The hills between Sarria and Santiago are a last walking stage, and also a last geographic phase, of the Camino de Santiago. In country that’s stony yet also fat and glary-green, water is everywhere: as rain and mist, as rushing creeks, as silly, plashy streamlets…and as much mud underfoot.

That landscape fairly gushes and tinkles and gurgles. But when the clouds finally part and mists lift, as you walk along the trail in the morning, it’s like the old lines from another pilgrim tale:

And fyry Phoebus ryseth up so bright,
That all the orient laugheth of the light.


A few hours out of Sarria, I took lunch at a ramshackle bar, perched high along the track with views west. The air was still chill. Some pilgrims were clustered outside in a sun-trap, and I joined them. Stretching below us were the endless green hills of Galicia, awash and glistening.

One German gentleman who had passed me earlier at considerable speed was enjoying a truly Teutonic serving of sausage, egg and potato, with beer on the side.

Between tables, a conversation began, which drifted to opinions of global evils and deserved catastrophes, with such luminaries as Al Gore and Michael Moore referenced as quasi-biblical authorities.

The German gentleman, rolling a cigarette after his mighty lunch, was passionate on the evils of Western excess, and the impending destruction of both capitalism and that object of much recent concern, the planet. As his voice grew more shrill, and his face twitched, I decided to concentrate on my spud omelet. When a certain type of German gets tense about lebensraum, he is best not provoked.

It seemed that things could not be worse. Then, from another table came a prediction that civilisation or humanity or the world (flexible as to which) was about to end anyway, with the Mayan calendar, that most certain of references, cited as proof. This set up a kind of contest between adherents of cosmic and anthropogenic cataclysm.


Shortly after, the group of us – transported by jet to this enchanted region, most of us alive only because of recent medical marvels, fed and housed better than many princes of centuries past – stroll off into the mild spring sunshine.

The track lower down is a gurgling race, from the previous day’s downpour. The water gleams and splashes so cheekily round our toes: it is laughing at us. And the light flashing off drenched stone and dripping leaves and sappy meadows is laughter. And we laugh too, as we slip and skid along…

and all the orient laugheth of the light!

About mosomoso

Growing moso bamboo on the mid-coast of NSW, Australia.
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  1. Beth Cooper says:

    I find yer description of the countryside in yer second line lovely, mosomoso
    …’glary green and silly plashy streamlets …’ say, ahem … yer seem ter be
    a bit of a poet. And yer pick up on this description in yer final para, not
    a twist, but positive resolution ter yer story. I also liked yr German eatin’ his
    big breakfast then ranting on consumption ) bit like yer comment on Climate
    Etc the other day about Al Gore jetin’in ter a 5* restaurant and commenting
    on the avocado entree on.

    Mosomoso, I’d love ter mention this story on Climate Etc or you post it as
    an url. I won’t say anything unless you say so. It fits so many threads and
    the site is Climate “Etc” which is how I post me poetry.

    • mosomoso says:

      Yes, feel free to link away, Beth. As Sam Goldwyn would have said: all publicity is good publicity, especially the private stuff.

      Someone said that that line of Chaucer’s is about the best line of poetry there is. It must be getting close!

  2. Beth Cooper says:

    The Chaucer lines are the kind of poetry that speak ter the spirit.
    Say mosomoso, yer got a talent fer this h’ya pilgrimage ‘genre.’ )
    Thx fer the OK. Speaking of life affirming ,yesterday I reread
    Robert Frost’s ‘The Silken Tent.’ Extended simile …

    ‘She is as in a field a silken tent
    At midday when the sunny summer breeze
    Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
    So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
    And its supporting central cedar pole,
    That is its pinnacle to heavenward
    And signifies the sureness of the soul,
    Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
    But strictly held by none is loosely bound,
    By countless silken ties of love and thought
    To everything on earth the compass round.
    And only by its going slightly taut
    In the capriciousness of summer air
    Is of the slightest bondage made aware.’

    I was only going to quote the first few line, but
    I had ter keep going.

    • mosomoso says:

      Quote away, Beth. It must be about 45 years since, but I do believe I have read that. I was the type to be reading Frost or De la Mare while others were getting their dose of smut and profundity. (I’m no poet, but I did write a song about almost nothing for one of the stories, A Good Judge of Character. The yarn, a bit long, revives 18th century adventure fiction. Please don’t ask me to explain all that, but I felt the song added an antique touch.)

  3. I was introduced to Frost once, ca 1967 when I knew little of him or his work. He had just arrived, by invitation, at the University of Essex, and the young lady who’d met him (and presumably arranged the visit) was extremely excited. She didn’t know me, but as I was the only person in the vicinity, she introduced him to me (“Look, look, I’m with Robert Frost!!” attitude). Frost and I were both perplexed, she obviously didn’t know me and he couldn’t see any rationale for the introduction. But now I can say, “Look at me, I met Robert Frost!” Not that I would.

    • mosomoso says:

      What a great memory! I heard that Frost preferred “barding around” universities to farm work. You know, in 1967 I would have been reading Frost a lot. There was an old Penguin edition with what used to be called a “snazzy” cover. An orange coloured thing. Memories!

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