Since our public libraries have been closed since March 18, and I’m a minimalist who doesn’t have a single book in my home that I haven’t already read, I’ve resorted to something I’m finding quite delightful: reading my journals from past journeys on the Camino de Santiago. And guess what? There are lots of stories in there I haven’t yet blogged! So here you go. . .
Sept. 4, 2015
I didn’t think I’d meet a single person on this, my first day walking the Camino de Santiago, because most pilgrims leave St. Jean-Pied-de-Port at sunrise. I was leaving at 1:30 pm. But up ahead, there he was. A single man, walking stick in hand, pack on his back. I wondered what his reason was for starting his journey so late in the day. Just below him on the trail was another guy, manning a camera on a tripod. And not just any camera–a big this-is-serious-filmmaking type of camera. Hearing my hiking sticks stabbing the road, the camera turned to film me walking up. Cameraman called to Walking Man in some language I didn’t understand, and Walking Man turned around and waited for me to catch up.
Walking Man greeted me enthusiastically–he looked barely thirty. “What are you doing?” I asked, arcing my head toward Cameraman. “We’re filming a program about the Camino,” he said. He introduced himself and asked me the usual Camino questions (Where are you from, Is this your first Camino, etc.), asked if he could interview me, and I agreed.
“Is this a program you’re doing on your own, or do you work for someone?” I asked.
“This program is for Basque public television,” he said.
Cameraman caught up with us and handed me a portable mic, motioning with his hands that I should tuck it up under my shirt and attach it to my collar, while he attached the battery box to my backpack. Walking Man told me I could look at him and at the camera, which Cameraman had now removed from the tripod and propped up on his shoulder.
“Ready?” Walking Man said. It was then that I realized we were going to be holding this interview while we were walking. Which would have been fine were we on a lovely, flat trail. But I was in the foothills of the Pyrenees, gasping for breath every few steps. This is why I preferred walking this route alone–no one could see how many times I stopped to catch my breath. But now, here it would be recorded for all to see.
And so we began, with Walking Man confirming I was from New York City. (A common mistake I’m used to by now. I corrected him and silently reminded myself that when people ask where I’m from I need to remember to say, “New York STATE.”) He asked if this was my first Camino, and when I told him it was my third, he asked why I kept returning. “The people, and the sense of community that develops,” I said. “Are you walking alone?” he asked. I explained that I was here with my friend Lois, but she was injured, and had to take a taxi to Orrisson, our stop for the night.
He spoke to me in English, and then would face the camera and translate into Basque. At which point I thought, “It could be worse–I could be Cameraman, having to do this walk backwards while holding that huge camera steady on my shoulder!” Just when I wondered how much more of this walking-and-talking-while-hiking-up-the-Pyrenees I could handle, I was saved. Cameraman indicated there was something behind us. We turned to see a woman in a station wagon trying to get her car off the side of the road below us, but without luck. “That’s our producer,” Walking Man explained. He excused himself, walked down to her, revved the car up the mountain past us, then ran back to me to continue our interview. I shall now call him Superman.
After we finished, I asked Superman the name of the program. He said something incomprehensible to me. I gave my “I have no idea what you just said” look and he looked surprised. “It’s the most popular program . . . ” I asked him to write it down. He said they do six days of filming to get a one-hour program, and that I could find it on Youtube.
I’ve looked up the program “Henri People” a couple times since then, with no luck. But today, the gods shined upon me. Here is the link for the “Herri People” episode. I’m there, just for the first thirty seconds or so. Enjoy, my dear friends.