As we’d been so busy the night before, we hadn’t found time for the discussion originally planned. Therefore, before we set off, we spent a few minutes while Larry shared the thoughts he’d prepared on the topic of “The Christian pilgrim follows Christ”. Later that day, it was going to be my turn, looking at the topic of “Pilgrims use maps” and so, inevitably, Monday was the day when I got lost a couple of times!
Generally speaking, the route is extremely well marked out. Not only are there many signposts but there also wayside markers every half kilometre and frequent yellow arrows to guide pilgrims on their travels. However, we’d been warned that leaving Triacastela would be a little confusing as there was an alternative of the route to visit the monastery at Samos. I thought I’d followed the instruction to take ‘the right road’ but we should have gone right and then right again. Fortunately Abbey, who was accompanying Jane and I for the first section, was sharp-eyed enough to pick up that we were on the wrong route and so we turned back and identified the proper path before taking our first detour too far.
A little bit further along, fallen in with another segment of the team, we took another wrong turning. At one point, there was a fork in the path with yellow arrows going in both directions. Unfortunately, none of us was sharp enough to reflect that ‘pied’ (turning off to the right) signified ‘by foot’ and so we carried on what must have been the cycle route; perhaps we were distracted by the morning’s strong coffee setting our minds on finding some suitably discreet areas for attending to other matters!
In the vanguard of the wanderers, Jane, Kim and I were getting a little concerned at the absence of further distance markers and yellow arrows when we spotted Tim’s bright red T-shirt not on the road we were following but on a path some distance across a field to our right. Providentially, this happened just at the point where we could make a difference, as there was a narrow way snaking back up to the main camino.
I’d pressed on ahead to check the route and came back to tell Kim and Jane the good news. However, we were concerned that the other team members who had followed us might miss the clue and end up walking even further out of their way. By now I’d figured out where we were on the map and what had gone wrong but, although the road would have rejoined the walkers’ camino further ahead, it would have been an overlong detour for already-weary feet with the bulk of the journey still to go. On the other hand, what if they’d already turned back?
The answer was to turn to prayer. No sooner had I closed my eyes and lifted my hands than I heard their voices and footsteps drifting on the wind. Maybe it was just coincidence or because we’d quietened down ourselves but the words of Isaiah came back to mind: “Before they call out, I’ll answer. Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.” (Isaiah 65:24, The Message).
Reunited and back on the right route, we made our way to lunch (a most welcome chance to catch up with the whole team and refresh ourselves) and thence through the town of Sarria and onto our destination for the night, Barbadelo. If I’d been successful in getting the kind of detailed walking maps I’d wanted to find for the route then perhaps neither mistake would have occurred but the experience did add an extra dimension to that night’s discussion; we find our way forward with maps, experience and company!