Camino de Santiago (revisited)
It’s been three years (!) since my sister and I embarked on international sojourn and the forty day trek across Spain, bruising our ankles as countless others had done for many lifetimes before. One foot then the other, day after day, for over eight hundred kilometres westward. The simplicity of walking brought us back down to what we were walking on.
This lanky, bleached haired Australian trekked sometimes in thongs, with camera in tow and notepad in pocket. And with the help of all those we befriended on the way, I captured what I could from the adventure, in my own, erratic special way.
I’d recommend this to anyone, in a heartbeat.
This piece is brought across unchanged from my old website, appearing just as it was broken into five parts and composed on a trusty travel laptop seemingly forever ago. Enjoy!
Camino de Santiago (Pt. 1)
Begin our walk across Spain – setting off from the foothills of the Pyrenees, heading ever west to Santiago de Compostella, and further on to the Atlantic Ocean..
The Camino stretches as far as you wish – for us, a good eight hundred kilometres from east to west. Here, there’s plenty of time for reflection and thought..
For those on the trail, you face a period of your life stripped back to near-bare essentials. A time where all you have to worry about is placing one foot in front of the other. A time when the most important moment of your day is your next meal. A period of vast socialisation. I chose also to make it a time without technology, in particular social media, creating a disconnection between those I know back home, leaving me with only those around me at any particular moment..
Here, begins a collection of notes ripped from my ripped, tattered, back-pocket diary. Thoughts of home, thoughts of the road. To give one of my favourite lyrics my own twist: ’empty wine bottles, full hearts, sore feet, and no regrets’..
As i hit the hay at the conclusion of day one, the tiredness gave into my thoughts of home and how we’d just walked twenty odd kilometres..So, now it’s night, I’m driving out through Warrnambool, out of Dennington, past Tower Hill and the revegetated patch for the local ‘big three’.. Oh the songs, and my home. Fields of cut straw forever as the sun set and I sat. Sat staring a a windmill, his silhouette, and the future of always walking always leaving, but growing ever attached. With feet out the window too, and the odd cat a’passing, I realised this is real. I am real. Human life is just emotion – and no emotion is stronger than love. I love my land, and I love this music. Come, feel the eight o’clock breeze as we march into the ocean, shake the clean crisp southern ocean water from our hair, and smile the biggest smile – now you’re starting. I’ve started. now we’re living..
Camino de Santiago (Pt.2)
Fields. Fields! Birds, birds, birds! And a broken lamp shade above us. Sun sets into my shockingly long, fading, bleached hair. I sit on a ruin, maybe a few hundred years old, and break down my hasty, loud, typical scarce vegetarian dinner. Escape the sounds of town by skirting the outskirts, and it’s.. (notes lost)
(A day later) my feet are a little worse for wear. No sleep, to the bar, where the group at large gathered naturally, and laughed and laughed and laughed over a pint or two, before receding back to the albergue for a vast communal dinner nobody could complete. Awesome, so awesome. Multiple ages (though typically young), and multiple backgrounds, multiple languages, yet one goal – happiness..
Now after shooting some hoops, a beautiful cup of tea and teeth cleaning, I create in the moment: the sky still alight towards the obvious horizon, even though it’s ten thirty. Only two stars light it up, and we expect tonight be cold like yesterdays. It’s cold up here on the plateau! The spasmodic yet intrinsically detailed spanish town sits mostly quiet and inexpensive around this upper storey staircase – rolling tiled roofs, their peaks like unbalanced spines; one tree peaks out behind the nearer house; a crane hints at redevelopment; and across, a light turns off, the last to do so in the complex – all that’s left is a European clothes line, clothes dangling until ‘manana’. It is night here in Spain, a good night for good people (even if I don’t agree with the pathetic cooking synonymous with the pilgrim menu – the ‘menu del dia’), and now we shall sleep a sleep in our single beds, before we do it all again tomorrow..
Goodnight! It feels great!
And I think, and sing: ‘let’s start something, bigger than us’
Camino de Santiago (Pt.3)
Lying in bed – I’m somewhat sleepy, somewhat eager to go out exploring. I know that rest for me is right, especially in my deteriorated state. And, what is more, the weather has blown in overcast from the south-west, and who would want to hang around an empty town in that? So, instead, I sit full of beans, shook beans, in fact more like a can of beans that’s been dropped on the supermarket floor and kicked three isles away.. and here, I let the thoughts wonder at the conclusion of an hours reminiscing – an hour of photos, music, and old text messaging – mostly those sent to Brendo en route to a gig or sent whilst the incomplete group sat wondering where he may be, whilst compiled in the regular booth, draped in the same winter glow and feel of ‘The Curtin’.. I think, we wanted to be there..
Along the Camino de Santiago, an old Roman route, lies Leon. The place is such a beautiful city! The language barrier we were up against made it difficult to absorb the history of the route freely – in Leon, however, we made our way to the Leon museum, for an injection of the regions history. Romans, Moors, Visigoths, and so on! Incredible! The European melting pot of history..
We spent ours here, but the following quote caught my eye more than any fact. Words..
“Landscape is memory. Beyond its limits, the landscape bears the marks of its past, it reconstructs memories, it projects the gaze of the shades of another time that now exist only as a reflection of itself on the memory of the traveller or on anyone who simply remains faithful to that landscape”.
Camino de Santiago (Pt.4)
‘To know, is to remember’.
This evening I’m feeling a little stretched. I sense the scarce, terrible excuses for vegetarian meals are taking their toll come week four..
The walk today was incredible – the fazing out of the crops, as we rose into the scrub/bushland, and further on into the heights of the mountains! I sit and I hope that this, this scenery, is what I can come to expect (and receive) for the remainder of the walk west..
A beat day. The most tired I’ve been in ages. Utterly spent. I found relief and distraction under a fruit-filled cherry tree, with an American smile, and I climbed a suspicious table to reach beyond the previous tallest person to grasp for hanging bundles of fruit..
Into the pages of ‘The people of the abyss’ I plunged – writings of hunger, pain, tiredness, sadness and complete loss. From the pages of a novel printed over one hundred years ago I escaped refreshed, embarrassed from my temporary ‘pain’. Well in to the fourth week I needed a wake up, a refreshment. This was it, and I left the day with this quote..
‘If one man lives in laziness, another dies of hunger’
It’s so green – a refreshing green, unlike the glaucous, bleached, hardy, and battered green of home. A new green, at least to my eyes, but no doubt an old green. Up ambles a path walked by us and those prior for over a thousand years. It winds around the trees. It’s framed by an ancient, crazy old wall, one so much so that the vegetation, the mosses, ferns and various plants I’d probably call weeds in another country, only rarely reveal that the wall may even exist..
In the under-darkness, here, the odd leaf catches the six o’clock Spanish light; the floating green..
Here, is a well trodden path – this is the single greatest, most beautiful segment we’ve encountered on the camino..
‘We must first forget, to access memory’
Camino de Santiago (Pt.5)
Galicia – the country of a thousand rivers (“o pais dos mil rios”)..
Each step couldn’t be counted. The eucalypts flicked past, so’d the hillsides of gorse (of which, the flower, or ‘chorima’ is considered the national flower) and pine, and so did everybody else on the way when we stopped for a light lunch and to throw banana at each other..
From the mind of Jack London, words to the effect of ‘a man needs his own castle’. I’m yearning or a day of privacy (or maybe three!)..
The end. One thirty in the morning. Realised when pen hit paper we’ve been awake since five yesterday, and I really smell like smoke.. There’s ‘soothing ocean sounds’ piping out of a phone on the simple bedside table, probably unnecessary considering the bottle of vino, the friends, unexpected roasted marshmallows, and the fire – in a traditional galician style, using the dead wood from the gorse shrub atop Cape Finisterre – the end of the old world..
Pamplona to Finisterre: eight-hundred kilometres. We felt the scope of what we achieved only somewhat. No breakdowns at the conclusion, no massive realisations. Just a seat with the view, at the base of the cliff away from the rushed crowd of tourists, with ‘March into the ocean’ playing though just once..
It’s the people who’ve made the walk so special..
I’m done: there’s no more descriptions, thoughts, observations of this here life along the Camino de Santiago..
To a playlist of Chuck Ragan, Gaslight Anthem, and Ceres, it ends. I want some new clothing, I’ve earned it! A new shirt, something that can survive the next two months through Europe. If I’ve learnt nothing, I at least now truly appreciate clean clothing..
Three years (and counting) have passed – blows my mind how quickly time flies.
For something more recent, how about some photos from my recent trip on the Wilderness Coast trail in eastern Victoria, here?