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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

May 9

May 9th, 2016

May 9

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Boente to Vilamaior 38 km.
The official Camino de Santiago ends tomorrow with a short trek into Santiago. Started early today to avoid the worst of heavy afternoon showers. The trek up out of Boente (an undistinguished town) was in early light. There were open skies overhead but every cloud type packing the horizon. Stark shadows, halo flares everywhere. The first hours were through as pretty a landscape as you could desire, including early stone villages with Roman bridges arching over fast-running streams. As the day progressed the landscape compressed. The path remained caught between highways, crossing often and at times paralleling, following a muddy shoulder exposing pilgrims to the spray of passing cars. After Arzua (an undistinguished large town), the way filled up with pilgrims. I found myself thinking of Faulkner’s long short story, “The Bear,” a story of deforestation (something I could see here with eucalyptus plantations) but also about Ike McCaslin’s youth hunting in the big bottom for Old Ben, the bear. Each year on the last day of the hunt, Ike and his mentors would seek out Ben for their yearly appointment. Word got around and over the years, on the last day, more and more people would appear to participate (actually observe). Faulkner describes some as wearing hunting clothes that still bore creases from having been on the store shelf just a few hours before. The way is now packed with short-term pilgrims overwhelming the old-timers, most sporting shiny new equipment and a great deal of enthusiasm. Stop about six km. outside of Santiago and spent a perfect quiet afternoon before tomorrow’s hustle and bustle.

T. Hugh Crawford

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