Finding Our Way

May 26-27, 2019

“Hola!” I called cheerfully to a woman on her balcony. Jay and I were crossing a plaza in the town of Nájera, ready to begin another day of walking the Camino de Santiago.

The woman leaned over her railing and gestured urgently. “Seguir la flecha amarilla en la piedra!”

What did she say?’ I stared blankly upwards.

The woman repeated, slightly louder. “Seguir la flecha amarilla en la piedra!”

The only word I had caught was “piedra”. Thanks to teaching a fourth grade unit on rocks and minerals two decades ago, I knew “piedra” meant stone. But which stone? What did the woman on the balcony want me to know?

As Jay and I looked, the woman’s arms waved, her face full of earnest purpose. She repeated her phrase again and again, the volume of her voice rising, as if understanding were linked in direct proportion to the amount of sound being issued.

I looked around desperately. What was she trying so assiduously to communicate?

Suddenly, my eye alighted upon a boulder behind us. A large yellow arrow, painted across its side, pointed left. Understanding dawned.

“Follow the yellow arrow on the stone!” The lady above was showing the way out of town!

Laughing, I waved and nodded, pointing to the arrow.

“Gracias!” Jay called, as we turned.

The lady on the balcony smiled, “Buen Camino!” Once again, she had put wandering pilgrims upon the straight and narrow.

So, how does one follow a 1,000 year old trail? The Camino de Santiago is well marked.

A simple yellow arrow is always a welcome sight.
A yellow scallop shell tile, set into the sidewalk, gives direction.
An arrow can be paired with words.
Arrows, shells, words – this junction has it all!
One can know the trail from the people sharing the path!
Older markings are often not painted, though still plain to see.
Sometimes a sign has an unofficial addition.
No fear of misunderstanding the way here!
Bored or artistic pilgrims occasionally add their own arrows.

Not content to rely solely upon shells and arrows, we bought the guidebook by John Brierley, which has excellent maps and tells a little of the places we pass.

Halfway through our trip, the well used guidebook already looks a bit battered!

Because we’ve hiked (and been lost) often in our lives, we also bought the Guthook app for the Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances SJPP (St Jean Pied-du-Port). This app, on my phone, showed the Camino route with a blue dot signifying our location. It worked even in airplane mode with no wifi. Jay and I found it most helpful in the large cities, where old, winding streets sometimes made me wonder if my feet were headed the same direction as my face.

Finding our way has been only part of the pilgrimage. “Buen Camino,” the standard greeting between pilgrims, would become an empty phrase without a slight understanding of the sights we see. Jay has carried the following ebook.

It’s one thing to know where you are. It’s another thing entirely to know what you’re seeing. This book fills in blank spots regarding historical context and common daily life.

Oftentimes, the sights which attract my notice and imagination aren’t listed in any guidebook or map. And so I close this post with a few of the unique and beautiful sights we’ve encountered these two days.

Just past the town of Navarrete, a field of red poppies enchants.
The garden of Iglesia de San Saturnino in Ventosa invites a time of peaceful reflection.
A truly ancient olive tree graces the courtyard of Bodegas Alvia, a winery beside the Camino path.
At a park near the town of Cirueña, who can resist a lounge chair made entirely of stone?

Buen Camino!

8 thoughts on “Finding Our Way

  1. muy bien.
    I did not recognize the Yellow arrow in the rock until you translated! my 15 minutes a day of Español on DuoLingo is helpful but a learning language for me is a long term project. Have settled into Eugene…in an apartment. One more 2 month jaunt across to Indiana again and back in Aug and Sept. So grateful for your adventure and your posts. Brenda

    Like

  2. Once again, mil gracias for your update! I’m presently in Spokane on vacation with my sister Susie. Due back before the 22nd, when rehearsals resume for the play I’m doing — just a small supporting role this year, not the challenge I had 2 years ago. Buen Camino to you Penny Miss you both!

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