Friday, 10 August 2012

Pilgrims large and small - a week in Santiago

The three belles - Mari with Susan and Angela
Since my last post on 1 August temperatures have soared in Santiago. In the last few days we have experienced sweltering heat of 36 degrees. Pilgrim numbers have soared too and since I last wrote over 11,000 pilgrims have arrived at the Pilgrims' Office. 
Amigos Angela and Susan were bid a fond farewell by Mari one of the coordinators of the Pilgrims' Office in the cloister of the cathedral. In their 2 week tour of duty they welcomed over 17,000 pilgrims. Then of course the August rush began just as Dugald and Betty arrived to don their blue T shirts. They had spent the previous 2 weeks as hospitaleros at the albergue in Rabanal and over the last few days they have surprised pilgrims who slept at the albergue by  also being in Santiago at the head of the queue to welcome them in Santiago!
Traditionally Spanish people take their holidays during August and therefore it was no surprise that the first of these who started in Cebreiro or Sarria are now arriving. This morning when we arrived at the office a long queue had already formed. Antonio from Valencia who had walked from O Cebreiro was first in the queue. "I've been waiting since 6am" he said with a broad smile. Nothing could quench his delight in finally getting his Compostela.
This week has also seen many groups arriving. A huge group of young people from Spain, France and Portugal arrived on a walking pilgrimage organised by the religious order the Claretianos. In bright t shirts they sang their way up the stairs of the Pilgrims Office. We enjoyed their singing but we were glad when the last one left. However soon we were regaled again as they repeated their repertoire from the Cathedral steps in the Plaza Praterias.
A smaller and altogether more poignant group was the Japanese contingent who arrived having walked from Leon. These were representatives of the Amigos of the Camino de Santiago in Japan who were walking with young people they had brought from the area devastated by the terrible earthquakes last year    
As the queue of pilgrims snakes into the Office we never know who is going arrive. "What does that word mean?" I asked the older man who had just filled in his occupation on the form. "It means "Bishop" in French. I'm 84 and glad to be here." He beamed having walked from Sarria. Standing beside him was a girl in her early 20's. She looked brown and fit and had that glow that long distance pilgrims exude. I glanced at her credencial. She had started walking from her home in Holland. The Bishop and the lassie shook hands and congratulated each other. Old and young, long distance and short, two bound by the bond of the pilgrimage.
The broadest smiles were enjoyed by two families from Brussels who started in Irun on the Camino del Norte.  11 of them in total, there were only three adults, the rest were their children aged from 12 down to 2 months. We were all agreed that the mother deserved the biggest Compostela of all!

No comments:

Post a Comment