5. Buen Camino: Robin

   Posted by: aman   in Other

P told me how after her husband had passed away, for many days, a Robin appeared in her room. It kept coming back, especially when she was struggling with some hindrance in daily living. I asked if it had showed up here, on the walk, around 2000 kms from Milan. She said yes, each day on her walk she had sighted a Robin. Faith, and its physical manifestation.

We walked on, like the Magi Eliot writes about:

the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.
A hard time we had of it …

The villages were not hostile or unfriendly. Eliot is a poet, he writes with intensity. I was just witnessing closure from villagers when they had nothing to offer. D was a riot. Happy, confused, asserting to herself it was ‘my Camino’. We didn’t talk too much, we walked alone, each of us, and together. I found myself receiving chocolate bars. Dark chocolate is sheer energy. We crossed Jo and she said, ‘You need not walk alone. You can also walk for others.’

After that, for a few steps, or for half a kilometre or more, I recounted someone or the other who had crossed my life in the past and I walked along with them. In my head we talked, we went over the happy and sad times we had both encountered together and separately.

I remembered when I had held a hand, when I had left it. I recounted the reasons I had left the hands I had once held. Again and again, the reason came back to ‘faith’ that I or he/she had lacked. A mismatch in faith.

Faith. That is what you need when you have already walked 15 or so kilometres, it is 2 in the afternoon and the signposts to the restaurant in Salceda you have been looking at for the last two or more kilometres leads you to a garden in an opening between trees, with wood benches and a font of water but the doors turn out to be closed. Your stomach does not allow you to take another step. But you sit down, rub your legs, drink some water, and get up and walk again … Chocolate helps as does the knowledge that today the walk is not as long as the previous day.

You get food but for that you take a detour but now you are looking at Arca do Pino. As you reach there you find a Santiago Information Centre. It took me all these days to find it! I wanted one in Sarria. But if I could reach until here without one, I wonder why has this appeared now? They tell us Pino is full.

‘Thank you, f*** you!’ I didn’t say anything. My calves were lead, my feet immobile, my back ached from the weight of my clothes. I had been discarding shirts the past few nights, but they were still too many. I had packed too much.

The lady says, ‘A few kilometres ahead, you will find Pedrouzo.’

I was tired and also getting angry. ‘Promise? If we do not find shelter there, we are coming back right here and sleeping in the office.’ I know I can’t. I can’t walk back that much. The nights are chilly, one has to have a shelter. ‘Take right from next T point.’ No more conversation. No promises made.

We walked, we had no choice. We reached a long unending road through fields and found more people standing. All confused. No one knew where we might find shelter. A woman was coming back from the road ahead. ‘No room. I went a couple of kms, I did not find anything.’ Another man is coming back. ‘No room there. We have to find something in the village Pino we left behind.’

Now it was a choice, a real choice. Pino was behind, we knew it was full. The woman at the Information Centre had not promised anything but said there is something ahead. P was tired. D was weary but smiling. I knew I did not want to go back but had no strength to go ahead. E’s admonition came to mind. ‘Walk! Don’t stop’. We started walking and reached another road cutting in perpendicular the one we were walking on.

Crossroads. Now what? Only one direction could maybe take us home, other three were misleading. We did not have enough strength left in our legs to spread out and converge again. We had done as much walking today as we did in the last few days. The detour for food and moving away from Pino. Must be another 31 kms. We knew the road that crosses ours is the highway to Santiago. Cars whizzed past. They will cover the next 20 kms in 15 mins. We had a night to consider. we could not spend it in a jungle. It was 5 PM. Soon it would be dark. We were alone, the group we met did not restart with us. Others went back to a full village. Now what?

A Robin lands near us. It flies away. P smiles, D and I smile.

We take the path to the left. We can’t see very far on it because the road curves towards us. We step in faith. It was all real, the roads, the shelters, the people, but we were ignorant, we didn’t know what to do and so we stepped in faith.

Lo and behold! We are at Pedrouzo.

I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

I should be glad of another death.


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