Notes for a New Day will recount some rather older days during the next few months – journal entries from my pilgrimage on Spain’s camino in 2013.
My sore foot slowed the pace, but we walked to Arca – 22 km I think. A beautiful day and many pilgrims on the camino. There is a real sense of community now as you meet up with people who you’ve seen along the way. Even people we recognized, but whom we had never actually spoke to, seemed like old friends.
SMELLS: Today was filled with smells. Stretches of eucalyptus mixed with mint, patches of the most delicate sweetness contrasting with manure – and that’s everywhere, though usually not such a powerful part of the experience. We came upon a scene of manure being thrown onto a field – compost instead of compostela! – and that took the smell beyond pungent.
ALCOHOL: Most pilgrims enjoy the wine served with every pilgrim meal. Many are laughing about drinking more than they ever do at home. What seems obvious to me is that a lower alcohol content in the local wine, and perhaps more important, an absence of sulfites, makes the wine tastier and less affecting. It doesn’t go to my head in the same way as a glass of wine immediately does at home. And better yet, people don’t seem to feel ill effects the next day!
I’ve seen no signs that this is a culture plagued by alcoholism, but I don’t really know about that. I was amazed one morning in a restaurant, drinking my freshly squeezed orange juice, to observe a local man making quick work of a substantial quantity of vodka. It was 7:30 a.m. and no one seemed to raise an eyebrow.
SOUNDS: Sadly, I’ve heard very little music along this way. A couple of albergue-keepers have loved classical music and played it as background music, but so little local/folk music so far. Perhaps when we reach Santiago I will finally hear the famous Galician bagpipes. The bells have gotten most of my attention. Every church has two bells, and they often tell the time. The small bell rings the quarter hours, once (0:15), twice (0:30), thrice (0:45), and 4 times at the hour. And then the larger bell rings the hour itself. A charming addition to rural life? NO! The bells almost never have any resonance. Clunk, clunk, clunk…the sound usually made me laugh, or wince. What a missed opportunity for a little extra beauty in the day.
The albergue in Arca was new and seemed nice enough, but beginning at 3:45 a.m. it became very noisy all of a sudden, and we decided we couldn’t sleep anymore, so we left at 5 a.m. It was still very dark – the kind of “darkest before the dawn” dark – and we really didn’t know where we were going. Fortunately, a group of four young Spaniards were also leaving, seemed to know the way, and best of all, had flashlights. We followed them, along with a woman from Kentucky named Georgia, for more than an hour. At dawn we were three, picking up a fourth – a Brit named Deva, who we had met before – and together we walked the final 10 km into Santiago de Compostela.