After over a month of no blog activity, I am back in the Maghrib.
My younger brother Erik flew to Morocco late July to spend the beginning of Ramadan in Fez and Ifrane before heading together to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. Erik and I have been hoping to walk the Camino together since I returned from my first attempt in January 2007. We began in Pamplona and walked our way through northern Spain until we reached the Atlantic coast at Finisterre. We bussed the meseta region between Burgos and Ponferrada due to time limits, although we did total more than 500 kilometers in 20ish days. We walked through gradually changing landscapes: from the rolling farmlands of Navarra, through the vineyards of La Rioja and the flat plains of Castilla-Leon, to the up-and-down of the forested, rainy region of Galicia.
The Camino is an excellent way to see small rural villages with historical importance that otherwise are easily overlooked. Summertime, though, and especially the month of August, is a very busy time for the camino, and Erik and I had to camp out more than once for lack of bedspace in the albergues that are available for pilgrims along the trail. Our favorite among the many interesting characters we met along the way was a Czech woman in her 60’s. Outfitted in long-sleeved, button-down shirts and long skirts, she was traveling the camino for the 6th time by herself. We’d converse in a strange mix of Spanish, what sounded like French, and a lot of hand motioning. For many days, that tough lady kept pace with Erik and I, sometimes arriving into town hours and hours behind us, but always looking like she could walk 20km more.
Although the camino was physically exhausting, our routine was simple and relaxed. We’d sleep until we couldn’t ignore the rustling of other pilgrims anymore, which was usually around 6:30am. After a simple breakfast we’d walk for a few hours until taking a break to read the paper and have a cup of coffee. We’d reach our destination around 2 or 3 on an average day and search around for an open albergue before showering, napping, and exploring town. Erik and I got into the habit of cooking ourselves: usually a heaping bowl of pasta and with vegetable sauce.
We saw more than a few people tire of their travel buddies and set out solo, but it turns out that Erik and I travel very well together. After more than a month of constant companionship, I miss his company now.
After reaching the Atlantic and burning some old clothes true to camino tradition, we headed back to Madrid for a day before our flights home. It was a perfect last day: I ran into an old friend from my days at UW who had fulfilled a dream of his by quitting his job in Seattle and moving to Spain to teach English. On a whim, in the evening we went to see an old Almodovar film, La Ley del Deseo , the theater by our hostel was playing in preparation for the release of his new film. As we lined up to enter the small theater, Pedro himself showed up and gave a short lecture on the importance of the film to his career as well as his own personal growth.
We said goodbye to each other and Spain and headed home. Back in Morocco now, I’m slowly accepting that my Fulbright year is coming to a close. With about a month left, there is still much to do now that school is back in session.
(More pictures to come.)