As soon as your Camino begins and you start your walk early in the morning, there will be sounds that will be become part of your day, whether they are welcome or not. Some will make you smile, some will annoy, all are part and parcel of the Camino experience. I’ve decided to run down a few:
1. Buen Camino – Every pilgrim you meet while on the Camino will greet you with the phrase “Buen Camino”. No matter who the person is, their status, or where he or she is from, their first words will be “Buen Camino”. It means ‘Have a good way’. It is a simple welcome and you hear it only on the Camino. In Portugal, the phrase “Bom Caminho” is usually used. It is a great way to start off a conversation and meet people.
2. Crickets chirping – Now this is something you don’t hear in Ireland or the UK for that matter. The natter of crickets and other various insects during the day. If you listen closely during a warm day usually in the Meseta region or in rural Spain, you will hear them. This video was taken just after Hospital de Orbigo on the Camino Frances in 2012. I remember it being a particularly hot day.
3. A busy cafe – You wake up and are looking for your first cafe con leche of the day. The nearest cafe is busy serving peregrinos from albergues and hostels nearby. All you can see are cups, saucers, and spoons being placed in front of a row of half awake pilgrims. There is conversation all around. The coffee machine kicks into gear. After your first cup of cafe con leche and a tostada, you are awake and are ready to take on the world…until you reach the next cafe, that is!
4. Albergue life – Once you check into an albergue, you meet people from all over the world. Definitely a good thing. But you get to sleep with those same people. This could be a bad thing! So if you are a light sleeper, dorms may not be for you. The pilgrim’s lullaby is one of the charms of the Camino and you either take it or leave it. It takes time to get used to. It’s a good idea to buy the best foam earplugs to ensure a good nights sleep.
5. Church bells – Along the Camino, there are many churches open in various towns. Typically, church bells ring on the hour every hour. Each night I have stayed in Hontanas, I have been woken by the bells of the village church that ring on the hour every hour even during the night.
6. New pilgrims post-Sarria – If your Camino is due to start before Sarria, you will notice a considerable difference when you arrive there. Sarria is the last town you must start on the French Way in order to obtain a Compostela. In the summer months, schools and youth groups walk from Sarria and often you will hear them sing songs, and have radios playing while walking. So the last 110km is a different experience to that before it.
7. The sound of friendships being formed – Walking a Camino is the easiest way to meet people from anywhere around the world. Occupation, status, class is meaningless and what counts is how we treat each other over the few weeks we are on the trail. From the moment you set out, it is next to impossible to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. A conversation leads to laughter and that leads to being accepted into a Camino family, where everyone looks out for each other. When the time comes, email addresses are shared and we go our separate ways.
8. The Sound of silence – No, I’m not going to bring out my guitar and play the Simon and Garfunkel classic, but what I will say is I love walking in silence. There are many ways in Spain where you can walk virtually alone. Or you can walk the Camino Frances off-season? I prefer to start walking very early. You can’t beat walking before the sun rises, stopping to watch it rise over the horizon.
10. Bagpipes in Santiago – You have made it! You walk under the archway and into the Praza da Obradoiro with a soundtrack of bagpipes eternally playing. Who cares if they have been playing since the morning, in your mind it is music to celebrate your arrival to Santiago.
11. And a few others? Here are a few others I may have missed, in this video: