The community spirit is incredible. At pilgrim meals (restaurants often offer special ´pilgrim menus´) you hear Spanish, Italian, French, German, Korean, Japanese, as well as English in the accents of Brits, Australians, and Americans, though Americans are definitely a minority. Yet every pilgrim offers the one phrase we all share, ¨Buen Camino!¨ When you run into someone you met at a meal or in one of the refugios or walked with, you light up like you just met your long lost brother or sister.
I bonded instantly with Kari from North Carolina, who is walking to mark her 50th birthday. Sadly, we will be splitting up tomorrow because she has a much tighter schedule than I do. But it has been a delight to walk with her for the last 3 days, and we are sharing a hotel room in Pamplona tonight.
I wish I could upload photos, but since I don´t have that capacity, I will just offer some verbal snapshots--
- the sound of the bells that the Basques tie around their horses necks as we climbed out of Orisson the second morning
- the fat black slugs that crawl across the path every few feet, as well as the snails with their shells of translucent amber which are rarer but very beautiful
- wildflowers blooming along the path--scarlet poppies, pale pink primroses, violet foxglove, and others that are white and yellow and blue whose names I don´t know
- the cheery greeting of ¨Buen Camino¨from a woman in the window of a house in one of the many small villages we pass through
- crowding into a cafe after a couple of hours of walking to order breakfast or a snack
- sitting around a table in village bar drinking the local wine or beer and sharing stories of our walk that day, or why we are doing this crazy thing at all
- the blessing of the peregrinos at the pilgrim mass in Roncesvalles the second night, in an ancient church where pilgrims have been blessed on their way for hundreds of years
- walking through forest mists, where pilgrims emerge and then disappear in an eerie fog
- being greeted by a horse that crossed the path, its bell gently clanging, and paused a moment to nuzzle my hand
- sheep clustering on a hillside of impossible greenness
- the windowboxes and pots of geraniums and tulips in the windows of houses
- the smell of garlic frying as we wind our way through a small village
Just four days in and it is rich beyond measure.