Sarria is the beginning of the metaphorical ‘U- bend’ of the Camino. It is the last town where one can start the pilgrimage and still receive a compostela.
I don’t wish to be unkind, and many peregrinos will probably disagree, remarking that I should be more charitable; however this is my view after a lot of consideration.
As you know, the ‘U-bend’ is the part of a pipeline where the detritus collects, and is a difficult and vulgar place to be after so many miles among dedicated folk. The whole Camino can become a shock to the system with the rise in prices and naked capitalism so far absent. I understand that the Spanish economy is in a dire condition right now, but one can’t help feeling like a shower to clean the dirty residue away. With about ninety kilometres to go, I’m beginning to get sick of it all. Not the Camino per se, but what it is becoming.
So why do folk do the Camino?
let’s start at the bottom, so to speak…
The Camino is a vehicle used by many as a place to pick up members of the opposite sex and enjoy a ‘holiday romance’. The wayside posts are littered with grafitti; messages of love and admiration and promises of future rendezvous possibilities. This strikes you almost immediately when you begin, and by the time you reach Sarria, it’s not uncommon to witness illegal acts of cohabitation within the dormitories.
Many folk are here for the culture, whatever that means. It seems that this is consuming as much food and wine as possible, and filling up the small aubergue kitchens with their things, forgetting that some of us need to use the facilities as well. After eating they sit at the only communal table and drink for the next few hours leaving all the dishes and pots dirty in the sink.
Sarria sees the final group of ‘credential getters’ arrive with just one hundred kilometres to reach Santiago. They walk in huge noisy groups with tiny, light packs, oblivious to those who have battled for miles in all conditions. Billy, is the example. How on earth she has made it this far is a miracle, yet she just prays every day for strength and is answered with just enough to get her through.
Billy and Eileen represent everything good and noble about the Camino. In my silence, I can rest in their company without demands and ridicule. In Portomarin, a Canadian couple thought it would be amusing to ridicule my hometown thinking that I was deaf and dumb. I pointed to my ears to let them know I could actually hear their insults. It’s amazing how many folk think I am a form of village idiot. It’s a real insight into the world of the deaf and dumb, something I’d never really considered before.
So Santiago is about four days away now and a lady who I met crossing the Pyrenees told me that she never wants it to end and crys everyday. She is another Camino heroine, hobbling along day after day and still here.
I remember meeting her for the first time and thinking she’d never make it, and yet she’s still hanging in there. Take note and have respect, new arrivals from Sarria. Turn off your damn mobile phones and become aware. Question why you are here…
I still don’t know, but it isn’t for the world… Whatever that means. Maybe if I make it, Santiago will give me some answers; however something tells me that my heart already knows…