Saturday, February 18, 2012

Camino Entry 4

((Note: Should anyone want to know more about the mountain of Montserrat (and let's face it, who doesn't? Especially since the holy grail is supposed to have resided there for a time), I've included a link: ))

Day 4, November 28th
54.9km completed to date

Expenses, Day 4
Train: 1.45
Candle: 1.00
Banana: .38
Candle: 2.20
Postcards: 3.30
Dinner: 10.00
Total: 18.33
Trip Total: 129.14


I’m glad I didn’t cross that bridge in the dark. That was some frogger shit.

Left ankle is acting up same as the right, now. I have them both set up the same way. I hope this problem doesn’t get any worse – if it does, I’ll have to buy different shoes.

Children’s handprints on the wall above the church candle racks in Esperreguera.


Only 14.7km kilometers completed today, but that includes climbing the mountain of Montserrat! 69.6km total so far.

And I’m sleeping in a monastery tonight. The monks at Montserrat provide pilgrims with a place to stay for the night, free of charge. It’s just me and some German guy tonight (although I’ve yet to see him) occupying the pilgrim quarters; we each get our own room. There are three bedrooms, each with six beds – must be busy in the summer.

I can hear the bells ringing for sundown. That’s not something that you experience every day.

It’s a strange little community up here on the mountain. During the day, full of tourists, but as night settles in it empties out and only the permanent residents are left. Maybe a couple hundred, including the monks and the choral school? A tiny little island in the middle of civilization.

I must be very slow. The monk I talked to was surprised that it took me four days instead of two to make it here from Barcelona. I did finally meet another pilgrim, though. While I was getting my credential stamped a middle-aged guy showed up at the office. He was finishing here this evening and not staying the night, but from what I gathered he is French and has much experience with the other stages of the route. He mentioned that once you reach the Camino Frances it is almost impossible to get lost, which is good because . . . my wonderful English guide to the Camino Frances is packed safely in the storage unit in Barcelona! It was a dark moment today over dinner when I realized that.

But . . . I’ve seen another pilgrim. After four days of being alone and making shit up as I go (with varying degrees of success) I know that other people are on the path. I’ve spent four days meditating on how we are all truly alone, as no one can really know what another is thinking. Today was a gentle reminder that even if that’s true, we do still share the same path. Pilgrimages are not solitary events; even though the important battles must be fought and won in one’s own mind, there are always other pilgrims on the path nearby. The Tao says something to the effect of: “What are we if not another man’s teacher, what are we if not another man’s student?” (I may have misquoted that).

So today’s lesson is: no pilgrim is alone. There are two lessons now:

Allow others to be generous.
No pilgrim is alone.

The climb up the mountain was (of course) amazing. There are two things in Cataluña that every person should see before dying, and they’re both made of rock: the Sagrada Familia and the mountain of Montserrat. The view is amazing – I took my last angry fist-shake at Tibidabo, where I spent that miserable, amazing night three days ago (Christ, is it only three days?). The scenery is unreal – I actually caught a glimpse of the snow-capped Pyrenees – and the mountain itself is such a geological oddity that I defy anyone to find a place more interesting. Everything in Cataluña shows evidence of erosion (the whole region is made of sandstone, red clay, and mud) but the mountain looks as if it is trying to shake itself apart. Huge outcroppings jut into thin air, giant boulders hang suspended by a thread . . . it’s like the rock is erupting from the ground and splintering into a million pieces.

Tomorrow I return to Santa Cova and then begin the Camí Catalán (or Camino Catalán, or Catalan way, depending on the language you’re speaking). In a few days I will have to decide which route to follow; North to Huesca and the Camino Aragonés, or South to Logroño and the Ebro river. We’ll see how I’m feeling – for now, it’s time to write postcards.

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