Agés – Today was a pleasant change from following the highway, as we mostly had the last two days, to climbing into the forest of Montes de Oca. It was an ascent that had been spoken of for days, and so for me it was going to be a rough climb, but the air was crisp and cool and the shade from the tall pines refreshing.
I met a Spanish family who had been on their Camino for 38 days, and today was their older son’s 12th birthday and his request was to have a day without carrying backpacks. It was fun to watch them literally skip up the steep climb unencumbered. I think he made a good choice of day to ask.
Some pilgrims use a baggage forwarding service to carry their belongings to their next Albergue (hostel). It is useful if you have an injury, or just need a break from your pack, but some pilgrims actually pack in suitcases, and use the service instead of carrying their weight. We all walk a different Camino.
I met Swen today, who is a bit of legend among our slice of the Camino. Yesterday was Swen’s 70th birthday (but he still carried his backpack) and so people were singing to him all day, each in the custom of their country. This is also Swen’s sixth Camino. His first, in 2009, was after he had retired from teaching in Norway. He wondered what would come next. He is quite open about the depression he struggled with on that first Camino. “It took me 200 kilometers to break free from it,” which is about where we are on the journey. I wonder if he associates the fog lifting with this landscape. It is a common thread I’ve heard from many repeat-pilgrims of the Camino. They hardly remember the stretches where they walk alone in their thoughts, but when they come to a spot they remember, it is the conversation they were having that comes to mind.
I noticed Swen my third day when I heard a table singing “The Camino Song,” that starts,”it’s a long way to Santiago.” I asked him about it. “It was a song I learned my first Camino, taught to me by a Canadian.” I would hear snippets of the song sung everyday, but only today did I connect Swen as the source. He sings it a couple of times, people record it and then for the next hour I watch them struggle to learn it. Swen just sits in the sun 20 feet away, listening to them work with the song, making it their own. Nine days ago I had trouble believing I might complete this Camino, let alone five and a third of the way through a sixth, like Swen. But now I find myself thinking about my next Camino.
Medieval pilgrims had a tough time with this climb as bandits hid in the forest to rob and kill them for their belongings as they walked through. It is a part of the route that feels like it could have felt like this 1000 years ago, far from any modern noise of technology. I see ferns, a plant I have not seen in a long time. Some parts of these ferns look otherworldly.
I walk alone for most of the day, but when stopped, I always seem to run into someone I know and we chat. It is good to take a break today from all the Camino has been walking me though. Today I just walk.
A nice surprise is the appearance of prayer labyrinths. I stop to walk them and give thanks for those who built them. These labyrinths are spiral so there is only one path in, but I still stop in places to pray for specific people. If you have something you would like for me to pray, I have plenty of time, just let me know.
I stay in Ages, and have a delicious pilgrim meal of Paella, the first I’ve had in a pilgrim meal. Tomorrow is the large town of Burgon, and everyone I meet is excited to restock, or stay in a nice hotel for the night.