Compressed

Sub-title: Lawyers

People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world

Jule Styne/Bob Merrill, 1964, Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl)

Camino Day 25, Sabado 3rd Octubre. 593 klms. Villafranca del Bierzo, León, Castilla y León, España.

Today was our biggest walking day … 31 kilometres.  Our total “feet time” was something like 10 hours,  even allowing within that for a few breaks for breakfast, 2nd breakfast, lunch, 2nd lunch, all of which did involve some sitting down.  But when we eventually made it into Villafranca we were most happy only to put our feet up.

Our walk today commenced from Molinaseca in the pre-sunrise glow. The weather app told us it was 1-degree. I’m not sure that it was quite that cold, but all the same it was pretty chilly.

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Today’s post is being posted some days late. No matter: an inconsequential rift in the space-time continuum.

The picture above is of Poneferrada castle – the 12th century Castillo de los Templarios, built by the Knights Templar (whose complete name was the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon). There is much to be said about the Knights Templar – their order existed from 1119 until 1312 when they were disbanded. They appear to have had a significant historical influence on much of the area we have travelled through. Apart from their roles in The Crusades and The Reconquista, their mission appears to have been the protection of Christian pilgrims on the Way of St James. Much more to research and tell here. A bit of trivia though – a local delicacy, Tarta de Santiago, an absolutely delicious almond cake, is traditionally decorated with a Templar cross dusted with icing sugar.

Time did not permit us to go inside and explore – we will need to reserve that for our next trip to España. But from the outside an absolutely magnificent building.

This said, Poneferrada was not kind to us. I managed to kick my good camera off the table at a coffee break and broke my lense in the process, and J somehow broke her sunglasses. The latter were replaced at a local optometrist, the former …. well, don’t ask.

A few snaps from today are below. The second and third are from the walk out of Poneferrada, through the loveliest and leafiest suburb you could imagine anywhere.

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But to the guts of today’s story, which has nothing much to do with lawyers despite the sub-title.

Just before we left we were asked something along the lines of “I want to know all about the people who do the walk – ages, nationalities, gender, what they do, everything”. So I’ve been keeping a sort of mental checklist.

And the answer is … very hard to draw any definitive statistics. Lots of French and Spanish people. Quite a few Italians too. Many Americans. A good number of Canadians and Aussies. Fewer Kiwis. A number from Germany and some from the Scandinavian countries. A handful from parts of Asia. 4 Russians as best as I could discern. 2 West Indians. 1 Guatemalan. 1 Estonian. Being silly here.

Average age, maybe somewhere in the mid 50s, but some as young as in their 20s, and quite a few in their 70s.

Gender – probably about equal, with maybe a slight leaning towards women. Probably slightly more sole travellers than couples (group travellers excluded).

Now it seemed to me that early in the piece almost everyone we met was a lawyer (attorney if from the US), hence the sub-title. And then apart from the lawyers (☺), the type of work people do/did is either very widely spread or just didn’t get talked about.

A highly influencing factor is that J and I didn’t stay in the albergues. It was very much the right call for us. And doing so is inherently less social, so those that do stay at the hostels have an entirely different social experience. I have written elsewhere about my fundamentally introverted nature – I think that the albergue environment would overpower me.

Why did I entitle this post as I did? It came from a conversation with Fran, an Accountant from Boston. We were thrown together at a table way back so long ago. He and I have similar personalities, and normally don’t get into the “big group dining with strangers” scene. I liked the guy. We mused about how we were both more comfortable about forming some route of relationship with a complete stranger in this environment when we wouldn’t do so at home, or at least would take much longer to do so. His view, which really resonated with me is that everything here is “compressed” – circumstances are such that you are thrown together and then torn apart in a way which just doesn’t happen in our “normal” worlds. It’s got me wondering again about the whole nature of relationships, here and elsewhere.

And here’s a funny thing – of all the people I met I think there’s only 2 or 3 I didn’t warm to. (I’m being euphemistic here – a more honest statement would be “when I met them I didn’t like what I saw/heard.) And the likelihood of them ever reading this is so remote as to not warrant being concerned about.

For my record, and for a bit of fun, here’s a list of all with whom I had a connection, even if fleeing. Absolutely no ranking in these lists – just as they popped into my memory.

First, for fun, the lawyers:

Melie from Florida
Rich from DC
Jim from California
Hank from South Africa
Michael from Sydney
Primo from the US somewhere
And about three others whose names I’ve forgotten

And then the others:

Steve and Clare from the Cotswolds
Fran from Boston
Tom also from Boston
Terry from London
Kevin from Maine
Rich and Patty from San Francisco
Kerry from the Gold Coast
Cherena from NSW
Veronica from Perth
Kerri from San Francisco
Helen from Arizona
Donna (and Jim, he’s in the lawyer list too) from California
John and Carol from Auckland
Patrick from Guatemala
Gerta from Estonia
Michael and Brian from Trinidad
Kevin from Maine
Krystal from the USA
Dozens who’s name I never determined, but chatted to briefly
… to be continued, over time and with Janet’s help.

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