The Way – Oct 22 2011 – summer 2012 plans?

So the deal was, let’s go see The Way.

It’s about the pilgrimage to Campostella through the Pyrenees and into Spain.

Europe in summer 2012?

A faculty colleague, Estelle Codier, has done this pilgrimage three times, has wonderful stories and photos. Her husband is a minister and they have the summers off, of course. I had spoken with her about this, since I have been thinking of whether it is time to got Europe and hike there. Last year I even bought a guide book to the Pilgrimage, it was fun to read about and to daydream.

Estelle and I have schedules that seem to be exactly opposite, so it’s unusual for me to see her  in Webster Hall at the same time.  I’d been on the look out for her… so when I saw her in the elevator it was funny that we both blurted out the same thing – ” have you heard about the Campostello movie????”

Trendy and anti-trendy

I told her that now the pilgrimage would be ruined, it would be overflowing with trendy types and maybe I would not want to go. ;-(

“Joe, it’s been trendy for fifteen hundred years” she said. then after a short pause “and are you trying to say that going to Nepal isn’t trendy? don’t you go to Nepal because it’s cool?”

okay, she had a point. Yes, I go to Nepal, and yes, i know it’s wicked-ass cool. But once I am there I try to do the anti-trendy thing. I don’t stay in Thamel with the rock jocks, I go for long periods of time without seeing the tourists,  only hang out with NGO -types in Jawalekhel, make my out-of-the-Valley trips to the Terai as opposed to Everest Base Camp….. but yes, I have an internal meter that gauges how cool it is.

Moving right along….. any way yesterday was the first day the movie showed in Honolulu and there I was, in the theater. with popcorn.

The Solitude of the trail?

Any body who takes a long journey on foot, or who goes on an expedition of some kind,  knows that solitude is not what it’s about, not really. Not for most people. Oh, you have to learn to be happy being with yourself, and happy walking, but the big memories are more likely to be from the people you meet and the relationships that form. You can make lifetime bonds with people you share this kind of experience with, events take on a vividness that makes home life seem boring and colorless. Before any such trip I always used the say ” I know that epic things will happen. I just don’t happen to presently know what they will be.”

Guava Boy and Gummi Bear, summer 2000

I remember doing the Hundred Mile Wilderness with my fifteen year old daughter a dozen years ago. During the day, we hiked our own pace, just walking alone for long sections. That waswhat she expected. In the evenings, the hikers arrive at a lean-to, a designated shelter spot with water supply and privy, these are all on the map. When you get the last twenty yards, you come around the corner to find up to a dozen complete strangers who have each done the same thing all day. They will be your sleeping companions.  Now you are in a hugger-mugger social situation, sleeping like sardines in a can at times. My companion on that long-ago hike was nicknamed Gummy Bear, and she was astounded at the social scene, I realize now that I initiated her into a cult of which she longed to be a member. In the evenings, if there is a campfire, a sort of “hail fellow well met” camaraderie develops, throwback to an earlier time when storytelling and sharing was more the norm. If you are headed in the same direction, you rendezvous with the same crowd every evening for awhile. The setting amplifies the attributes of the participants so that even the quietest person takes on attributes of a colorful personality.

Long Trail Inn

The same is true for any expedition, in which the team dynamics play an outsized role in the events. we all crave the opportunity to run with a pack of Big Dogs, and form a surrogate family. In Vermont in 2010, even though I was a slowpoke, I found myself travelling in the same direction as about a dozen people and we seemed to leapfrog for a hundred miles. ( Idid my first eighteen-mile day of the summer, in Vermont, in the rain…) I got to the Long Trail Inn and shared beer and dinner with the travelling cohort, and we were able to discuss long distance hiking strategy of the previous hundred and twenty miles. It was great, and when they were doing  this in the movie, I thought they captured it.

During the day, you do have time to reflect. You may be on a marked path but your mind is free to wander in any direction it pleases. Thoughts churn. Over time, the thoughts disappear and you learn to stop thinking and just be.

The Way

I guess I’d have to say the movie was – “nice.” Light escapism. Lots of scenery. snippets of the actual activities, such as what the hostels look like, the activity in the mornings, and the rolling hills. Scenes where the little group sleeps outside a barn, where they meet a sketchy eccentric hostel owner, and the towns along the way, such as Pamplona and Burgos, made famous by Hemingway. Yeah, I guess it has been trendy for a few years…… the pilgrims in the movie looked older than say, the A.T. crowd.

World Heritage Experience

The main character stumbles into three traveling companions, each one colorful. A bit of a descent into stereotype takes place here, as the screenwriter was attempting to draw each person with sharp lines, and make you fall in love with their endearing charms. the movie compresses a two month trip into a hundred minutes, and so we skip major sections of walking, portrayed periodically by updating the map like a   travelogue.  Despite the need to highlight the eccentricities of each character,  I thought this was okay.  There were some crowd scenes, such as coming upon a group dining al fresco where the Europeans derisively sing the Star Spangled Banner, that conveyed the perspective of travel in a cosmopolitan setting such as this. And of course, the Martin Sheen character ends up relying on his mates, this boundary is overcoming in believable fashion.

There are touching scenes along the way, harbingers of which are revealed very early in the film. The main guy decides to complete the pilgrimage his son started, and at times he sees his son, out of the corner of his eye, as if he was alongside during the events, just for a second. I could relate to this. In 2010 my 475-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail was mostly for the purpose of getting in good enough shape to hike with my daughter, now travelling under the assumed name of Whoopie Pie. We spent a week hiking through New Jersey, the culmination of months of effort, and a surprisingly fun section of the Trail. During the run-up, my daughter was an imaginary travelling companion.  The mind plays tricks with you on such a journey. The things that well up in your consciousness are the things you long for, and if your mind becomes trained, you can conjure them up almost as if they were real, in front of you and tangible.

Roma, not some other name….

My favorite scene in The Way, of course, took place in the Roma neighborhood. I have had some travel experiences in Nepal that were just like that, and I cherish those.

The only thing that I found annoying was a group of four people who sat right behind me. Evidently they had made this pilgrimage, and they felt the need to comment “yes, I remember that” every now and again. It reminds me that I too can be insufferable when reminiscing about past adventures.

All in all,  an okay movie.

Summer 2012

I will soon be thinking of plans for summer 2012. If you have gotten this far in the reading, I invite you to submit ideas.

My summer break goes from May 18th or so, to August 10th or so.

My nephew “Doc” gets married, in Texas, June 3rd. I will be there.

Plan A – Nepal. Summer 2011 was a hoot, lots of fun. meaningful contribution. Would love to expand on that work.If I go to Nepal, it won’t be for as long as last summer. disadvantage – the cost of airfare.

Plan B – Hiking again maybe the Appalachian Trail starting at Springer; maybe the John Muir Trail and then north through the Sierras; the idea is to cut down on air travel, and once I get to the mainland, to stay there.  I think if I did it right, I could bite off about six hundred miles of the Trail  during that time.

I have also always wanted to canoe the Boundary Waters Region or the Temagami region of Ontario. why not?

Plan C  – Europe once I am on the mainland of USA, europe is not that far…. Compostela?  Jerusalem? the U.K.?

I will get more serious about these ideas in the next three months…..



Filed under Appalachian Trail 2012, Uncategorized

2 responses to “The Way – Oct 22 2011 – summer 2012 plans?

  1. Mark Schnell

    Try to pick a country that won’t default on its debt while you are there and have waves of general strikes. It’s one thing to have a bond-ing experience; it’s another to have a bandh-ing experience. Which I know you’ve had.

    • The civil war was over before I got to Nepal; one main feature of the country is the exceptional hospitality toward foeigners. I can think of many Africans countries where I would be at risk of violence. I am not courageous enough to go to those places. If I have inadvertently dramatized the security issues of Nepal, that is an error. Yes, the situation is inconvenient at times, but people there are *working* at it.

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