Tagged Spain

Camino Notes: Advice Without Spoilers

The evening before my Camino began, some new friends and I had dinner in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port with a woman who had walked 12 days before an injury ended her Camino. Twelve days! A veteran. We plied her with questions. Now I don’t remember anything she said.

I’m a big believer in spontaneity on the Camino—if you’re planning too much, you’re doing it wrong. Advice kind of implies planning, but I would like to give some very minimal advice without too many specifics. Advice without spoilers, if you will.
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On the Road to Grazalema

On Saturdays, the bus from Cádiz only takes you as far as El Bosque on the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. I was aiming for the town of Grazalema, one of the famous White Villages of Andalusia, though not among the most famous, probably because it doesn’t have an old castle.

I got some maps in the park’s visitor center in El Bosque then walked up to the bus station where I called my hotel in Grazalema and arranged for them to send a driver. There was some kind of road bike race going on so I sat on a wall, ate a snack, and watched them.

More time passed than I expected, and eventually a man came running around the side of the bus stop waving a cell phone. The driver had called a nearby restaurant and asked this guy to track me down. The bike race had closed the main road between El Bosque and Grazalema so he had to take a one hour detour.

I had a good conversation in Spanish the guy from the hotel on the way to Grazalema. I was happy to put my Spanish skills to use after a week at the language school in Cádiz. It went well because he spoke clearly and simply, somehow seeming to know which Spanish words I understood. (Later, in Nepal, I would develop my own speak-clearly-for-non-native-speakers habit. One Nepali asked if I were a professor because of this.)

The hotel guy looked to be in his mid to late 40s. He asked me a lot about the Indians in the US—the “American Indians” or “Native Americans.” (An instructor at the language school had also wanted to talk about the Indians, so I guess it’s a topic of interest outside the US.) He asked if were true that they’re all drunk and/or running casinos. My Spanish wasn’t good enough to expound upon the regrettable discrepancy between a peoples’ reputation and the reality (especially since the difference between the two is one of my favorite topics), but I confirmed that many are in the casino business.

After settling in at the hotel in Grazalema, I walked up the hill and shot this photo overlooking the town.

I would do some hiking in the mountains over the next couple days.