Wednesday, September 30, 2009
As I opened the door yesterday morning, I could here other pilgrims as their walking sticks and trekking poles clicked against the cobblestones of the medieval city of St. Jean Pied de Port. On the way out of town in the predawn light and fog, I saw that the church was open, and I went and lit a candle for my daughter Michelle on her 21st birthday, my dad on his birthday, and one for all the pilgrims leaving St. Jean that day. As I headed into the mountains alone, I could see pilgrims ahead of me and behind me.
After an hour or so, I fell into a group with four others - Roberto from Italy, Romana from Austria, and a Spanish couple Mariano and Lily. At about 11 am when came across a small restruant in the mountains. Our dilemma, coffee or a beer. I won´t tell you what we chose, but I will tell you we were advised that beer has electrolytes. Roberto expressed well the reason for doing the Camino - the Camino is a microcosm of life - a way to step outside of the normal routine to consciously embrace life on its own terms.
We stopped for lunch near a statue of the Virgen at one of the highest points on the mountain with pastures with a sweeping panaroma. And, what an amazing lunch - The only shop that I had found open that morning sold meat so I only had ham. Three others only had bread and the fourth chocolate. I had feared that I would eat only meat for lunch, instead we shared a feast.
Tired in the afternoon, we descended on the Spanish side through a forest with its autumn leaves. At mass last night, the priest mentioned the countries represented that day in this small village - there were pilgrims from all over Europe, US, Australia, Argentina, Venz., Brasil, Korea, and Eriteria. I slept well in the alberque, which was a big room with 100 bunk beds stretching from one end to the other.
One last comment, giving rise to the small world title. The very first pilgrim I met - we literally ran into each other - in St. Jean is a very good friend of our friend Doug Kmeic. Martin, his son Emilio, and a film crew are doing the Camino, with plans to arrive in Santiago a few days after me. (John, when I return, I´ll send Martin a copy of our boat article).