Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Camino Entry 10

Day 10, December 4th, 2011
168km completed

Expenses, Day 10
Breakfast: 2.20
Cheese!: 4.00
More Pastries: 2.20
Pensión: 18.00
Apples and mini chocolate donuts: 1.80
Coffee: 1.30
Total: 29.50
Trip Total: 278.23

I spent most of the morning in farmland again. I reached Balaguere, gumpy because of my lame breakfast, and devoured a pair of chocolate croissants. The city is pretty cool – it sits on a river coming out of the Pyrenees and has an old wall surrounding it. I left via one of the old city gates.

Now things are hillier, and the farms less prosperous. I’m headed for the hills again.

It is funny to see how the signage changes from one zone of the trail to the next. In addition to the ubiquitous yellow arrows, I have seen horseshoes (painted yellow), the big official signposts (sometimes with incorrect distances), orange arrows, fluorescent lime green dots, yellow dots, posts in the ground with seashells carved in the top, brass seashells on the walls of buildings, delicate hand painted Gothic text (C.S.J., 960km to Santiago!), and today a staff with a shell and gourd hanging from it under a freeway overpass, outlined in yellow paint. Different trail wardens all have different tastes, I guess.


It figures that not more than thirty minutes after writing that I found myself without any signs at all. They petered out outside of Balaguere, but this has happened before and I figured that it just meant “keep going straight” as it has in the past. This is how I ended up at a dead end dirt road in the middle of a field.

As I was consulting my guide a man came walking along. I asked him where the camino was, and we talked for a bit. End result: he says that he’ll show me how to get to Castelló de Farfanya, because the way is not well marked (no kidding). We set off across the fields.

Not only was the way poorly marked, but it has been totally obliterated in some places by farm equipment. It was all roughly parallel to the carreterra (paved two-lane highway), so I wouldn’t have been too lost, but it was good to have the guy in the blue coat along. It was very generous for him to walk with me as far as he did (several kilometers) and it’s the first time that I’ve had any company on the camino. The kilometers really fly when you have someone to talk to, even in my mangled Spanish.

The man in the blue coat is a local, but his family is mostly French (which is why he doesn’t have black hair and a beard, according to him). His brother lives in Buenos Aires with his girlfriend and he would like to visit but doesn’t have the time. A friend of his walked the camino from León and really enjoyed it. We talked about the weather I’m likely to encounter and he gave me some advice – apparently the signage is better in Huesca than in Cataluña.

Finally he had to turn around. “Esperes un momento . . . (wait a moment)” he rummaged in his backpack before giving me a little key (llave) lanyard with a compass on it. “Te acuerdes mi (to remember me).” Now it hangs on the back of my bag.

Martin was right – do not buy anything to take with you as a gift to Santiago. The gifts will come; people will give them to you or you will find them. My shell from the beach in Malaga, the arrow from the Amics dels Peregrins Barcelona, and now this little lanyard. I find a place in Santiago for it, so that he can make his own trip and visit his brother in Buenos Aires.

And I don’t even know his name! Thank you, walking guy in the blue coat.

I can only hope that I am worthy of all the kindness and luck (suerte) that the world is showering upon me. I must reach Santiago!

Speaking of Martin, I wonder how he is. I hope he’s reached the ocean by now, and that it is as beautiful as he thought it would be. His plan is to follow the coast to the Ebro estuary, work the sport fishing up the river to pay for his lodging, and continue south to Seville before heading to Santiago. It will take months, but he will avoid the snow that I may encounter. He is in no hurry and is braver than I. I hope he is well, I have no way to get in touch with him again. Maybe the records in Montserrat . . .

Tonight I sleep in Algerri, pop. 459, in a little motel off the main road. This trip is changing my definition of “small.” Hung out in the bar for a bit, drinking coffee and watching the locals. I do not fit in. Sleep now.

30.1km completed today.

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