Villadangos de Paramo, Spain
Well, as it turns out, the Camino is still the Camino. My feet still need daily patching. I still hobble around like I´m 80 years old every evening. The cast of pilgrim characters, though obviously different, remain the oddly random assortment of humanity that one comes to expect from the Camino - the late 50s Italian man who walks under the shade of a giant red umbrella and systematically flirts with every woman in the Albergue, the 40s Dutch woman who dresses like a hippy yet tolerates now noise whosoever after lights out even if she´s not asleep, and the American women in early 20s from the desert southwest who nonetheless cannot pronounce anything in Spanish. One thing has changed though, the lack of Internet cafes. The not-so-secret behind this blog in past is that I religiously sought Internet cafes when I could. These have all been replaced with in Albergue wifi, which is better in a way, but I can´t blog from my smartphone. So, my first post has been badly delayed.
Sidney and I have been on the trail for a week now, and Jimmy just joined us yesterday. The first couple days out of Burgos, we spent half the time getting passed along the Camino trail by a speeding SUV. Getting passed by cars is not totally uncommon on the Camino, when one is alongside a road. However, when there are trails, one normally expects to only get passed by the odd bike pilgrim who failed to give you proper warning. Yet, this SUV kept working very hard to constantly jump one step ahead of us. It turns out that it was a film crewing shooting some sort of Camino documentary (what a novel idea), and they were getting a bunch of background shots of pilgrims (us) scenically walking. Of course, by the middle of the day, we are not generally feeling all that scenic, and we got pretty tired of being passed with the ensuing cloud of dust. In the middle of one afternoon, we finally got a good look at the film crew as one of their cameramen, with long flowing locks, a beard, and a tank up, literally frolic-ed in a field with his camera. This man was prompting labeled Tank Top Jesus, and it seems that he and his various camera toting apostles have been stalking us on and off ever since.
On a deeper and possibly more interesting note, starting the Camino where we did teaches you something important. Sidney and I started in Burgos, which is just on the edge of the Messetta, Spain´s high plain that other writers about the Camino have described as ¨Nebraska without the Pizza Huts.¨ The town builders on the Messtta seem to have used an interesting building practice that I admittedly do not understand. Rather than build their towns up on raises in the undulating plain, the towns have all been build in the depressions. this often leads to the situation where you will be walking along, know that you are close to a town, and be completely unable to see it until the last possible second. While everyone likes a little bit of surprise in their lives, at the end of 30km of hiking, I am looking for more certainty than this build practice often affords. However, consistently, where the town suddenly appears out of a curve in the road, or you are in one of the bone flat parts where you can see the town coming for miles, the first thing that you always see is the church tower. It functions as the beacon that guides you into civilization. One can easily imagine that this has changed little over the centuries. The pilgrims from the Middle Ages on where guided in from the trail to the comfort of civilization by the tallest thing for miles around - a church bell tower. It goes to show how the Church has so deeply shaped this landscape. Each little town has their church with its tower. In most cases, it represents both the town´s highest point and its center. Most of the time on the Camino, you are guided by some version of the ubiquitous yellow arrows, yet there is something deeply comforting and theologically significant about being guided how by a cross lifted high on a tower.