nor I can understand how anyone could do this walk in the summer.) The last half of the day, there were no quaint towns to travel though, only farmland and hills. There was, thankfully, a bit of a snack bar – right in the middle of nowhere – were we were able to purchase some fresh squeezed orange juice. Thankfully too, at the end of the day, we had booked a private room in one of the albergues in Los Arcos, Casa de la Abuela. Tomorrow may be an even longer walk. Send us a few good thoughts and prayers.