I know, I know, I know this much is true – Spandau Ballet, 1983

Camino Day 31, Sabado 10th Octubre. 739 klms. Arzúa, A Coruña, Galicia, España.

Today turned out, accidentally, to be our longest walking day at just under 31 klms. The benefit though is that tomorrow (and Monday, the last day) will be sub-20.

But first …

[Today’s swarm report. Two quotes, and no, I didn’t make these up, nor invite them.

1. overheard this morning in a café about 6 klms out of Palas del Rei … “quick, before the Germans arrive”
2. “they are like the yellow plague”, (referring to the bright yellow bandanas and/or caps they all wear).

Some commentary from me a bit later.]

We again left before sunrise. The photo below isn’t particularly good quality, but it shows the crystal clear sky with the moon looking down at us. It was a beautiful start to the day.

Setting out,  Palas del Rei

Some more photos in a while, but first today’s musing. I read the following quote on FB last night or this morning. The person said “I was a true pilgrim insofar as I …”. The comment has been with me all day. Firstly, because a “true” anything (pilgrim in this case) implies that there is also an “untrue” version. This does not accord with my mostly held view of the world, which in essence is that other than in the most rare of cases there is no true/untrue, right/wrong, black/white, etc. My view is that almost everything is a shade of grey, so to speak, and that absolutes don’t exist. And secondly, even if there was such a thing as a “true” pilgrim, what would he/she look like or do. Here’s a selection of rhetorical questions…

. does a true pilgrim stay in albergues, or are hostels, pensions, hotels OK?
. or does a true pilgrim camp out, and then is that in a tent or under the stars?
. does a true pilgrim carry all his/her own stuff for their entire journey, or is it OK to get some/all of your gear transported each day or sometimes?
. does a true pilgrim walk with a single pole which they sourced or cut from the forest. What if they purchased a walking stick, or used “proper” walking poles?
. how far does a true pilgrim walk?
. must a true pilgrim make their journey for religious or spiritual reasons, and does a true pilgrim go to mass every day?
. can an atheist be a true pilgrim?
. and probably many more …

There is no single answer to any of these or a range of others, I think, beyond “it depends”. I answered these for myself many months ago when I asked myself why I was doing this, and then started to plan accordingly.

Without getting too heavy, and as best as I can without judgement, I also found myself wondering about the group of young German walkers. Now I know that as a group they are on a religious pilgrimage. (I know this because curiosity well and truly got the better of me and I found them on the web and got a better idea of who they are and what they are doing. I know also that their leader is a bishop.) I have “moved on” from my emotional reaction of a couple of days back, which was primarily based on sheer volume, and I now observe (and question) from a more dispassionate, more intellectual, perspective. This is what I have observed: they are carrying very little (mostly small day packs, or sometimes nothing); they are transported back to their accommodation each afternoon by their buses; they have one or two support vehicles which track them and provide food, water (bottled), medications and the like; many are dressed for a “stroll” with their friends (jeans, sneakers, etc); they have their music; they happily chat with each other as they go along, sometimes incessantly; they seem fairly strongly focussed in ensuring that their credentials are frequently stamped. Now whilst this is quite different to the approach which J and I have taken, there is nothing “wrong” per se with any of these individually, or collectively, and I am not criticising it. What I am questioning though, is this: since this is clearly stated as a spiritual tour, and yet as per my observations there seems to be little or no challenge in it (other than to walk a few kilometres each day) I wonder what they are really learning? And then secondly, I wonder what example their adult leaders think they are setting for these young people. In my experience anything really important normally has some degree of difficulty or challenge associated with it, in order to cement it as something worthwhile, and I would have thought that this would definitely have been the case here, for these young minds. So I’ve observed a dichotomy which at this point I’ve not been able to reconcile in my head.

And to point out the obvious – the link between these two is about what’s “true” and whether the young people, and their leaders, are being true to their values, whatever they are.

Today’s musing over…

We ended up walking longer then expected today. Part of that was because last night’s digs were about 1 klm on the other side of town, but mainly because I misinterpreted the guide book, and that simple observational error added another 3+ klms to our journey. So when we eventually got to Arzúa the bones were a bit weary. And then we had to track down our Turismo Rural, which we knew was out of town (duh!), and we knew spoke no Inglis, and get them to come and get us.

We left with clear skies, which a little after midday turned into drizzly rain. Much of today’s walk was along quiet country roads or paths through the forests. What I couldn’t help but observe were the number of eucalyptus plantations. I didn’t really count but there must have been at least 30 of them (including the ones we saw yesterday also). Yesterday’s seemed mainly to be Blue Gums; today’s I am not so sure of. There was one point though where we were walking past what for the life of me looked like Karri trees. It was almost as if we were in Boranup!

I have mentioned previously, and often read on various forums, that the last couple of kilometres each day are the hardest, as one mentally steels oneself for that final push for home. I’ve now noticed it at a macro level – these last 2 or 3 days have become harder as we get to the ends of our journey. It’s not done consciously, but rather something that says “it’s almost over now – I wish it was now”. Not that either of us are particularly wishing a premature end, rather just that psychological thing that’s kicking in after 700+ klms and with so few days to go.

Out here at Casa Assumpta we are a bit isolated and “friendless”, after an extremely social past few days. We had a brief but quite interesting chat with a couple of brothers from Jamaica along the way today. I hope we get to see them again, but I’d suggest that the odds are against it.

To end, some pictures (photos are becoming less – in part due to that psychological end thing I mentioned above, and in part due to the broken lense on the big camera, which has meant I’ve become a little less photo focused, if you’ll excuse the pun):

Puente Velha, near Melide

Pulpo, A Garnacha, Melide

50 to go

Just one group of many fungi

Bridge 1, near Castañeda ?

Bridge 2, Ribadiso, dating back to at least the 1500s

ps – as we live in this interconnected world, many readers of this blog are also connected to J and I on FB. Friends of ours are spending weekend at our home. We arrived to our accommodation last night (as it is now) to be greeted by the funniest, funniest creative send-up of our travel posts from our house, on FB. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

2 thoughts on “True

  1. Gill Thomas

    Peter , I notice you have a different pack on. Our leader at Kokoda had one like yours and said the weight was evenly distributed, rather than on your back only. How have you found it and should I get one??


    1. Hi Gill … I love it. The brand is Aarn, made in New Zealand. Haven’t seen more than say 6 of them here, out of thousands of packs. Very clever design, I found the weight balance good, and the two front packs give easy access to all the stuff one needs on an immediate basis (that is, without having to take the whole oak 2 off to get to stuff). The design shape didn’t suit Janet, so she didn’t get one, but of the 6 I have seen here, 3 were on women, so it may work for you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s