Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 113 - El Camino - December 2010

For the past couple of weeks I've felt a little like the guy on the left. Talk about bloggers's block! I now get what writers fear so much, I can't imagine having deadlines and having to produce quality pieces for publication when the words just won't come together.

Life has just been pretty hectic with my days filling up with all kinds of unplanned events - I'm not sure how I found the time to actually work a few years ago, who took care of all these things that seem to fill my days now? I suppose it's all about priorities.

So right now my priorities are keeping me quite busy but my Camino is still an ever present - what shall I call it - event/destiny/reality? This blog has become a real part of that journey and I continue to be amazed by the emails I am receiving from the most wonderful people who already have, or are planning to walk the Camino.

Jeremiah Ray is one of those really special people, who like me, has fallen under the Camino spell. This young man from the USA has been fortunate enough to walk El Camino twice, most recently in December 2010. A few of us who belong to a wonderful camino forum were pretty much with him in spirit as he walked in Spain during one of the coldest winters Europe has seen in a while.

As I looked at fairytale photographs of a Spain covered in snow, I hoped that he would encounter fellow pilgrims and that the albergues would be heated! As it turned out he sometimes found himself to be the only person staying at a particular hostel at times!

One of the great things, for me, is how people start these journeys on their own and by the time they reach Santiago, they have met the most wonderful people, many of whom, it seems, become friends for life. Some often meet up years later on the Camino again - fantastic!

I asked Jeremiah, as my own walk is still so far away, if he would put pen to paper and allow me to share some of his experiences with the readers of my blog. He very kindly agreed to do so and I feel really privileged to be able to invite you along to discover the Camino, as experienced by a true pilgrim.

'I arrived in Pamplona from Madrid. The train ride was a blur as the transatlantic flight was sleepless one. On the bus from the station to the center I scanned every street for fellow pilgrims. I am not sure why I did this. I needed some sort of reassurance that others, like me, were on the move, heading westward despite the cold. Upon entering the bus I had asked the driver where I should disembark that would place me closest to the citadel. I figured from there I could find a hostel room or cheap pension where I could rest and prepare myself for an early start. He told me to “follow that old lady, she's also heading there.” I was surprised by his answer. My jet-lagged mind was expecting direction, advice... a name. Looking at the elderly lady I felt re-assured by her smile, it was warm. I followed her off the bus and watched in amazement as she scurried quickly out of sight. The day was freezing cold and, looking around, I noticed the streets were empty and the brave souls out-and-about were also scurrying in such a manner, fleeing to warm apartments, cafes or offices. I set my pack down and starting hauling out my thermals. “You're mad!” I told myself. “Why here, why now... why Northern Spain in the middle of the winter?” It was the first sign of doubt. I was tired, hungry, thirsty and beginning to doubt my decision to come to Spain in mid-December “just to walk.”

The sky was clear blue and I decided to walk a bit before finding food and shelter. I made my way to the center and allowed myself to get lost down the small, narrow streets. I remembered arriving in this city in 2006. I laughed as my timing always seemed a bit off. In 2006 I arrived in the midst of San Fermin. The city was a madhouse and the only pause in the insanity came when the thunder-clap of pounding hooves silenced the drunken masses. Turning down a small, cobblestone street I noticed an elderly man watching me. I greeted him in Spanish and asked about the weather. He was silent. I smiled, partly, and carried on. He was standing partially in a doorway and partially in the street. As I passed he held out his hand beckoning me to shake it. I removed my glove and gripped his cold, work-worn hand in mine and gave it a firm shake. “Buen Camino, peregrino.” He smiled warmly, his eyes shone brightly with the same intensity as the piercing blue sky above. I could feel his eyes upon me until I turned the corner and continued to loose myself in Pamplona. The hunger, jet-lag and thirst all melted away. This is where I was suppose to be, here, in Northern Spain in the middle of the winter.'

I've decided to publish a short piece every time I post - I loved his writing style and couldn't wait to read the next piece! I've told him he should write a book - I'm quite sure he could inspire a number of people to pack their own bags and head off to Spain!

Will you believe it, I think I've just overcome my 'blogger's block'!  ;)


  1. I'm afraid I'd get too much talking done to get any walking done. I like to sit, soak in the sites and people-watch too much.

  2. Enjoyed your post, and Jeremiah's piece, Emilene! Your block is well and truly bulldozered.

  3. Spain is one of my favorite places on the planet. I feel so fortunate to have visited often. I am very happy you have enjoyed your experience. It is exactly what life is all about.

  4. Margaret - You might surprise yourself!

    Robert - So glad you enjoyed reading. Your latest piece on your blog made me smile as I sat here listening to the symphony of angle grinders and hammers coming from my bathroom! (All explained in the next post...)

    JJ - Spain certainly is one of my favourite places in the world as well. It's going to be so special experiencing it on foot for the first time. Somehow I have a feeling it's going to be the first of many visits to the Camino for me...

    Anna-Marie - Nice to be back - thanks for the amazing postst you've put on your blog, I am enjoying each and every piece!

  5. Hi Emilene,

    That's the way you end those blocks, you just sit down and writes.
    Nice having you back. I was afraid that you already had found some religious inspired unwordly peace :-)



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