The camino does not seem crowded like I expected it would be. Normally about 400 pilgrims start out from St. Jean Pied de Port each day. Today I heard that it is 30-40. About half of those walking are Spanish followed by French/Americans, and then the rest of Europe. I often walk alone which I did not expect and sometimes I cross paths with some very interesting people.
The first group I ran into is 6 men ranging in age from mid 20’s to 60-ish. I can’t quite tell if they are Spanish as I don’t really understand them. They may be basque. We pass each other 2-3 times a day mostly because I’m slow and they stop frequently to eat and they always travel with a couple of bottles of wine.
I call the next group “my four Spanish sons”. These young men are in their 20’s traveling together. I saw them one day taking pictures in front of a beautiful old church and asked if they’d like one of them in front of the church. Si! First I did the long shot, then the medium, and finished up with a closeup of the four of them for “las mamas y los papas. We always smile at each other.
One day as I was going down a steep descent I met a young French girl ascending this hill. She was huffing and puffing. She stopped for a breath and I asked why she was going in the opposite direction. She said she’d been to Santiago and was walking back home. Brave young woman and I remember her when I want to complain about the hills.
Juan and the young man with the “Gard-zen”. Juan is the man I wrote about 2 years ago. It was a day that I was almost out of water and hungry as well. I saw him again in the same place. Of course he didn’t remember me but was pleased that I remembered him. BTW he didn’t get his bananas from Nicaragua this year, they come from Costa Rica. The Gard-zen is a food stand outside of Maneru. He hopes to add to his stand with more seating, a small (really small) theater where musicians can play, and a meditation spot. I wish him well.
And speaking of music…I’m in the square in front of the cathedral in Logrono. There’s a large Spanish family seated next to me and they are all singing. I don’t think my family has ever sung like that in public. They are so happy.
I’ll end with the Spanish family that I walked with. Husband, wife, and daughter. We limped along in my broken Spanish and the mother’s broken English and then realized that we both speak French very well. The daughter is an electrical engineer working at a university. She wanted to know where I lived and I told her I’d lived in Ohio my entire life except for 5 years in New Mexico. Her eyes really lit up and she said that ever since she was 11 and had seen the movie Contact with Jodie Foster she wanted to work at the Very Large Array in Socorro, New Mexico.
So many more people I have met along the way. So many of them so very kind. Even though the camino is a challenge (especially for the under-trained like me) it is truly filled with grace. I was ill for two days. I think it was heat exhaustion. Even though I tried to drink a lot I guess I just sweated more out. And there were many people looking out for me and taking care of me. I am so grateful.