Is it excitement? Anxiety?
For whatever reason, I wake up early, pack up, and leave the albergue as Christina is waking up. I can’t wait. I need to get on the road.
You know by now that Christina, the boys, and I – my Camino family – share our fondness, no, our need, to sleep late on the Camino. So this is very unusual for me.
But the sun is shining, the mist is disappearing off the fields, and I can’t stay in bed any longer. By now it takes me only about 15 minutes to go from bed to packed and out the door. Quite an achievement.
The Saints have me covered. The Camino consistently provides what, and who, I need. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Every day is filled with more joy and adventure than I could ever have expected.
I would meet Christina later today, somewhere, somehow. We hadn’t spoken about meeting up but I know we will.
I walk through tiny, rural towns, with chickens nonchalantly crossing the road to get to the other side. Horses lazily swish their tails as they watch me follow the yellow arrows down the lane between houses.
Dogs bark in the distance and I pass new cars parked in old converted stone stables next to quiet stone houses.
I am invisible and I don’t disturb these scenes. I photograph them in my mind and will remember them forever.
I pass small village parks and picnic areas made ready for the passing pilgrims, with fresh, cold running water and well-trimmed lawns and hedges. Rustic towns and villages show their surprisingly cosmopolitan edges.
Local people might seem to be of another world but they are surely part of mine and I am the newcomer. Their worldliness makes me smile and I shake my head at my own biases and incorrect assumptions.
I walk past an encampment of tents, the first time I’ve seen tents on the Camino.
I will later learn that they belong to an Irish Church youth group whose leaders take about 20 young people on this section of the Camino every year. They arrange with a local tour guide who sets up their daily camping spots and who goes ahead with the van carrying packs and food.
The young people walk from camp site to camp site and set up when they meet the van. They have dinner, talk, sleep, and breakfast and breakdown the site each morning. It explains all the young people racing up the hillsides laughing and singing. I thoroughly enjoy their exuberance and energy and absorb their excitement.
I hear two of them coming up behind me on a rocky, narrow wooded path. They are singing rap songs at the top of their lungs. There are other pilgrims going uphill and they are passing them all.
Dappled shades of green color the rocks as the sun shines through the new leaves. Birds are singing and there may even be a stream nearby. But the rappers closing in on me from behind present me with a dilemma.
Can I ask them to stop singing?
I don’t mind singing, I don’t mind rapping. But here, in this setting, it seems inappropriate. If I ask them to quiet down, will I just be an old fogey? Will they ignore me and keep on doing what they’re doing? Will they give me a hard time? Do I just forget it and let them sing their way into the future? Am I asking for trouble?
Their fast approach demands a decision on my part.
They climb on the rocks next to me, rapping away (I don’t think they understand the lyrics, either). They clearly have no clue that they are being so loud. I smile and nod.
Then I say, smiling, “Por favor, como un iglesia (Please, like a Church),” as I indicate the surrounding woods with a nod. I don’t know what language they speak so I go with Spanish. With my clothes and my pack, they can clearly see that I am a pilgrim who has been in it for the long haul.
They look at me, look at each other, and continue walking and singing.
Then, within 10 steps, they stop singing as if on cue. They don’t say a word as they silently hop from rock outcropping to outcropping on the trail. The birds and, yes, a stream, become the music of the Camino once more.
I thank Big Tess for giving me the guts to ask for quiet and risk being seen as a cranky old person who doesn’t like new music.
I also silently thank the adult leaders of this youth group who have created a considerate, friendly and cheerful group of young pilgrims. In a few hours I will meet up with one of the leaders and I will tell him of the incident and will point out the boys involved. I will tell him how impressed I was with the consideration and respect the boys had for the Camino and for me!
He gives me a little of their background, where I learn they’re Irish, they camp, etc. I again tell him that the boys are a credit to the group and to their leaders and they should be proud. I want to make sure the leader understands that the boys behaved well.
He does and is happy.