Close Encounters with Fireworks and Drunken Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago

Dodging a Roman  candle

I know it’s hard to make out, but that’s me dodging a firework being shot right at me. Last Saturday I came within a few inches of having a Roman candle explode in my face—but it was all in good fun. Let me explain how this all transpired.

Entering La Meseta

After Burgos, the next stage on the Camino de Santiago (in fact, the next five or so) meanders through the barren hills and fields of La Meseta. I departed Burgos on Saturday morning and set off for Hornillos del Camino, a town about 20 km to the west.

When I arrived in the mid-afternoon heat and had time to clean myself off and change into clean clothes, I met a group of pilgrims who had been walking together on and off since they started in St. Jean Pied de Port a few weeks ago.

There was Benny, a woman from North Carolina with a deep raspy drawl, a smoking habit, and a past history involving espionage in Soviet Russia.

There was another Benny, an 18 year old girl from Australia who was taking a year off before planning on studying Art History(!) in college.

There were Mark and Zeb, a father and son from Australia with a penchant for drinking, buying fireworks (you’ll see what I mean in a minute), and an incredible appetite for discussing philosophy, art, and generally speaking, anything interesting.

There was Cam, a middle-aged man from Toronto who can play a mean ukulele (or so I’ve been told, because I haven’t seen him play it yet).

There was Susan, the first person from San Diego I have met on the Camino de Santiago, and also the loudest American I’ve met in a long, long time.

After sharing a few bottles of wine with dinner, we headed to an empty field outside of town and did our best impression of drunken idiot tourists. I’d say we did a bang-up job:

Launching a Roman candle

Zeb bought a massive load of fireworks in Burgos, and after launching them into the field he fished out a stock of Roman candles. At first we just launched them into the air, but then I had the wonderfully stupid idea to play with fire (literally) and try dodging them as he shot them. The first few were way off, but Zeb’s aim got better—or worse, from my view of things—and as his arsenal of fire was dwindling, one of them whizzed right by my face. I feel pretty lucky to still have both my eyes; from now on, I think I’ll keep things that way and stick to watching fireworks, not dodging them.

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