Too many mice in the cage

In college I completed a two year introductory program in Psychology. Among the many classes I took, one delt specifically on the sociological aspects and behaviors of people. I recall the teacher stating ¨when too many mice are in a cage, their behaviors turn towards aggression.¨

I have felt, over the past few days, that the Camino has become the cage with too many mice. Those who know me know that I have a great respect for the Camino and what it brought to me over the past few years. I looked forward to spending this Camino time really reflecting on my sister Denise´s life with us. I have experienced amazing moments of true compassion and support, but I must admit I have seen more negative behaviors that lead me to believe the overcrowding of pilgrims on the Camino has become detrimental to a peaceful journey…

I speak solely of the Camino Frances, and this comes as no surprise to those who have traveled this road in the past years. Incrementally we have seen the journey of walking and connecting and discussing become slowly more of a race to the next bed. I am aware that the current infrastructure is not enough to address all the current needs. Perhaps this is only an issue during the months most popular such as May and June in the summer, and September in the fall.

Last year I noticed a large increase in the number of pilgrims on the road and in the albergues. However, most times there was still a sense of respect for the individual, understanding of the conditions and patience shown by all.

I have only been walking for 4 days now, and in this short period I have seen behaviors that would, in the past, solicit from my parents a hard time out and loss of priviledges. Awful outbursts of anger and impatience at subtle small things, not just the lack of spaces in albergues.

Yesterday morning, EARLY morning, a pilgrim got up and started to go through her many groceries and plastic bags (the ones that really make noise) and upon multiple requests of pilgrims asking her to stop and move her items below in the foyer, she flew into a range and cursed at many of us. In passing, it was 5:05 in the morning!!

A few days ago, a pilgrim and I arrived by foot in a small village with only two small cafes to provide food and drinks. Parked beside one of the cafe was a huge bus full of tourists who were having a snack break. There must have been at least 30 of them, lined up in both small cafes. We stood in line for more than 20 minutes when we realized we no longer could wait for the crowds to dissipate. One of the pilgrims asked me how far I was walking that day, and I responded about 20 km. He then let me know that this group of pilgrims walk 2 hours per day, then retire to the local hotel. I have no issues with tourists being on the Camino, but in these cases, perhaps there could be measures taken to ensure the stops are in villages that CAN accomodate larger groups at once… leaving the smaller ones to be available to those who are walking most of the day.

And probably the most shocking behavior yesterday was seen in this beautiful church in Logrono. A group of 4 pilgrims were visibly upset and almost shouted at the small and timid nun. They were complaining about the fact the church had been closed in the afternoon, and they were quite strongly stating that this resulted in them having to return downtown to visit the church at a later time, which apparently was quite the inconvenience to them.

I was shocked and taken aback. I approached the nun and thanked her for being there to answer questions, and apologized for the previous group´s awful behavior. She noded and actually said she has noticed a change in attitude over the past few years.

Have this Camino become the proverbial overcrowded mice cage? It seems to me that we are all aware of this new challenge, but where does this allow for bad behavior? We are all tired by the time to get to our albergues or abodes. We are all a bit frustrated when faced with full albergues, limited room on the clotheslines and line ups for registrations. BUT let´s not become so impatient that the beauty of the Camino is lost…

I wonder if this will be the norm from this point on, until the masses travel through and we can see a lower number of pilgrims wandering the Camino? I am holding back on any conclusions, but for my short 4 days of experience, what I am seeing is not pleasant…
I will focus on the beauty there is here, on the kindness of others and try to ignore the nasty… if this is at all possible…

This Camino is too amazing to let this happen and perhaps with some open and frank discussions, we can turn this around…
I have hope…