49 Days, but Who’s Counting?

Good Old Brierley

Two hundred and fifty kilometres from Porto to Santiago de Compostela… nothing, right? Certainly nothing much compared to the Camino Frances at almost 800 km. After I finish the Portuguese Camino I plan to walk to the coast and back and that should take a week or so. Suddenly I’ve started to count the days. I’m anxious to enjoy the packing, the preparation, the route. It starts to feel real.

All those cliches about how the Camino gets under your skin, how it haunts you, calls you back again and again are true. There are other cliches that I reject” The Camino Provides” when I walked in 2021 I provided for myself. For the scatterbrain that I am, I did fine in keeping all my belongings together, not getting robbed, not getting too seriously lost. Well, there was that time in Zubiri when I was shell shocked from the hellish descent and there was no place to sleep and somebody found me a private room and the owner of the place hugged me like I was her long-lost sister and…. Or that time in Leon when I was sitting at a table at a sidewalk cafe with three of the most incompatible ( for me) people I could imagine and this charming guy whom I had met in Zubiri, in fact, came sauntering down the street and I jumped up and ran and hugged him and whispered in his ear “ save me, save me from these people!” and he did. ..Or the time I fell and smashed my knee as I gazed up at some ceiling paintings in a cathedral and I was sure the Camino was over for me, but then I remembered some PCV cream I had bought for the outrageous sum of 50 euros in Pamplona and I dug it out of the depths of my pack and smeared it on and the next day my knee was just fine….Or the time I got to the Cruz de Fer where you are supposed to have a stone that you bring from home to leave at the cross as a symbol of leaving your burdens except that I didn’t believe in such things until I got to the Cruz de Fer and all of a sudden there was a crystal at my feet and right beside it a wild flower that bore the name of the woman who, we’ll never mind about that, but I picked the flower and put it with the crystal and part of what needed to be left behind was left there. But I don’t really believe that the Camino provides.

Before I walk I will do two weeks as “ hospitalera” in an albergue in Porto. I don’t even know what I will be required to do. Not cook… I told them I can’t cook. I suppose I will greet them, stamp their documents, change beds, clean toilets.., all in English or French since a couple of weeks of Duolingo Portugese has embedded about twenty words in my brain along with the conviction that Portugese operates under a deranged pronunciation code. I only just found out that Duolingo teaches Brazilian Portuguese so my twenty words will come across in a South Wales valley sing-song.

I walk in the gym and today for the first time in ages I walked in the big park very near my home. The sun was strong and some enormous icicles, built up ( or down) during a vicious cold spell, came crashing down with a roar like thunder.

So this is how I count down the days. These days are precious and interesting too. Count with me.