I have never in my life been so wet. Galicia is living up to its reputation and then some. The rain comes at us sideways. It blows our ponchos up to our waists, and then the rain god chuckles and laughing, he whips the poncho up over our heads. We are long past trying to skirt the rivulets.
I can almost hear Noah’s wife yelling, “Forget the animals! Get on with the ark!”
I fell off the pilgrim way today and took a taxi the last 12Km. For those of you who don’t know THE RULES, let me explain. The credential awarded on reaching Santiago de Compostela is only based on the last 100Km you have walked. If you have walked from France or Germany or Italy (as many have), but you have faltered the last 100Km, you are out of luck. This seems incredibly stupid to me. So much so, that given my ongoing foot issues and now stomach pain from taking too many pain killers, I am throwing the award of my credential on the mercy of the court. Either they cut me some slack and award the credential, or they dismiss me, and I dismiss them.
I think a real pilgrim would be less combative. Given my days on the pilgrim path, I’ve given a lot of thought to the degrees of pilgrim-ism. The highest degree would be awarded to the barefooted guy from Italy and the arthritic woman doubled over in pain. Moving down the scale, I’d give high marks to the pilgrims who walk to Santiago and then (as in days of old, before trains, planes and automobiles) they pick up their credential, turn around and walk home. Personally, I would like to recognize the very gutsy Canadian couple who were walking with their daughter, son-in-law and 18-month-old toddler. The next category would include all the pilgrims who walked without taking a day off. Down the scale, we have the well-intentioned who walk their own walk. Finally, we come to what some call “the Gucci Pilgrims” who mostly take their tour bus and walk when it suits them. At the very bottom of the scale are the cyclists who come up behind me at break-neck speed with no warning.
I mentioned gathering mushrooms and chestnuts in my last blog. I forgot to mention the saffron crocuses that we saw in the Pyrenees and now we are seeing again in Galicia. Given enough sun (that would not be today) the lavender petals open to reveal three stamens. If you cook Indian or Spanish food, you already know that saffron is pricey. I’ve always wondered why. Well, weather-wise, the saffron crocus is temperamental and with only three stigmas per flower, it takes 150 flowers to produce one gram of saffron. The harvesting of saffron is labor intensive. I should have brought blotting paper: I could be harvesting and drying stamens for re-sale on my return home.
Always a day late and a dollar short. Which brings me to the human-powered travois. For years I have suggested to my husband that I would like for him to build a travois-like contraption that I could pull behind me on mountain treks. I envisioned a travois with one large wheel flanked by two smaller wheels so that going over rough terrain, the travois would not tip over.
But my idea was hijacked by another entrepreneur. A couple of days ago, I saw a human-powered travois. Rather than three wheels, this travois had only one wheel. The stability issue was solved by straps that hung from either side of the man’s waist. Handles allowed the man more control. Another money-maker lost to the guy with the faster gun.
If I have mentioned the stone houses and barns once, I’ve probably mentioned them a half-dozen times, but they call out to me. I want one. At this point in my life, I want one with central heating and modern plumbing, but if I were younger, I could be tempted to save one. I love how over the centuries, owners have patched and patched again… making do… as one does. I also love the contrast between the old and the new. Here a 400-year-old barn… there a satellite dish or a 21st century bridge.