My Camino: Day 28 – It’s Getting Crowded

I just couldn’t write yesterday – the news from Las Vegas was too upsetting.

I left the town of Sarria this morning, still saddened by the Vegas news, and the news of the death of Tom Petty.

There I was an American Girl, feeling alone and sad in Spain in a town that is full of energy, known to be extremely crowded with eager new pilgrims starting their walk to Santiago.

You see Sarria is about 100kms from the end, and for thousands and thousands, 100kms is all they can –or want to do.

They arrive by train twice a day by the hundreds, – all bleary eyed from their travels, all with that fresh face of excitement, and all looking for an official store where they can get their “pilgrim’s passport.”

The “pilgrim’s passport” is a document that identifies us as a pilgrim, and provides proof that we have walked, cycled or ridden on horseback, the required distance to gain yet another document, the “Compostela” or certificate of completion – the Holy Grail for those of us on this holy trail.

As we pilgrims travel the Way of St James, we get our passports stamped from albergues, hotels, churches, bars, and restaurants. The stamps are pretty cool and these passports get us discounts and along the route.

The whole reason we get these stamps is to prove to the folks working in the Pilgrims Office at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela that we actually did walk the walk. Or biked the walk. Or horseback rode the walk. Yep, you can ride a horse on the Camino – but no scooters or electric bikes. And no, I don’t know if the horses get one or only those who rode them.

There are two types of compostela certificates: one is in Latin, and is issued to pilgrims who declare that they did the camino for religious or spiritual purposes.

The second certificate is for those who did it for cultural or historical purposes. This one is written in Spanish.

Ok, you still with me here, cuz here is where it gets interesting.

To receive a compostela, you must have completed the last 100 kms of the camino if you are walking or on horseback, or the last 200 km if you rode a bicycle.

That’s right, folks who show up in Sarria and walk just 100 kilometers – that’s just 62 miles – get the same certificate as those of us who have walked 500 miles.

Sorry, but I think that’s just whacked. Some dude shows up and strolls into town and gets the same piece of paper as those of us who walked 500, 400, 300, and 200miles, got blisters, wind burns, sun burns, colds, sprained ankles, diarrhea, and hangovers?

I gotta tell you – I’m kind of pissed.

I know, I know, not very Christian of me, but there I said it. I mean, it’s like they’re handing out ribbons just for showing up!

When I first arrived in Sarria, the town that officially marks the 100kms distance, I was getting all high and mighty and throwing shade at all the new arrivals. All these new pilgrims with their matchy-match t-shirts and enormous backpacks, all smelling fresh and clean.

But this morning – that high mightiness melted away. There was something in the air – besides the fresh smell of soap, shampoo, hair gel, and perfume…. these people were full of excitement, and they were a bundle of nerves.

Just like me when I started!

They were trying to figure out how to walk with their new hiking poles, how to carry their heavy backpacks (many fell, as those of us starting 500 miles ago did), where to eat, how to grab their water bottles from their packs – and how to correctly say the pilgrim greeting, “Buen Camino” which means “good way.” (((FYI it’s pronounced bwin Camino))

It was a good way for me to start the day. Despite the rain and mist that chilled me to the bone.

The newbies gave me a shot of much-needed adrenaline… which I needed to navigate thru the cow fields which just happen to share the official trail. Yep Holy Cows were seen, heard and smelled today.

I also met a holy man – a young man – 27 years old – from Canada here with his family. He’s a newly minted priest. He’s struggling with the walk, and I gave him some words of encouragement and advice – Drink plenty of water, add electrolytes, don’t get upset by all the kids having sex in the albergues, and yeah, it’s ok to pee along the road – just remember to raise your robe!

And then I left him and he blessed me.

A few minutes later I posed at the 100kms mile marker – the end is soooo close.

And you know what, I don’t care. Let the newbies have their certificate, so what if it’s exactly the same as mine, so what if they didn’t walk 500 miles – at least they’re here, they’re trying, and that’s ok in my book. And here on the Camino we’re all sinners, winners, and at times …. losers.

….Baby even the losers

Get lucky sometimes

Even the losers

Keep a little bit of pride

They get lucky sometimes….”

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