It’s a small world, at least along one of its dimensions – the line between Canada and Spain. There I was in Spain a few months ago walking the Camino de Santiago, a 1200 year old pilgrimage route, and already I’d met an orthodontist from Ottawa and two retirees from Saskatoon who knew friends of mine.
Then I walked into Castrojeriz, one of my favorite towns on the whole Camino with its castle ruins on the hill and charming cobblestone main drag along the ridge. I found a new and wonderful albergue in which to spend the night and had dealt with my hand laundry and bunk set-up, and was ready for an afternoon beverage. I sat down in the sunny courtyard with two men speaking English, and after the usual introductions and Where-are-you-froms, one of the men said, “Oh, I just met someone else from Whitehorse today.”
“Really? Are you sure?” I asked. I didn’t know of anyone else from here who planned to do the Camino during my dates. I thought maybe he’d confused place names.
But later, I headed up the cobblestone street for a pre-dinner tour of town and met some other English-speaking pilgrims. “Yes, there’s another woman from Whitehorse. She’s sitting on the back patio right now.”
So I went and found Tracy, someone I had not met yet in my role as local coordinator for the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. It turned out that one of our active members, a neighbor of Tracy’s, had shared essential information about the Camino and encouraged her to go.
Weeks later I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, the historic endpoint of the Camino, and got a small room for two nights in a former monastery. It’s my regular place to stay in the city, partly because it has a fabulous breakfast buffet. There I ran into another into Natalie, another Whitehorse active member and the first in our chapter to have volunteered as a hospitalero (or host) at albergues along the trail.
Natalie’s presentations at our gatherings have inspired other locals to give back to the Camino by volunteering. To date, five of our members have participated in hospitalero training and have spent, or will soon spend, two weeks working at an albergue greeting pilgrims from all over the world. The lines between Canada and Spain grown tighter and stronger.
One of the ways that our local chapter helps to strengthen those bonds is by offering Camino 101 every February or March, just before hiking season begins in earnest. Camino 101 includes a slide show, useful handouts, and lots of information about history, how to get there, what to pack, how to get one’s body ready and keep it happy while walking, and how to navigate some cultural differences.
This year’s Camino 101 will take place on Saturday February 22 from noon to 2:00 at the Whitehorse Public Library meeting room. Bring a lunch – drinks are provided. It’s a fun event that’s open to anyone who’s curious or who is planning a Camino.
For more information, call Dianne at 335-4512 or email [email protected]. You can find the Whitehorse Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims on Facebook.