Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Numbers, numbers, numbers

It is mid afternoon in the Pilgrims´Office. It is cloudy with bursts of sun and it is hot. The slightest breeze gusts through the wide open windows and the whirring fans help. There is the delicious smell of fresh empanda in the air. Sandra, one of my colleagues, leaves tomorrow and has brought fresh Galacian pie for everyone. It is also Rosa´s birthday. “Trenta y tres”, she whispered. Oh to be 33 again. She has brought a box of Belgian chocolates. People make coffee and pour glasses of ice cold water. We have food and drink. What we don´t have is a long queue of pilgrims.
After - 4pm today
Yesterday saw the end of the August holiday enjoyed throughout Spain. Television reports this morning focused on the number of accidents on the roads during the Great Return. This morning pilgrims have trickled in. For everyone it feels like a day off. The atmosphere is almost tranquil and there is some talk of an end of August drink this evening.
4pm - No queue
One day soon I´m going to tell you more about my friends here in the Pilgrims' Office. Today I´m thinking about my friend and fellow volunteer Christine who left yesterday after a long stint of 6 weeks. Christine is a doctor and carer. She is quite the most intelligent and funny person I have encountered in a long time. This year, overcoming many odds, she decided to spend her summer here in Santiago with her husband helping out at the Office. August brought many challenges: the day we issued 2,477 Compostelas, the days of three hour queues, no breaks and much noise either from singing or unruly pilgrims. Through the joy of arriving pilgrims we also got our fair share of heat, impatience and bad temper. Amidst it all Christine was a model of calm. She greeted every pilgrim with a warmth specially for them. She spoke in many languages explaining particularly to children what the Compostela is all about. I am sure that many pilgrims this summer will have had their Camino experience topped off perfectly by meeting Christine. Today she isn´t here. We miss her.
4pm - no queue
Today sees the end of the busy period. I´ve used the calm of the day so far to delve into the depths of the database. The results are very interesting. I´ve heard stories from far along the Camino that the expected numbers had not materialised. A comparison with the two previous years proves this view with only a small increase in numbers leaving from St Jean de Pied Port and Roncesvalles and a marginal decrease in those leaving from Pamplona. Not the double numbers expected. That has been reserved for the departure points much closer to Santiago, O Cebreiro and Sarria in particular.

We will have a few more in by the end of today so the numbers for this year will eventually be adjusted by another 200 or so. By that point I am hoping to be celebrating with the others if that comes to pass.

The comparative figures are for the months from 1st January to the 31st August for the years 2008, 2009 and this year. Enjoy!

Departure Point                                       2008       2009      2010
St Jean de Pied Port                                11269     10953     12103
Roncesvalles                                            6889       7842       9824
Pamplona                                                3156       3035       2982
Astorga                                                   3801       4125       5608
Ponferrada                                              5083       6205       9070
O Cebreiro                                              6101      7485       15365
Sarria                                                      16192     20329    45533

Total numbers in the period from all routes:

2008 – 94,576
2009 – 110,326
2010 – 186,781

Analysis of total for 2010

Country Number of pilgrims

España 128907 (69,02%)
Italia 11103 (5,94%)
Alemania 9850 (5,27%)
Portugal 5857 (3,14%)
Francia 5811 (3,11%)
Estados Unidos 2300 (1,23%)
Irlanda 1638 (0,88%)
Holanda 1528 (0,82%)
Polonia 1392 (0,75%)
Reino Unido 1342 (0,72%)
Brasil 1308 (0,70%)
Austria 1235 (0,66%)
Canadá 1121 (0,60%)
Belgica 1026 (0,55%)
Corea 992 (0,53%)
México 961 (0,51%)
Suecia 818 (0,44%)
Suiza 716 (0,38%)
Argentina 695 (0,37%)
Australia 694 (0,37%)
Dinamarca 600 (0,32%)
Hungría 532 (0,28%)
Venezuela 518 (0,28%)
Eslovaquia 460 (0,25%)
República Checa 457 (0,24%)
Japón 454 (0,24%)
Finlandia 434 (0,23%)
Colombia 433 (0,23%)
Noruega 370 (0,20%)
Eslovenia 340 (0,18%)
Sudáfrica 178 (0,10%)
Ecuador 169 (0,09%)
Rumania 162 (0,09%)
Perú 152 (0,08%)
Chile 143 (0,08%)
Nueva Zelanda 142 (0,08%)
Rusia 136 (0,07%)
Andorra 133 (0,07%)
Uruguay 124 (0,07%)
Puerto Rico 114 (0,06%)
Lituania 110 (0,06%)
Bolivia 86 (0,05%)
Estonia 74 (0,04%)
Luxemburgo 68 (0,04%)
Croacia 66 (0,04%)
Paraguay 51 (0,03%)
Grecia 49 (0,03%)
Israel 49 (0,03%)
Bulgaria 45 (0,02%)
Rep. Dominicana 43 (0,02%)
China 42 (0,02%)
Ucrania 40 (0,02%)
Marruecos 38 (0,02%)
Cuba 32 (0,02%)
El Salvador 29 (0,02%)
Rep. de Corea 28 (0,01%)
Filipinas 26 (0,01%)
Guatemala 25 (0,01%)
Panamá 25 (0,01%)
Costa Rica 23 (0,01%)
Malta 20 (0,01%)
Letonia 19 (0,01%)
Taiwán 19 (0,01%)
Myanmar 18 (0,01%)
Nicaragua 17 (0,01%)
India 15 (0,01%)

Mode of transport

Mode Number of pilgrims

On foot 161422 (86,42%)

Bicicleta 24371 (13,05%)

Horseback 946 (0,51%)

Wheelchairs 30 (0,02%)


Gender Number of pilgrims

Men 105134 (56,29%)
Women 81635 (43,71%)


Motivation Number of pilgrims

Religious 100809 (53,97%)

Religious and other 75726 (40,54%)

Not religious 10234 (5,48%)

Departure point

Departure point Number of pilgrims

Sarria 45539 (24,38%)
Cebreiro 15365 (8,23%)
S. Jean P. Port 12106 (6,48%)
Tui 11597 (6,21%)
Roncesvalles 9826 (5,26%)
Ponferrada 9070 (4,86%)
León 8388 (4,49%)
Astorga 5608 (3,00%)
Ourense 4562 (2,44%)
Oporto 4015 (2,15%)
Ferrol 3715 (1,99%)
Vilafranca 3564 (1,91%)
Burgos 3005 (1,61%)
Pamplona 2982 (1,60%)
Valença do Minho 2737 (1,47%)
Oviedo - C.P. 2529 (1,35%)
Resto Portugal 2107 (1,13%)
Triacastela 2104 (1,13%)
Le Puy 1996 (1,07%)
Irún 1836 (0,98%)
Lugo - C.P. 1794 (0,96%)
Sevilla 1715 (0,92%)
Vilalba 1527 (0,82%)
Resto C. León 1512 (0,81%)
Samos 1506 (0,81%)
Ribadeo 1418 (0,76%)
Francia 1342 (0,72%)
Oviedo 1239 (0,66%)
Resto Asturias 1010 (0,54%)
Santander 922 (0,49%)
Somport 795 (0,43%)
Logroño 730 (0,39%)
Neda 671 (0,36%)
Holanda 589 (0,32%)
Lisboa 575 (0,31%)
Vigo 561 (0,30%)
Bilbao 545 (0,29%)
Mondoñedo 527 (0,28%)
Zamora 506 (0,27%)
Salamanca 495 (0,27%)
Gijón 484 (0,26%)
Porriño 482 (0,26%)
Ponte de Lima 482 (0,26%)
Avilés 467 (0,25%)
Madrid - C.F. 465 (0,25%)
Sahagún 447 (0,24%)
Vega de Valcarce 441 (0,24%)
Alemania 388 (0,21%)
Puebla de Sanabria 335 (0,18%)
Resto Asturias - C.P. 328 (0,18%)
Gudiña 323 (0,17%)
Jaca 304 (0,16%)
Abadin 304 (0,16%)
Frómista 272 (0,15%)
Resto País Vasco 272 (0,15%)
Laza 271 (0,15%)
Muxia 263 (0,14%)
Lourenzá 246 (0,13%)
Rabanal del Camino 239 (0,13%)
Allariz 235 (0,13%)
Fonsagrada - C.P. 216 (0,12%)
Baamonde 216 (0,12%)
Sto. Domingo de la Calzada 212 (0,11%)
Carrión de los Condes 211 (0,11%)
Resto Cantabria 192 (0,10%)
Bélgica 183 (0,10%)
Braga 182 (0,10%)
Verín 182 (0,10%)
Puente la Reina 172 (0,09%)
Otros 159 (0,09%)
Lourdes 158 (0,08%)
Resto C. León - V.P. 157 (0,08%)
Suiza 152 (0,08%)
Chaves-Portugal 150 (0,08%)
San Sebastián 149 (0,08%)
Mérida 141 (0,08%)
Xunqueira de Ambia 139 (0,07%)
A Guarda 135 (0,07%)
Hospital de Orbigo 133 (0,07%)
R.Pais Vasco 127 (0,07%)
Zaragoza 126 (0,07%)
Grandas de Salime - C.P. 125 (0,07%)
Granja de Moreruela 124 (0,07%)
Vezelay 120 (0,06%)
Cataluña 120 (0,06%)
Madrid 113 (0,06%)
Valencia 111 (0,06%)
Arles 109 (0,06%)
Hendaya 102 (0,05%)
Montserrat 101 (0,05%)
Barcelona 99 (0,05%)
Francia 99 (0,05%)
Resto Andalucia 98 (0,05%)
Fonsagrada 96 (0,05%)
Murcia 95 (0,05%)
Cáceres 93 (0,05%)
Resto Galicia 83 (0,04%)
Cadavo 82 (0,04%)
Finisterra 81 (0,04%)
Estella 79 (0,04%)
Resto de Extremadura 72 (0,04%)
Com. Valenciana 70 (0,04%)
Canfranc 69 (0,04%)
Monforte de Lemos 69 (0,04%)
Granada 67 (0,04%)
Tineo - C.P. 65 (0,03%)
Grandas de Salime 64 (0,03%)
Navarra 55 (0,03%)
Austria 54 (0,03%)
Resto Europa 51 (0,03%)
Córdoba 47 (0,03%)
Tineo 47 (0,03%)
Castilla la Mancha 45 (0,02%)
Italia 45 (0,02%)
París 44 (0,02%)
Vegadeo 43 (0,02%)
Molinaseca 41 (0,02%)
Nájera 40 (0,02%)
Com. Valenciana 39 (0,02%)
Castilla La Mancha 38 (0,02%)
Castrojeriz 31 (0,02%)
Salas 30 (0,02%)
Valladolid 29 (0,02%)
Huelva 28 (0,01%)
Cast. La Mancha 26 (0,01%)
San Juan de Ortega 24 (0,01%)
Roma 23 (0,01%)
mirallos 22 (0,01%)
Reino Unido 21 (0,01%)
Malaga 21 (0,01%)
La Rioja 21 (0,01%)
Badajoz 18 (0,01%)
Ortigueira 16 (0,01%)
Vincios 16 (0,01%)
Baiona 16 (0,01%)
Cataluña 15 (0,01%)
Grado 15 (0,01%)
Valcarlos 15 (0,01%)
La Mesa 14 (0,01%)
La Bañeza 13 (0,01%)
Polonia 13 (0,01%)
A Rúa 13 (0,01%)
Pontevedra 12 (0,01%)
Otros 11 (0,01%)
Otros 10 (0,01%)
Benavente 10 (0,01%)
Otros 10 (0,01%)
San Sebastian 10 (0,01%)
Dinamarca 9 (0,00%)
Rábade 9 (0,00%)
Republica Checa 8 (0,00%)
Inglaterra 8 (0,00%)
Fonfría 7 (0,00%)
Irlanda 6 (0,00%)
Finlandia 5 (0,00%)

Employment status

Status Number of pilgrims

Employed 43593 (23,34%)
Students 35746 (19,14%)
Technicians 22055 (11,81%)
Self employed 18532 (9,92%)
Retired 16681 (8,93%)
Teachers 13442 (7,20%)
Civil servants 10579 (5,66%)
Manual workers 9790 (5,24%)
Housewives 7133 (3,82%)
Temporary unemployed 4147 (2,22%)
Directors 1511 (0,81%)
Priests 1066 (0,57%)
Artists 913 (0,49%)
Farm workers 672 (0,36%)
Religious Orders 488 (0,26%)
Sailors/fishermen 264 (0,14%)
Sportspeople 114 (0,06%)

Ages of pilgrims

Range     Number of pilgrims

30 - 60 108457 (58,07%)

< 30 56361 (30,17%)

> 60 21963 (11,76%)


Camino Number of pilgrims

Frances-Camino de 131357 (70,33%)
Portugues-Camino 22917 (12,27%)
Norte-Camino de 11841 (6,34%)
Via de la Plata 9987 (5,35%)
Primitivo-Camino 5205 (2,79%)
Ingles-Camino 4410 (2,36%)
Otros caminos 525 (0,28%)
Muxia-Finisterre 344 (0,18%)
Otros 195 (0,10%)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Next please

The old town of Santiago is busy. Very busy. There is a lot going on. There is programme of organ recitals for the whole week and the street entertainment is amongst the best I have ever seen. The other evening outside of the massive Church of San Martin a family set up shop. Electric piano, drums, double bass, guitar and the mum on the violin completed a very special jazz quintet. The place rocked. It is hard to keep up with the variety of sounds and sights. One moment a group of singing nuns marched in line under my office window heading for the Cathedral. The next moment the skirl of the pipes squeezed out all other sounds as a multiple processions of Gallegos in national dress met in the great Cathedral square.
The queues for the Holy Door and the Cathedral have been unrelenting. People start to line up early in the morning and they are still doing that well into the evening. The Pilrgims´ Office has been frenetic at times. Last weekend was a local bank holiday weekend. It also combined with the major liturgical feast of the Assumption. Two great reasons for the City to celebrate. As if scenting a party pilgrims made their way in huge numbers to the City. On Saturday last we issued over 2,300 Compostelas. The staff got their heads down and almost everyone was happy when they doors closed at 9pm. All I could hear was the occasional “Siguente” or “Next ” as the ever patient pilgrims filed forward. Singing would break out in the queue from time to time to break the monotony of waiting for so long. Some very sweet scenes punctuated the day. “Next” went up the cry and a couple stepped forward. “Only one at a time please” my colleague said. “But we are finishing our honeymoon by getting our Compostelas”, they pleaded. Of course they were seen together with congratulations from everyone.
In they trailed. Pilgrims old and pilgrims young. “Am I the oldest today? ” Enquired Raul who at 82 had walked from Pamplona in 30 days. Assured that he certainly was he went off bearing his certificate with pride. Then there was young Gabriela who at 8 had walked step by step with her mum and dad from Oviedo. Sometimes there is disappointment. A young couple approached my desk and handed over three credenciales. I duly stamped the first two and wrote their compostelas and asked where their friend was holding up the third credencial which was full of sellos. That belongs to Petra they said looking down. I looked over and resting on the ground was a boxer dog. I explained that the Compostela is only issued to humans as a symbol of the spiritual journey. They weren´t convinced and went off really quite unhappy.

Those who have reached Santiago know the office well. It has a broad stone staircase which opens onto a dilapidated office. This is church property after all! The floor is old and is disintegrating. The legs of our chairs catch in the holes. When the place is full of pilgrims it can be bedlam.

 This year sees the fruition of a project to extend the Pilgrims´Office. The intention was to create a better environment which would be more pleasant for every one. A new entrance/exit has been created one door down and pilgrims walk into a pleasant patio with a pergola before entering or leaving by a new staircase which leads to a broad stone corridor with vaulted ceilings where the new office has been formed. 10 or 12 staff can work here. The IT has been installed. It is cool and pleasant. This week we have been using it as overflow from the main office and I think it has made a huge difference. The plan is only to use this new place in winter when there are few pilgrims and to use it as overflow in the busy season. Opinions about the new office are mixed among my colleagues. We´ll see what the pilgrims think. All they want is not to wait too long for their compostela. So, I better stop writing this right now. “Next, please”.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Headbangers Galore

The way I use the term “headbanger” is peculiarly Scottish. Sure, a Google definition will bring up a reference to Heavy Metal which I suspect is not on the Periodic Table. However when people from Glasgow call someone a headbanger they could easily mean that they are seriously intellectually challenged. Equally it could simply mean they are totally crazy. It can be used as a term of endearment or of scorn. This week I met a few headbangers.
I´d come to Santiago with a number of resolutions. I wanted to work in the Pilgrims´Office dispensing wit and compostelas in equal measure. I wanted to have lengthy late afternoon lunches with friends after work. I wanted to write entertaining blogs. I promised the Friday Night Boys that I would blog regularly and keep them posted. On the flight to Santiago I wondered if I could become the Alistair Cook of Santiago. I planned to sit quietly of an evening with a chilled glass of Alboriño fueling the creative process. Hugging the Saint, visiting friends, writing two important personal letters and going to see Joaquin at the organ in the Cathedral were all on the list.

8 days later. Nada.
When I arrived last Monday there was a wave of heat blowing through the airport. This was not the 40 degree plus of Sevilla in August. This was the 30 degree plus of Galicia. But in Sevilla they have air conditioning. Here in Santiago they have queues. Queues for everything. Queues for the Holy Door, queues for the cathedral, queues in supermarkets and the king of queues at the Pilgrims´Office. Today the sun is beating down on a queue that is taking 2 hours to snake to the front door downstairs.When I arrived this morning just before 9am I spoke to the two boys at the head of the queue, Pedro and Nacho. “We arrived at around 6 am,” they said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. I stared at the queue. It filed around the corner up the street and round the corner into the next street. When I got upstairs to the office I asked if they had seen the queue. “Tell us” Eva said and when I did she blessed herself. “Headbangers” all, I thought fondly. Me included. Why else would we stand and wait for a stamp and a certificate which to many is just a piece of paper?

The answer is of course that it marks the end of a significant journey. A personal pilgrimage which has taken time and effort. Long distance pilgrims can be very sniffy about people who “only” walk the last 100 kms. The insulting term “tourigrinos” is often on their lips. I´ve thought it myself as I´ve trudged for weeks only to meet fresh faced Spaniards with day packs marching sprightly out of Sarria which stands at the beginning of the last 100 kms. But they are pilgrims nonetheless and I recognise that there is something about this pilgrimage to Santiago which lies deep in the soul and culture of Spain.
 Dealing with the unremitting flow of pilgrims is demanding. Collectively we write 200 compostelas an hour. Personally I spend around 3 minutes on average with each pilgrim. Only time for a brief word of welcome, a cursory inspection of the Pilgrim Passport, the stamps and then their name applied in Latin on the Compostela. Pilgrims have questions. Where can I sleep? When are the Masses? How do I get information about the route to Finisterre? Where can I charge my battery? It is absorbing and has taken over the lives of the staff and volunteers. I can see it happening. It is exhausting. There are no long lunches, only a shower and a sleep. As I drift off their faces often appear:
The wee woman of 72 who walked on her own from her home in Switzerland. She simply sighed as the final stamp went on her credencial. Ramon from Madrid who had walked for 5 days from Sarria. He cried when I gave him his Compostela. “I never knew it would be like this” he said. The tall, proud Spanish chap who appeared with a crowd at the head of the queue. “Is this a group?” I asked the usual question. “No,” he said with his chest swelling, “this is my family, 26 of us from all over Spain, we have come together to walk to Compostela.” So they trouped in mingling with Scouts and nuns, the young and the older, those who had walked from afar and those who had clearly walked far enough.

Last week a young German lad appeared at my desk. He asked in clear English,"excuse me, I read in a book that there is a stone where pilgrims insert their fingers before banging their heads on a statue. Where is it please?" I explained that the sculpture of the Tree of Jesse stands at the door of the Cathedral. It has the imprint of millions of pilgrim fingers over the Centuries but alas, for the moment, it is sealed off for restoration. However there is an exhibition and for a moment´s respite the other day I made my way up to the Plaza Cervantes where the Caixanova Bank has opened an exhibition and conference centre. The ground floor is taken up with a stunning photographic illustration of the Portico de la Gloria. The huge photographs were taken from eye level and also from the perspective of the pilgrim passing through this magnificent doorway. This is the work of Master Mateo depicting the glory of heaven for the medieval pilgrim. This is what they had walked to. This is why they had walked. This where all their journeys would end. It is now as it was then. The commentary explains that it is said that the statue of Master Mateo is the image behind the Portico. This is where visitors bang their heads three times following the tradition of mothers from Compostela who brought their children to ask the Master to give them some wisdom.

For the throngs in the streets and the staff in offices it is hot. Pilgrims bathe their feet in the fountains and most of the people in the various queues are good natured. Not so at the Pilgrims´Office yesterday when another record was sadly broken. A group were keeping places for each other in the queue as some went off for coffee or to use the toilet. On their return they went back to join their friends. It was hot and sticky. People had been waiting a long time. A couple behind the group got angrier and angrier at what they saw as queue jumping. Words were exchanged. A push became a shove. One pilgrim bashed the other on the head with his stick. An ambulance was required and the police were called. For a moment I thought I was back in Glasgow. There has never been such an incident in living memory and the staff of the office is determined that this will not become a modern tradition.

As if to counter the ugliness of the incident yesterday today brought the arrival of Amado, Redemptorist priest, Professor of Theology, athlete, peace protester and former political prisoner. The pilgrims who he had met on his Camino and those around him in the queue knew nothing about him except he was the priest who had walked barefoot from St Jean de Pied Port in France. I knew he was to arrive today and as the morning wore on I wondered if I should go and find him in the queue and bring him forward as I knew he wanted to participate in the Mass at 12 o´clock. I decided not to do that. He was a pilgrim like all others. Although he is leaving tomorrow there are two other Masses in the day. However Amado, barefoot and long back in the queue mentioned to his companions that he was worried about not getting to the Mass. Word was sent forward in the queue, pilgrims whispering to pilgrims. The huge crowd parted and a way was made for the barefoot priest who was cheered along the line and up the long staircase into the Pilgrims Office.

Amado would definitely be called a Headbanger in Glasgow but it would be with huge affection. As we left the Office I found it difficult to get him along the road as people stopped and asked for his photograph or wanted to pose with him. Pilgrims he had met on the Camino hugged him fondly. He proudly displayed his feet. “No blisters” he beamed. We all applauded. Pilgrims it seems like their priests simple and spiritual.

There´s a message there for heabangers everywhere.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

I’d go today

Recently I visited a new albergue in Santiago. It has 175 beds and is situated on the Camino Francés as it enters Santiago. Easy to find, it is just after the refuge at San Lázaro and is round the corner from another albergue named Acuario. It is called the Albergue Jaime García Rodríguez in memory of a previous Director of the Pilgrims’ Office. The address is:
C/ Estocolmo, s/n (entrance by the C/ Moscú)
Parroquia de San Antonio de As Fontiñas.
It has only been opened for two weeks and is already proving popular. The day that I visited my friend Danny, one of the hospitaleros, he had opened the doors at 11.30 as usual and by 12 noon it was full.
The albergue is the first initiative of the charitable foundation, the Fundación Ad Sanctum Iacobum Peregrinatio, launched by the Archicofradía which runs the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago. The Foundation has been put in place to fundraise and it has been successful in receiving grants and sponsorship to fund this new albergue. Sometime ago Susana, the secretary of the Archicofradía shared their vision of developing church premises along the routes to provide facilities for albergues. True to that objective this new albergue is built on the ground floor of the church of Saint Anthony, the local parish church in the Santiago barrio of Fontiñas. Pilgrims will be welcome at the early morning services to be held each day.
When I went along Danny proudly showed me round. Everything is brand spanking new. On arrival pilgrims are welcomed, they register and are given a disposable sheet and pillow case after paying 6 Euros. This is the cheapest albergue in Santiago.
There are 8 dormitories of 24 beds. I was worried that there are no windows but the building is fully air conditioned and the pilgrims I spoke to were unconcerned.

They seemed delighted with the facilities. As well as the usual showers there are washing machines and dryers as well as a kitchen with microwaves. There are drinks machines and internet is provided free of charge. There is a large toilet for disabled people and the building is fully accessible. It also boasts a first aid room, a room for the hospitaleros to sleep as there are staff there 24 hours per day. Around the albergue there are seating areas with chairs and comfortable couches and in summer the very large garden will be put to full use.
Whilst I was there Danny received a complaint. “The showers in this albergue are far too hot”, complained a good natured pilgrim. He was smiling as he went on, “I’ve walked from France to Santiago and let me assure you usually the reverse is the case.”
Certainly there are a few teething problems but the day I was there the pilgrims were happy and I see a great future for this new facility.
As I looked around I thought about how simple a pilgrim’s needs are. A bed, a shower, and somewhere to wash and dry clothes. Everything else is a bonus. This new albergue is very simple and functional and ticks these boxes.
I thought about how different that is from my life at home with all of the clutter I’ve collected around myself. The familiar material things which make me feel secure. Every time I’ve moved house I’ve been astonished at what I’ve gathered...and what I don’t actually need. For the last few years I’ve tried emptying my wardrobe of everything I haven’t worn for a year. I even found that difficult. Separating my needs from my wants has been a life time project.
All that changed when I went on Camino. On pilgrimage we have to live with what we carry. It isn’t a lot but it becomes all we need. These thoughts reminded me of Philip Larkin’s Poetry of Departures. If you don’t know it, I commend it to you. It could have been written for pilgrims:

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
It's specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:

So to hear it said
He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.

Oh yes, give me the choice anytime between my reprehensibly perfect life and spending more time on Camino where I feel my life becomes more authentically perfect. I’d go today.