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Pilgrimages

Just follow the yellow arrows

There is a little town just before Puenta La Reina. I wish I had my guidebook with me so that I could remember its name. As I progressed on the trail, I ripped out the stages, so as to lessen the additional weight that I might have been carrying. In retrospect, I am not really sure that I saved any weight, but what I did do, is deface a perfectly good book. In any event, I was passing through this little town and I became quite mesmerized with the lovely church square in the centre of the sleepy town. It was Sunday. It had lovely benches and play areas for worshippers, and visiting families, and I enjoyed the tranquillity of the surroundings. I walked on, and left town.

A few km’s out of town, I realized that I had not seen a yellow arrow for some time. There are a few rules while you are on Camino and being a responsible pilgrim, I generally take note of them. I stopped and contemplated that I might have taken the wrong road out of town. I had been walking on the main road, and this should really have been a sign earlier on for me to turn around.

Despite the tar road, there were many farms alongside it, and perhaps this was why I had not been alerted to my error earlier. Watching an elderly couple work their farm, I noticed the woman was beckoning to me. I crossed the road, and when I arrived within earshot of her, she spoke quickly in Spanish, and again I was so disappointed that I had not learnt the language prior to arriving on my Camino. It is amazing though that even when a language separates people, you understand the importance of what is being said through the gestures and concern on the messenger’s face. She looked very concerned and so I stood and waited for something to make sense to me.

I gestured to her and using my fingers to demonstrate what I was saying, I asked her whether I should be walking back in the direction of town. I know the word for “town” in Spanish is “pueblo” so I asked used this word in between my English words, hoping for the best. She seemed relieved when I finished my finger demonstration and she clapped and waved my along, pointing to town and also using her fingers to tell me to walk back. So off I went.

Arriving back in town, I quickly saw where I had gone wrong, and really if I had been watching, there was no way that I would have taken the wrong road in the first place. There were my trusty yellow markers, boldly displayed and telling me to walk in the opposite direction than I had originally to leave town, and so I was back on track.

It’s not hard really. The guidebook I had used for information on the towns and to learn the history of the particular area that I might be in. It was also a very useful telephone book for the local albergues in the area. But a pilgrim doesn’t really need this guidebook to tell them where they are going, or which direction to walk. You just need to follow the yellow arrows.

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