One of the goals we’d set as a team was to talk to other pilgrims along the way. While walkers across the world tend to be friendly and offer each other greetings when their paths cross, there is something special about the atmosphere on a pilgrim path like this one where everyone has a common goal, even though they might be proceeding at different paces. There’s so much to be learnt not just from inner reflection but also from sharing with and learning from fellow pilgrims.
However, despite making what seemed to many of us like an early start (up before 7am and moving out not long after 8am) we still seemed to be behind many others (perhaps because the free albergues are locked at 8 in the morning and you need to be at your destination as early as possible to ensure a place for the next night). Therefore, on Wednesday, we organised ourselves a little differently, with an advance team striking out early while others took up the slack in striking camp.
I was in that first group and certainly found that we talked to a lot more people that morning. Of course, some of it was not the early start at all but simply the fact that we were beginning to see familiar faces we had passed before, furthering the sense of camaraderie. It was also helped by the fact that people, ourselves included, were still fresh for the day and had energy to spare for chatting, which can be particularly demanding when you’re trying to bridge a gap between languages; one of my resolutions following is to make a serious attempt to learn Spanish (probably 75% or more of the pilgrims were Spanish or fluent in that language) so I can gain more from conversations when I go again!
Later that morning, we had our only experience of wet weather on the trip but even this was minor; a couple of light showers and nothing like the tempestuous Galician climate we had expected. However, the showers were more than compensated for by our lunch at the Ligonde albergue, run by a Christian group and the only one along the way to be offering free tea and coffee to pilgrims (a model of excellence in serving people and restoring their spirits)!
There was a less chatting after lunch. Again, the sun had come out and it seemed like a long, hard haul (over 24km in total) to make it to our campsite at Palas de Rei. There was a reasonable place to pitch our tents but we were a bit surprised to discover that the showers were communal – separate rooms for men and women but none of the private cubicles we’d become used to! On the other hand, it hadn’t been many days since the large demonstrations in support of the Make Poverty History campaign; sharing a shower and ample water with a couple of Spaniards you’re unlikely to meet again is a trifling privation compared to having to walk all day just to collect water so that your family and the livestock you depend on can have something to drink!