Tag Archives: Camino de Santiago

A Radio Documentary about Oliver Schroer on the Camino


I wrote over a year ago about fiddler Oliver Schroer and photographer Peter Coffman’s amazing (and highly productive) Camino journey.

Canadian pilgrims have a chance to learn more about (and listen to) Oliver Schroer’s musical pilgrimage and the album that came out of it by tuning into CBC Radio this weekend. David Tarnow’s radio documentary uses extensive interviews with Oliver and some of his unreleased recordings from the Camino. It will air on Inside the Music on CBC Radio this weekend. Choose from these listening options:

  • CBC Radio Two on Sunday, May 13 at 3:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m. in Newfoundland
  • CBC Radio One on Sunday, May 13 at 9 p.m. in Ontario, Quebec, Central, Mountain and Pacific; 10 p.m. in Maritimes; 10:30 p.m. in Newfoundland
  • Sirius Satellite Radio on Saturday, May 12 at midnight, and Sunday, May 13 at 6:00 a.m.

No matter where you are, you can listen to the documentary on the CBC website. Be sure to leave a comment—it’s always good to encourage such wonderful documentaries.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 5:24 pm
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Walking with a Donkey: An Interview with Roland Garin


[Roland Garin and Praline]

Roland Garin and Praline. Photo courtesy Roland Garin.

I photographed a donkey in Santiago’s pilgrim office when I was there at the end of May. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet and Sarah De Martín (thanks, Sarah!), I discovered that the donkey was named Praline. She walked some 1,900 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago—from her home in France to Finisterre—with Roland Garin.

Roland was kind enough to answer my questions about walking with Praline. Thanks also to Aude Verbeke, a friend from my first Camino, for editing my translation from the French. (Ici est la version française.)

Anna-Marie: Was this your first time walking the Camino?

Roland: I walked previously on the Camino de Santiago from Lyon to Le Puy to train myself. The first time was with two donkeys. Praline was accompanied by her friend Amandin. The second time with Praline alone, and then we did the GR-70. It’s also called “The Stevenson” in memory of Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish writer, the author of the adventure novel Treasure Island.

Where did you begin your walk?

We left from Saint-Pierre-la-Palud, a village of 2,500. It’s 25 kilometres from Lyon, in a region that we call here “les monts du Lyonnais.” We took the following route: Saint Pierre to Le Puy to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela to Muxia to Fisterra. It was around 1,900 kilometres in 77 days of walking.

Why did you decide to walk with Praline?

Why with Praline? That’s a good question! Some people go alone, with a friend, with their wife…. Me, I like donkeys. (There are four at my house.) Praline is my walking partner and since we’ve been walking together we’ve made a good couple. Between us there is a complicity and an affection that only donkey owners can understand.

[Roland Garin and Praline]

Roland Garin and Praline. Photo courtesy Roland Garin.

What was the best part of walking with a donkey?

As I told you already, when there’s complicity between the man and the animal, it’s a true pleasure. Praline regulates the walk: it’s not the man who guides the donkey! The man walks in the footsteps of the donkey. I must confess that I’m lucky to have an exceptional animal. I talk to her all day and even if some people are skeptical about this, I know she listens and understands every word … to the right … to the left … straight ahead. Sometimes she follows the marks on the way before I have the time to tell her! I am very lucky.

The worst part?

There’s no worst part with a donkey! It’s a question of education … the donkey is a very intelligent animal. Some say that it’s one of the most intelligent species of animal in the world. Unlike a horse, you don’t train a donkey: you educate him.

All is complicity, sweetness and patience … you don’t impose your will on a donkey! Some say that the donkey is stubborn. That’s not true; he thinks … he analyzes the road, the danger, the sounds. When a donkey doesn’t want to advance, it’s up to the man to understand why. And when the man becomes as intelligent as the donkey, all goes well!

Where did Praline sleep?

At night I slept in a tent and Praline slept beside it. Donkeys sleep very little and they use the night to eat. Praline felt secure to know that I was next to her. Sometimes I slept in gîtes d’étapes … she was very unhappy and that caused problems because she didn’t stop braying all night. The other pilgrims didn’t always appreciate that!

Did she need special food while walking?

Above all, don’t supplement a donkey’s diet. The donkey is a rustic animal; he is happy with grass and hay. And fresh water … and, as a reward for working all day, a fruit or a crust of stale bread. If you really want to make him happy, a handful of crushed barley…. But he himself needs to carry it … so….

Did you have any difficulties walking through cities?

Walking in a city isn’t always easy. The man with a steering wheel in his hands thinks he’s master of the world, so he often becomes the worst of the boors and cretins. I’ve never had a problem going through big cities (Pamplona, Burgos, Léon and Santiago). Praline is used to cars and they don’t bother her.

I was especially afraid of being stopped by the Guardia Civil, because some guides specified that donkeys and horses were forbidden to pass through cities. But I never had any problems. On the contrary, representatives of the police force made me feel very welcome. I even took some photos with them. The biggest difficulty was crossing certain metal bridges. Praline didn’t want to! So we had to avoid them … and all went well.

The most dangerous thing wasn’t the cities, it was when we had to walk along national roads with heavy traffic. The trucks were fast and made a lot of noise, so any animal could have been scared…. I had to stay close to Praline to give her confidence. The worst is when people honk their horns … but I can’t blame them: it comes from a good sentiment. They want to say hello to us.

How far did you walk each day?

That depended on the road, on the place: we walked better in the forests than in the cities. It also depended on the altitude of the stage. As I told you already, it’s not the master who commands; it’s the donkey who controls the speed on the path. It depends on whether the road is rugged or easy. We did some 20-kilometre stages, but also some stages of almost 40 kilometres. But our average walking was 25 kilometres per day.

Do you have a favourite story about Praline on the Camino?

[Praline]

Praline joins the pilgrim throngs outside the pilgrims' office in Santiago de Compostela.

There are hundreds of stories about Praline. In fact, she’s started to write her memoirs…. The book should be 600 pages! We work every day to write this work. Praline dictates her impressions to me and I transcribe them on the keyboard. It’s not fast, because she is very, very demanding and often the work from Monday goes in the garbage on Tuesday. But we have done the Camino together … so we also write together.

The most fantastic story is that not a single day went by in Spain without someone wanting to buy Praline from me. Someone even tried to steal her! Each time someone asked me “Se vende? se vende?” I answered no, obviously. But the people insisted, so I said: “Okay, 30,000 euros … 50,000 euros with the equipment.” The exorbitant price discouraged the buyers. But I confess I would have been very annoyed if someone had accepted, because I wouldn’t be separated from my Praline for all the gold in the world.

Where is Praline now? Does she live with you?

Praline is in her meadow, next to the house in the village of Saint-Pierre-la-Palud. She is with Cadine, Florentine and Kakao. She rests, waiting to go out on another journey … maybe at the end of the month of September we’ll go on a fifteen-day hike in the centre of France. Sometimes on Sundays, we go on walks through villages, and meet people who are interested in the Camino de Santiago. We speak of the association “Le Chemin Pour Tous” (The Camino for All) which takes some people with disabilities to Santiago every year.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Other things that I want to talk about…. I’m going to write about them mainly so that others may benefit from my experience on the Camino. I want to tell them about the beauty, the hazards, the fantastic events but also, because nothing should be concealed, about the hardships of the road.

It’s the road of stars … but you know, both roses and brambles have thorns.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:33 pm
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Days 6-8 on the Vía de la Plata


[Fuente de Cantos]

The approach to Fuente de Cantos, which is one of those towns you can see from so far away you become convinced you'll never actually arrive.

All’s going well since I last wrote. It’s actually looking like rain, here in Villafranco de los Barros (well, actually several kilometres outside in the La Almazara albergue).

Saturday and Sunday were somewhat cooler than earlier—more like really warm spring days, than serious summer (though I realize that real summer here is even hotter). Today was overcast, and it’s extremely windy.

I’m rather in the middle of nowhere, pilgrim-wise. I know of a few people who are definitely behind, and I assume a number of people I know are ahead, but so far there are no pilgrims here. That’s probably mainly because tomorrow’s walking stage is long anyway, and I’ve added to mine by staying here. Oh, well, I’ve done a few relatively short days. I’ll probably survive.

The pilgrim situations stays pretty much the same. I’ve met a few more French pilgrims, one more Dutchwoman, and a few more young pilgrims, and have heard of a Japanese man and another Canadian. There are a number of Spanish people on bicycles—some at least heading for Santiago—but I haven’t met any walking. The albergues at major stops tend to be full at night, but at the moment I don’t think walkers would have a huge problem with accommodation, since cyclists generally arrive quite late to fill up the albergues. Of course I’ve been avoiding the major stops for the last few days, so I’m not the best authority, but I have talked to a few people who are in a better position to know what’s going on.

More pilgrims seem to want to walk completely alone than on the Camino Francés, and some chose this route precisely for its supposed solitude, which isn’t much in evidence (although there are still a lot fewer pilgrims than I found on the Camino Francés even in October). Actually, I’ve had a fair bit of walking solitude pretty much by accident—I often seem to leave a bit later than everyone else, regularly get lost finding my morning arrows, and then walk slowly. So everyone else disappears up ahead.

There isn’t a lot of specifically pilgrim accommodation in this area, so I’ve been staying in albergues turísticos. These are kind of like paradores (beautiful old buildings turned into five-star hotels), only not quite five-star. They’re beautiful, but much less impressive buildings that have largely dorm accommodation. Anyone can stay in them, but pilgrims generally save about €5.

They’re a step up from pilgrim albergues, price-wise, but also in terms of what you get for your money. There’s soap in the bathrooms. There’s bedding on the bunk beds, so no rustling of sleeping bags. They generally give you a huge, fluffy towel —today’s came wrapped in plastic (well, they’re huge and fluffy compared to my minuscule sports towel). The last two used to be convents; the one I’m in now is a gorgeous building that used to house an oil press.

Day 6: Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos (22 km)

[Semana Santa rehearsal]

I was on a grocery run in Fuente de Cantos when I ran into a procession. Since Semana Santa hadn't started yet, and there wasn't a huge crowd, I assumed it was some sort of rehearsal.

Up until Monesterio, I’d mainly been seeing the same people each evening. We all started out on the same day, and had been walking the same stages because there weren’t a lot of options. In Monesterio, a bunch of us had dinner together to say goodbye. Netty from the Netherlands was heading home; Ip from Denmark was going to go farther the next day than the rest of us planned to walk; and his fiancée, Anni, was going ahead to Mérida to nurse her wounded feet and hope they’re capable of serious walking by the time Ip catches up to her.

(Practical note: if you’re travelling with a member of the opposite sex, a ring could come in handy in Monesterio, and having the same last name wouldn’t hurt. Apparently hotel receptionists are keen to avoid “immorality” in their hotels. One man and woman I know who were travelling together were only grudgingly permitted single beds in the same room.)

I’d left Andalusía for Extremadura on my fifth walking day, but the landscape didn’t really begin to change until the next day (see the photo at the top of this post). I’d been walking for a while with Hermione, an Englishwoman who’s actually walking from the Canary Islands to her home in England (via a ferry from Santander), when we found ourselves surrounded by rolling hills—like the English moors, Hermione said.

It was a beautiful, highway-less walking day. The somewhat cooler weather didn’t hurt, either.

I had a relaxing afternoon and evening in the albergue turístico (which is nice and has a free computer with very slow Internet), wandering around town and chatting with other pilgrims.

Day 7: Fuente de Cantos to Puebla de Sancho Pérez (21 km)

[Albergue in Puebla de Sancho Pérez]

The albergue turístico in an old monastery just outside Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

I actually passed through a town after an hour or more of walking. It was very exciting, because since the first day of walking, this was the first time I’d walked through a town, instead of stopping there for the night.

The terrain has become more what I expected on this route—partly flat, with rolling hills to keep things interesting, but no horrifically steep ascents or descents.

Most pilgrims went on to Zafra, a bigger town with more monuments and things, but I stopped just before, in Puebla de Sancho Pérez. The albergue there is about 10 minutes off the Camino, and very quiet. The hospitalero told me they mainly get German tourists, because their guidebook recommends the place.

I was sitting there writing in my journal when the hospitalero came up. I couldn’t understand everything he was saying, but he seemed to want to know if I wanted to see the Virgin.

I didn’t really understand, but I’m generally up for anything, so I followed him to what must have been the convent’s church. He led me up some stairs at the back—it felt very behind-the-scenes—to a little room where a family was looking to a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus, already on a float for Semana Santa (the week before Easter, when Spanish churches parade their statues through the streets on floats). Through a big window behind us, people in the church could look up to see the statue.

[Semana Santa]

The beginning of the Semana Santa festivities. Unfortunately my camera batteries died so I couldn't photograph the whole thing.

Later, Sanna from the Netherlands and I had dinner in town, and watched the Semana Santa festivities at the main church. A bunch of people, including a lot of very excited children, led the way, wearing garments with an unfortunate resemblance to KKK uniforms, except the headgear is green. Then came the floats: one with Jesus accepting a grail-like cup from an angel, and then, after a marching band and a lot of fanfare, another Mary, this one very sad, with eyes that somehow glistened as if with tears.

Sanna and I couldn’t figure out how the floats were propelled until we peeked underneath and saw a whole crowd of people down there pushing.

Day 8: Puebla de Sancho Pérez to La Almazara (17 km)

[Los Santos de Maimonas]

Los Santos de Maimonas (I think), just after Zafra.

A short day, I know. I probably put in a few extra kilometres wandering around Zafra, though.

The way marking is still generally good, but there are fewer arrows, and they’re farther apart. In Zafra (for me at least, and do keep in mind that I have a talent for getting lost everywhere), they led me into a park, and then evaporated.

Luckily the park is in front of a tourist office, so I grabbed a map from that, compared it with my own bare-bones map, and figured out that I had to keep going straight. I dodged into the historic part of the city for fun, and navigated my way out of that.

I walked to Los Santos de Maimonas with Marcos, a young German guy who’s having some serious foot problems, since he was forced to buy new hiking boots a few days ago after his old ones fell apart. The tourist information guy in Los Santos was very helpful, mapping out a route through town for me that passed the post office and a supermarket.

I was also able to see the church. As I understand it, churches along this route are usually closed, but during Semana Santa there often seem to be people around readying floats, and they don’t seem to mind the occasional pilgrim wandering inside.

(Practical information for Los Santos de Maimona: there are washrooms in the same building as the tourist information centre, and a fuente on the square by the church—you can find both by following the yellow arrows. The arrows are another matter. They’re generally painted on the side of the curb, so look down by your feet, and you should be okay.)

The walking today was fine—lots of flowers, olive trees and grape vines. For my own aesthetic sensibilities, of course, I’d prefer stone fences to mesh and barbed wire, and no electric wires (they rather interfere with the view). If someone would move the highway and railroad, it would be even better.

What I really want is the medieval view without the medieval inconveniences (bandits, battles, horrific roads, manure piles, etc.). Unfortunately (or probably fortunately, when you get right down to it), the world doesn’t revolve around my desires.

And really, the walking is great just as it is.

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 8:25 am
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Summer in Sevilla


[Sevilla cathedral]

The cathedral, with the Giralda tower (originally part of the mosque that once stood on the cathedral site, but added to by Christians) on the far right side.

I’m finally in Spain!

I got seriously spoiled on the way here—I was picked up and dropped off at airports and taken to see interesting things, and of course got to have a great time seeing friends around Toronto and near London. Lots of thanks to Kelsey, Sarah, Kenneth and Bob (and of course to Analisa here in Spain). It was great to see you.

It’s summer here in Sevilla, or might as well be. Of course, having visited Granada in August, I realize this isn’t what it’s actually like here in summer, but it’s respectable summer weather for a lot of the rest of the world. According to a sign I saw, it was 26 degrees Celsius. Not quite, I have to admit, the walking weather I was expecting.

I got off to an excellent start yesterday evening after I arrived, getting lost twice on my way to my albergue. This obviously bodes well for the next 1000 kilometres.

[Santiago]

Santiago, on the cathedral.

Really, I can’t even find the first yellow arrow that’s supposed to guide me from the cathedral, although I’m quite proud of myself for locating the figure of Santiago on the outside of the cathedral, a task that took approximately forever. I knew the statue was on the west side of the cathedral, so I looked on my map, and figured out which side that should be. Then I paced up and down in front of that (rather long) side, but there was no Santiago Peregrino to be seen.

That was around lunchtime. I went back in the evening, and finally realized my map must not be oriented traditionally, with south at the top. The sun, which was pretty near the horizon by that point, was, of course, a better indicator. Once I’d finally realized that, I found Santiago in a group with 23 other religious figures above a major entrance, looking very prayerful and serious.

To celebrate, I got some lemon ice cream, quite possibly the best ice cream ever, which I haven’t had since I visited Granada nine years ago. Then I tried to find the yellow arrow that is supposedly on a street light across from the Santiago the statue.

All I could see were stickers with yellow arrows that look like lightning bolts, which can be found on just about every lamppost on the street. I suspect they have more to do with the power lines on the top of the lampposts than they do with the Vía de la Plata. I hope I’m wrong. It would be seriously embarrassing to get lost in the first two minutes.

Luckily, I have seen my one and only yellow arrow so far a little farther along the route, so if all else fails I’ll cross the Puente de Isabel II into Triana (where I’m actually staying) and take it from there.

I’ve seen several pilgrims, but I have yet to meet any.

“Are there any other people here walking the Camino?” I asked the receptionist last night as she showed me around my albergue.

“The pilgrims are all in your room,” she said. “We put you together so you can talk to each other.”

Which sounds nice, but this was after 11 p.m., so all the good pilgrims were asleep. I saw one this morning in the erratic light from a flashlight, but others were still asleep and we all left the room at different times, so there was no chance to talk.

[Juderia]

A sign in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, reminding visitors that it was Sevilla's Jewish Quarter before the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.

I saw a few other pilgrim-looking people around town (the backpacks with the scallop shells tend to give them away) but since I was more of a tourist-looking person at the time none of them so much as glanced twice at me.

Later I thought I was talking with another pilgrim. Since he came into my dorm room and threw himself on a bed I figured he must be a pilgrim.

He was a young guy from Brazil, he told me in rapid-fire Spanish I sort of understood. He kept going on about “amor” and “passión”—from what I gathered he was in love with someone in Portugal.

But when I asked him, in my bare-bones Spanish, if he was a pilgrim, he didn’t know what I was talking about.

A little later, he started to laugh long and loudly over nothing I could see. So it’s probably just as well he’s not a pilgrim.

[Alcazar staircase]

A staircase in the Alcazar palace.

Even apart from pilgrim-watching and Santiago-locating, I’ve had a busy day. Since the Roman ruins at Italica will be closed tomorrow, I took the bus out to see them (they were old).

And I wandered around the Barrio de Santa Cruz, which used to be the Jewish Quarter (it was quaint and crowded), had lunch with Analisa (she was a lot of fun to get lost with) visited the cathedral (it was enormous, and enormously full of tourists), climbed the Giralda (it was tall), and stopped by the Alcázar (it was beautiful).

Then I became convinced I had lost my sweater, and despite the sweaty weather, panicked. I figure it’s not a real trip if you don’t have something to panic about.

As it turns out, the sweater is here, and I am here and very ready to start walking.

Only 21 kilometres tomorrow—practically nothing. After all, I’ve done the occasional ten-kilometre walk. And it’s not like the sun is going to be beating down on me like some fiery furnace or anything like that.

Speaking of which, it’s panic time again. I haven’t seen my hat since I left home.

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 1:59 pm
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Stones on the Camino: A Photo Essay


[Stones in the Pyrenees]

On the Route Napoleón in the Pyrenees.

One of the constants of my walk along the Camino de Santiago was the presence of stones.

They were in the walls of many of the buildings I slept in and the the old churches I visited. In some places, they made up the walls that lined the trail. Sometimes the stones were the road itself, in the form of gravel or cobblestones.

Then there were stones people left—often in heaps on crosses and memorials to fallen pilgrims, and sometimes near way marks. Occasionally they were piled into little towers (Inukshuks, as we’d say here in Canada), or assembled into arrows on the ground.

And of course there was the pile at the Cruz de Ferro. The tradition of bringing a stone from home to leave there may be a recent one, but every tradition has to start somewhere.

Especially in France, where I walked alone more, I’d sometimes pick up a stone and hold it in my hand as I walked. I’d leave it at the next pile of rocks I came across—usually on or around a wayside cross.

[Stones in the wall]

Stones in the wall of the lovely Gîte Dubarry, on a farm between Nogaro and Aire-sur-L'Adour.

It seemed like the right thing to do, though I’m not really sure why.

In part, I suppose, it was because the other stones were there already. People had left them in the past and would leave more in the future. Leaving my own stones made me part of that.

There’s something about stones.

We use them to mark graves. Some of the earliest altars were stones piled on top of each other in sacred places. And of course there’s Stonehenge, and the Easter Island moai, and so many other examples of sacred art or architecture, built up or hewn from stone.

In Cambodia, Angkor Wat and the other temples in the area are all that remain of a once-thriving city because only sacred structures could be built with stones. And when all the wood buildings turned back into jungle, the stones remained.

[Cross and rocks on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, between Bessuéjouls and Estaing.

Maybe it’s the seeming immortality of stones that makes them sacred. Compared with living things, they seem to last forever.

And so we use them, perhaps, to represent the eternal.

Or maybe not. I don’t really know. I just know they were there, and they mattered.

I couldn’t take any with me, for obvious reasons, so I did the next best thing: I took photos. Here are some of my Camino stones.

[Stone walls on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, between Chapelle de Bastide and Nasbinals.

[On the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

Markers on the Chemin du Puy. A) A wayside cross between Chapelle de Bastide and Nasbinals. B) A modern pilgrim sculpture on the way into Aubrac. The inscription reads (in my translation from the French): "In the silence and the solitude, we hear no more than the essentials."

[Way mark on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

A Chemin du Puy (GR-65) way mark, with stones.

[Bible verse]

People also left notes, poems and Bible verses in piles of stones. This one was around a cross just past Labastide-Marnhac on the Chemin du Puy.

[Roman mosaics]

A Roman mosaic at the Villa Gallo-Romaine at Séviac, just off the Chemin du Puy. The gîte d'étape was right at the historic site, so I got to wander around the ruins in the morning before any tourists arrived.

[Cross and rocks on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

Past Uhart-Mixe on the Chemin du Puy, with the Pyrenees in the background.

[The Route Napoleón]

On the Route Napoleón in the Pyrenees.

[Arrow and rock piles on the Camino Francés]

Stones on the Camino Francés. A) Before Villatuerta. B) Between Navarrete and Ventosa.

[Pilgrims and arrow on the Camino Francés]

Pilgrims between Castrojeriz and Itero de la Vega.

[Arrow]

Before Astorga.

[Cruz de Ferro]

The Cruz de Ferro.

[Sonya at 100 km]

Sonya at the 100 km marker.

[Stone hermitage near Ferreiros]

Stone hermitage near Ferreiros where pilgrims leave messages.

[Galicia on the Camino Francés]

Walking in Galicia on the Camino Francés.

[Plaza del Obradoiro]

Pilgrims in the Plaza del Obradoiro, in front of the Santiago cathedral.

[Finisterre]

Finisterre.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:35 pm
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The Same Road Twice


[Puddles on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, after Arthez-de-Béarn

I’ve heard—and read—the advice: don’t expect your second pilgrimage, whether it’s on the same route or a different one, to be like your first.

I may be getting ahead of myself here, since I haven’t actually set out on my second pilgrimage yet, but it seems to me what no one mentions is that there’s at least one way the second can be even better than the first.

The first time around, everything is new and many parts are wonderful. The second journey, even if it’s on a different route, might never feel completely new. But, in addition to having its own amazing moments (as I’m sure mine will), it brings back memories of that past pilgrimage.

For me, anyway, there can be something almost magical about connecting with the past, whether it’s my own history or much older worlds. And just preparing for my upcoming Vía de la Plata journey brings back so many memories of my walk along the Chemin du Puy and the Camino Francés.

These aren’t the one-off I’ll-never-forgets that I wrote about the other week.

They’re little things that happened over and over; feelings and experiences I didn’t appreciate at the time. I’d forgotten all about them, in fact, until I started going through the motions—and they really are motions—of pilgrimage all over again.

There are the calluses that developed on my fingers from pulling my bootlaces tight—and are starting to reappear.

There’s the huge difference a small adjustment makes to the feel of my pack on my back.

There’s going to the store and holding one object in each hand, closing my eyes sometimes as I attempt to detect a minuscule difference in weight.

Trying out my backpack with all my gear the other day brought back every morning on the Camino at once—putting the light objects at the bottom and the heavy ones against my back. And then deciding what should go on top: a sweater on a cold day; sunscreen on a hot one; rain gear if it’s pouring or the clouds look particularly grey.

I haven’t walked more than an hour and a half with my pack this time round, so I haven’t yet experienced total exhaustion. But I like to think that even in that I’ll find a bit of magic. It’ll bring back those afternoons on the Chemin du Puy when my feet ached and my backpack felt like I’d loaded it with rocks and I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life in France because I certainly was never going to move again.

And I’ll think: Oh yeah, I remember now, this is how it feels.

And I’ll know that I kept going once and can do it once again.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 10:05 am
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