Everyone is different on the Camino, and yet we are all united. We are united by virtue of sharing the same path and heading in the same direction towards the same goalo of Santiago del Compostela. And we are all as varied as the day we were born. Tall or short, young or old, in shape or out of shape, smart or challenged, and so forth. So too, the reasons for walking vary from person to person. In general, though, I suppose it could be said that we share a need to explore what we might on such a noted, seasoned path as El Camino. Furthermore, we are equally different by the paces that we keep, both in life and on the trail. Some pilgrims confess to being on a tighter schedule, traveling between 20 – 40km / day. I’m not sure what the typical average distance is when referencing the ‘it usually takes 31 days from start to finish.’ But then again, there are so many distinct directions from which to start the trek; I’ve heard of some starting in Oslo, Norway, while just today someone noted another who started in Istanbul, Turkey. And everyone with a reason or a need to hike El Camino.
Today I was the last to leave our hotel in the morning, departing about 20” behind the girls. Carmel has accepted a slower pace and is admired greatly for her persistence and stamina. She has not complained once. The girls seem to travel at a similar pace, though occasionally separate, perhaps due to the conversation at hand???
I was on a pace to ‘catch up’ when I happened upon a new couple just beginning their walk. Both older women, one from Shanghai, the other from Transalvania. One was interested in learning from me and my family’s experience, as well as getting to know one another better. A much slower pace for me, but for the time being worthwhile as we talked, walked and shared bits of our lives. Eventually, however, I went on ahead to catch up. I put my head down, looking up occasionally to acknowledge the beauty of nature around me, but mostly walking and passing those I met. I passed two groups of young Spanish men, probably high schoolers in search of fun and female compaionship. I passed a foursome who mentioned having been on the trail for 41 days, and they walked the walk letting me know they were making the best of soar muscles. I should have asked from where they had started. There seemed to be more pilgrims than previous days, and it was mentioned that many people had just begun their journey at Sarria, the town we had departed that morning. Apparently, this town is just beyond 100km, which is the minimum distance in order to qualify for the official El Camino Certification (or whatever it’s called).
So the mix of paces and the mix of new / seasoned pilgrims made for an interesting day of interactions. There were some who seemed to be on vacation, traveling ever so lightly and meandering without a care or thought. These were met with others who at times seemed less tollerable of the neophytes, as though some rule were being broken and that their rights were somehow offended. In other words, some folks were friendlier than others.
Oddly, it’s amazing how people come and go throughout the days. You meet someone, walk and share, and then say good-bye when one or the other stops for lunch, or a lengthy water break, and the two never know if they’ll see each other again. Though it’s more than likely their paths will cross. This was the case with a friend we had met two days ago, a Methodist pastor from London who was traveling with her daughter. Carmel had taken a liking to her and mentioned to Eliah some regret for nor having shared personal information when last together. Well, whom did we see as Carmel & I finished lunch and were heading back on track. That’s right, this woman and her daughter. This time phone numbers were exchanged. And I have no doubt that we’ll see each other at least once more, even though we’ll be traveling at our own paces.