Hey there folks,
As you recall from my previous post, I have been volunteering as a hospitalero here in El Burgo Ranero.
And if you don’t recall because you haven’t been following my blog, then shame on you, peasant. Go on. The Follow link is to the right. I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve rectified your grievous error, we can get on with the meat and potatoes of this post, which is a brief introduction to the sorts of pilgrims I’ve come across.
Today our comfortable albergue was completo by approximately 2:30PM, having filled the 30 beds in short order. Not too strange, really, for according to my senior, the place has been completely full for the past several weeks. Prime pilgrim season and all. I hanged (yes, that’s the correct form, ass) the completo sign about the door, warning the late-comers there would be no beds in this albergue.
Ah, but the Way always provides! One doesn’t always need a bed to sleep upon, you understand.
Several hours later, a young Italian gentleman looking the worse for wear wandered into the albergue, acknowledging the completo sign as he made for my desk. “Can I stay here,” he asked in a defeated tone. There were no more beds and the municipal was not stocked with spare mattresses or the like.
“Of course,” I explained. “Although the beds are full, here is a mat a pilgrim has left behind – you are welcome to use it for the night on the floor.” Oh, how his eyes lit up, and he vigorously shook my hand a thousand times to offer his thanks. He explained how the entire village was full, how he couldn’t find space anywhere, that no where along his travels was he offered a mat to sleep upon in a complete albergue. Quite a touching moment, really, as this weary soul suddenly sparked back into Life by the simple offering of a mat and tiled floor. So ecstatic was he, he absolutely insisted he share his evening meal (and wine) with me – I obliged.
Ah, the stuff of Camino I tell you, comrades.
Yet the weary, but grateful, pilgrim isn’t the only sort you meet upon your travels or stint as a hospitalero.
Because I have traveled (mostly) on my lonesome, I tend to meet and greet a fair number of pilgrims upon the Way. Most are met with a simple nod and “Buen Camino,” as I stroll around at my quickened, yet leisurely, pace. Some are familiar faces from a local bar, a mutual albergue, or merely wandering about the many towns and villages one happens upon. Not to toot my own horn, but few seem to forget the weird American guy with long hair, tattoos, carved walking stick, and his hippie tunic singing to himself as he crosses the Meseta, or constantly writing in his many journals whilst drunkards whirl about the plaza.
Yeah, my crazy pilgrim moniker does hold water.
But enough about me, arrogant ass that I am. Let’s talk about the folks you meet out here. The couples striving to achieve something together – a renewed relationship perhaps – by completing this absurd walk. The religious person making a show of piety for their god, to alleviate an illness, ask for a blessing, or to complete the pilgrimage before their time is up. The young, disillusioned types who see no future worthwhile back home, so they saddle up and walk forth. The jilted lover, the jaded soul, the tramp and vagabond, the former drug addicts, the curious native, the naive first-timer, the veritable pilgrim.
Gods, so many different souls out here all walking the same path. From all walks of Life, they come together – if only briefly – to share a dusty path to the tomb of a saint: and we all have our reasons. Everyone walks their own Camino.
That, I feel, is the most beautiful part of Camino: an incredible motley assortment of folks are simply sharing together, be it a moment, a day, or the Way. And the pilgrims we meet, either on the path or in the albergue, will always be with us in some fashion or another.
Ah; the pilgrims we meet.