El Camino: The RPG

So my impression of the pilgrimage has become FINFAL FANTASY XVIASDF: EL CAMINO, because walking it really is just like an RPG:

*The way is marked by official signs with yellow scallop shells on them, or in some places by fancier scallop shells the towns have put into the sidewalks or along the walls, and by painted yellow arrows that are slapped up in every damn place: walls, trees, lampposts, rocks, the sidewalk, anything fairly immovable. In towns there tends to be one every block or so, but in the country they’re more once a kilometer. In other words, it’s a sandbox world with markers to keep you headed towards the next level, and spotting the right markers can be a challenge.

*You have a limited inventory which you are constantly performing maintenance on, and you’re often forced to carry weird random things just in case they become useful.

*You run into the same dozen people through the whole thing. Occasionally they join your party.

*With each new stage you gain XP and get stronger/more tan/your Spanish gets better and you level up.

*If you want to skip particularly difficult stretches, there are codes available to do that. (They’re called “bus routes” and “taxi companies”.)

*The background graphics are amazing but the foreground is full of bugs.

*The final boss battle is looming. (A 1200 meter climb up O’Sobreirio.)

*It costs an ass-ton of money and time, and you can’t really tell until you get to the end whether all the times you wanted to throw your stick across the room and give up were worth it. But you’re pretty sure it will be. It got really good reviews.

El Camino – Alto de Perdon

Alto de Perdon.

That means “Height of Forgiveness,” and traditionally a pilgrm reaching this height was pardoned, even if she didn’t make it all the way to Santiago. The wrought iron statue of peregrnos here – a recent addition – reads “donde se cruza el camino del viento con el d las estrellas.”

And it is the path of the wind. Above me and stretching off along the hilltops are wind turbines. Their steady thrum contrasts with the higher, faster chirrup of a grasshopper nearby.

I am sitting in the shadow of a stone shrine much older than anythin ele up here, waiting for my parents to catch up and feeling the arches of my feet relax frm the long climb. My decidedly untraditional pedometer app tells me we havewalked more than 7 miles already.

Beside the shrine is a cairn. People have written on the stones they left, benedictons and rememberances. Hats and scarves are pinned under the te stones. Ribbons are tied to the peregrino sculpture. I have nothing to leave; the stone in my backpack I am saving for Cruzo de Ferro, later in the trip. So I kneel before the cairn and kiss my fingers to the stones, then I sit and I write, taking away intangible things since I have nothing tangible to leave.

El Camino, days 1-2

LAFAYETTE, WE ARE HERE.

Here being Barcelona! With all the time zone changes, we got here . . . Approx. 36 hours after leaving the house. So since the Camino pilgrimage – and indeed, all pilgrimages – traditionally begins with the first step out your door, I have been on pilgrimage since yesterday.

It is, as Bilbo said, a dangerous business, stepping out your front door, but thus far the worst we’ve had to deal with was non-functioning wifi in Heathrow and the hostel mixing up our reservation such that we have a room with a shared bath rather than a private.

This is my first time in un pais hispanohablante – a Spanish-speaking country – and it is an absolute thrill to be someplace where I can communicate with relative ease. I mean, I’m worried that when I greet people in Spanish they’ll think I’m fluent, but . . . Like, the guy checking us into the hostel was trying to explain that he’d had Mom sign the wrong credit card slip and I was able to act as an interpreter (although much to my amusement, that interaction drew as much on my recent experience running lots of credit card charges as on my ability to say “You charged this already – ya, ya-” “┬íSi!”).

Tomorrow, whether I like it or not, we are doing touristy stuff. I do want to see La Sagrada and La Rambla, which I guess is a market-y street, but mostly I find I am itching for the pilgrimage. Traveling and tourism (especially with parents in tow) are complicated. Walking is simple. Point me west towards Santiago and let me walk.