In a heatwave, walkers are few, but the young seem cheerfully brave about the high temperatures, and press on regardless. In our fortnight looking after the shelter at Emmaüs, Susan and I met some inspiring 20-somethings, whose dedication to the pilgrimage, open-heartedness and lively conversation more than made up for the longueurs of hours without visitors.
On our first day, Rafael took refuge from the hot afternoon before setting off on the last kilometres to Maslaq. It was obscurely comforting to look out now and again and see him quietly reading in the shade: I wonder if a six-hour stay is a record; he must have finished his book, because he left it behind for us – thank you, Rafael.
A couple of days later, Loulou and her friend turned into the drive, almost by accident (as she wrote in the visitors’ book). She had been working as a carer in maisons de retraite in France and Switzerland, and was taking some time off to regroup before returning to studying.
Two of the three delightful young people who graced my last day at Arthez were also ‘betweeners’. They had been working in the film industry after studying visual effects at university, and had decided to carry on all the way to Finisterre – more than 2000 km from their starting point in Belgium – while they thought about ‘where now’. The friend with whom they’d been walking since Le Puy en Velay was about to embark on the last year and a half of a decade of training as a psychiatrist: no doubt about her future, but perhaps a real need to take a break and reflect before the final stage.
And there were others – not quite so young – who were also considering turning points in their lives and who honoured us with their confidence. We thank you all for your company and conversation and trust. May you see your way with clear eyes. If you can walk the camino in a canicule,you have the courage and spirit for whatever you decide to do next.
Susan and Rose