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Cairns/stacking stones.

A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#3
Hurray!!! Why people choose to deface the areas they wander through with this egotistical need to leave their mark is beyond me. Because, really, when you engage in this type of behaviour in nature, it's only to show you have been there, no other reason. And who cares?!

Can we have this post pop up every 250 posts or so automatically? ;0)
 
M

Mike Trebert

Guest
#5
The Inuit people in Northern Canada build the most elegant cairns/markers called Inuksuit out of loose stones. There aren't many stones up there and the weather is brutal, so these small way markers have to be rebuilt frequently over extremely long periods of time. But only a few chosen elders are allowed to rebuild them. Some resemble human figures, some seem like doorways or windows. They seem sacred, are fragile, save lives and yet are transient like life itself.

The Artist Andy Goldsworthy creates very short-lived sculptures out in nature using materials like ice, leaves, delicately balanced stones. Some sculptures are assembled deliberately along a tidal area where they will only survive for a few hours. Some of these works collapse repeatedly while he creates them. These sculptures survive only as the photographs he makes. Life and beauty are fragile and nature takes back.

I've taken many photos of the countless Camino memorials. Most are very small. All are vulnerable - just a few delicately balanced stones, prey to wind and rain. They seem built not to last, there are sometimes fading photographs and small notes. The huge mound at Cruz De Ferro is apparently bulldozed or "tidied up" quite often.

I'd say most people who walk The Camino, often meditate about impermanence.

The solidity of stone is illusory.
 
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Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#6
There is a world of difference between 'ornamental' rock-piling and cairns placed as way-marks. If any wilderness fan knocked down the route markers on Cairn Gorm or Glen Shee then they might just might have a dead walker or two on their conscience. This was discussed in part in this earlier thread www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/is-this-true.26343/
 
M

Mike Trebert

Guest
#7
There is a world of difference between 'ornamental' rock-piling and cairns placed as way-marks. If any wilderness fan knocked down the route markers on Cairn Gorm or Glen Shee then they might just might have a dead walker or two on their conscience. This was discussed in part in this earlier thread www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/is-this-true.26343/
Good point. Although I was moved and respectful of the small memorial cairns, I didn't make any memorials myself or carry a stone to Cruz De Ferro. Maybe the marks were all left on me, I didn't feel the need to leave any. I took a lot of photos, though. Maybe that's my way as an artist - to bear witness.

I did move a few stones here and there when I was desperate to sit down - once on a tree stump(!) and once on a Camino marker. I replaced them. There sure weren't any stones on top of the distance markers on the last leg up to Roncesvalles. Many of us were too exhausted to stand up. I didn't move any stones that time. They were long gone.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#8
Sometimes a rock is just a rock. No need to assign any special meaning to them.
I think it's nice that walking the camino frees up the inner child in some people, and they allow themselves the time to play around and improvise with the materials at hand. Stacked stones, wattles and weavings are as ancient as Mankind, we do it almost as instinct. No one is harmed, Nature doesn't care one way or another, and only the particularly fastidious find any fault in it. It's like the little yellow arrows people make with flowers on the ground. They don't last. They're not supposed to. That's what beauty is -- a sweet moment, and a joy forever.
 
M

Mike Trebert

Guest
#9
Mr Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Because he smoked cigars. I read that he had a type of mouth cancer. A metaphor will never give you cancer.
 

marbuck

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Condom to Pamplona April 2016.
Le Puy to Condom France - April-May 2015.
Roncesvalles to Santiago April - May 2014
Finisterre to Muxia May 2014
#10
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#11
Nature doesn't care one way or another.
But Nature does care,that's what the article featured in the link provided by the OP is about.

I also remember on my first Camino seeing signs asking people not to pick wild flowers, plants, to later get rid of them a few km later as this increases the transmission of plant disease, insects, etc.

We know more today about our environment and how to protect it than people did even just 20 years ago, never mind 100 or 300, so why not be aware of the impact we have and try not to use that knowlwdge.

What do those signs in shops that sell delicate items say? Touch with you eyes only!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#12
I think the article makes a good point about streams, fish, and micro-climates in the Pennsylvania uplands and other delicate ecosystems. (while these guys worry about moving rocks in the creeks, their state lawmakers are legalizing fracking the same state parks!) (I'm from Pennsylvania, and I still pay attention.)
The stacked rocks along the camino trail, at least the ones I know, use stones already cleared from adjacent fields, and sometimes building debris dumped along the road. The Camino is a long, long way from a pristine mountain stream. It is a human stream, flowing between highly-cultivated crop fields, managed forests, and populated areas where concrete is a local obsession. Pilgrims who stack some rocks along the trail are doing a lot less damage than pilgrims (or just regular people) who leave a trail of litter, or set up tents in standing crops, or make cute smiley faces on the sunflowers, or even have a wee behind a tree.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#13
I don't think we are talking about route markers here.
You are quite right @marbuck, the OP is about the decorators, ornamenters, quasi-graffitists who seek to amend the natural environment for their own (selfish?) pleasure. My comment was intended to emphasise that not all piles of rocks are just piles of rocks. There is a small cairn in my garden, one stone for each of my tribe that has passed - my tribe being that affiliation of family, friends and foes that touched my life. Its also a way-marker, it marks the way to the life beyond all our understanding. It will be knocked down one day when I set out on further roads. Tired old man that I am I must admit to a wry smile that the author of the cited article was mainly upset that his photographs were spoiled - perhaps he should see what the M27 did to the woods I was raised in.

We don't have much (any) wilderness here in the UK. Our 'wild' country was created and scarred by forest clearance and over-grazing, by mining and mineral extraction, by the Highland Clearances and the "white heat of new technology" so perhaps my view is tainted. But then, to paraphrase a very good book "if a pile of stones offends thee strike it down"...
 
Camino(s) past & future
from st jean, the complete st james's walk. 5 to 6 weeks
#14
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP - Santo Domingo 2012, Santo Domingo- Astorga, Astorga - SdC, 2013, Caminho Portugues 2016?
#15
There is a small cairn in my garden, one stone for each of my tribe that has passed - my tribe being that affiliation of family, friends and foes that touched my life. Its also a way-marker, it marks the way to the life beyond all our understanding.
I spend my days in my garden looking at ancient burial cairns not on the tops of nearby mountains but slightly down from the summits where they are visible from the inhabited lowlands. These structures seem to have been built with remembrance in mind. I love your smaller, more personal gesture in the same direction. Thank you for sharing it. Do you mind if I borrow from you and so many others stretching back the millennia? I've been feeling the need to remember lately...
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#16
I spent yesterday at the funeral rites of another old friend and placed a stone this morning. You are not borrowing from me you are joining a thread that runs through all those piles of stone back to when that was all we had. Stone and aspiration and hope. And you are welcome Pilgrim.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
SJPP - Santo Domingo 2012, Santo Domingo- Astorga, Astorga - SdC, 2013, Caminho Portugues 2016?
#18
I spent yesterday at the funeral rites of another old friend and placed a stone this morning. You are not borrowing from me you are joining a thread that runs through all those piles of stone back to when that was all we had. Stone and aspiration and hope. And your are welcome Pilgrim.
A shiver of resonance ran through me as I read this. Perhaps these and love and all we still have of great worth. To connect with these, to remember, to continue on. It's a good pilgrimage for an ordinary day, if there is such a thing. Buen camino, my friend.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#19
Pilgrims who stack some rocks along the trail are doing a lot less damage than pilgrims (or just regular people) who leave a trail of litter, or set up tents in standing crops, or make cute smiley faces on the sunflowers, or even have a wee behind a tree.
Agree fully with you on fraking, but that is for another forum.

I just see these piles of stones as just another way for people on the Camino to prioritise leaving their mark rather that respecting the land, villags, etc. they are visiting. Nothing to do with the Inukshuk or the Mitzvah tradition.

Where does one draw the line? Only a few days ago someone posted a graffiti on a mojon. Isn't such a graffiti an expression of the same selfish need to leave a mark about one being here? Ok, so one is easier to remove than the other, but both come from the same and both are meant to create a rection in those who will see them.

This being said, I do enjoy many of the graffiti I see on the Camino, but those are usually in Spanish, or Euskera, super witty and delivering a message that goes beyond the typical "I was here"one sees on overpasses and the back of a bathroom stall.

Want to revert to childhood while on the Camino, do a few cartwheels, while noone is looking that is ;0)
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#21
Ah, but who says they are on a pilgrimage? Read quite a few of your posts wondering about just that.

Taxis, drunken nights, defacing the Camino... Not all one and the same?

Can't have it both ways.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#22
cute smiley faces on the sunflowers
perhaps he should see what the M27 did to the woods I was raised in.
There's desecration and there's desecration. Both of these count in my book--one because it damages someone's personal livelihood and another because it's a symptom of a bigger problem that potentially damages air, climate, and our global livelihood.

The cairns? I find them either annoying or whimsical depending on the cairns, the day, and my state of mind. The Camino is big enough and old enough to not be so harmed by them. It can take care of itself, but it's my business to take care of my state of mind!

Deciding if someone else's camino or cairn or graffito is selfish or juvenile, "witty" or legitimate is, apparently, another deeply human ritual.
And one mostly best kept to ourselves, alas. But who can resist? Not me. Spouting off is perversely enjoyable.
(And anyway...wherever would the forum be if we stopped indulging this particular ritual? And I so enjoy you all...even when I disagree!)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#23
I always smile when I come around a corner and see a thousand little cairn-creatures waiting for me. (Do lemmings look like that?) I think that most people who make a small cairn are doing it for the whimsy, communication with other walkers, and the fun engineering challenge. Nevertheless, I will be more aware in future of the other side of the story.
 

Wokabaut_Meri

merely labeled
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPdP - Santiago (April/May 2015)
#24
My first introduction to cairns was in Central Australia many, many, many years ago before I knew what the word meant. Hubby and I were aiming to climb one of the mountains in the MacDonnell Ranges and the only route was to be found on an unmarked ridgeline. Beer was the drink of choice in the Territory at that time.

Well you might ask what is the relevance of these sentences?

When we registered with Parks a ranger told us that the track to the ridgeline was easy to find as it was marked with cairns. So off we went... looking for empty beer cans... odd way of marking a trail we thought but then plenty of material to hand... resourceful people, these Territorians...

Long story short, after an interminable scramble and climb and, unable to find any cans, a night camped out without water we followed a breadcrumb trail of rock piles back down and off the mountain.

So whenever I see cairns, they always make me smile...
 
Camino(s) past & future
23 May (2016)
#25
Making a pilgrimage is a deeply human ritual. Stacking stones as an expression of passing presence is a deeply human ritual.
Deciding if someone else's camino or cairn or graffito is selfish or juvenile, "witty" or legitimate is, apparently, another deeply human ritual.
Rebekah, sorry, but could not disagree more.

There are brand new, lovely concrete markers, installed in the past two years between Sarria and Santiago.

Already the egotistical turistas have magic-markered them, stolen the brass mileage plates, and left empty bottles, cigarette wrappers, rocks, socks, bras, boxer shorts, cheap tennis shoes, and flowers stolen from residents' gardens as their "personal rituals."

Leaving rocks is NOT the same as a cairn. Leaving rocks and other detritus screams, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME.

Tourists leave their crap and "ritual" garbage behind.
Pilgrims leave nothing but footprints behind.

In the wilderness, a cairn is left to help others.

On the Camino, a rock is left as self-memorialization.

Shame on those who have left the Camino a messier place, and blessings on the pilgrims who walk behind and clean it up.
 

Gillean

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Seven
#27
The Inuit people in Northern Canada build the most elegant cairns/markers called Inuksuit out of loose stones. There aren't many stones up there and the weather is brutal, so these small way markers have to be rebuilt frequently over extremely long periods of time. But only a few chosen elders are allowed to rebuild them. Some resemble human figures, some seem like doorways or windows. They seem sacred, are fragile, save lives and yet are transient like life itself.

The Artist Andy Goldsworthy creates very short-lived sculptures out in nature using materials like ice, leaves, delicately balanced stones. Some sculptures are assembled deliberately along a tidal area where they will only survive for a few hours. Some of these works collapse repeatedly while he creates them. These sculptures survive only as the photographs he makes. Life and beauty are fragile and nature takes back.

I've taken many photos of the countless Camino memorials. Most are very small. All are vulnerable - just a few delicately balanced stones, prey to wind and rain. They seem built not to last, there are sometimes fading photographs and small notes. The huge mound at Cruz De Ferro is apparently bulldozed or "tidied up" quite often.

I'd say most people who walk The Camino, often meditate about impermanence.

The solidity of stone is illusory.
Inookshuk - sort of like this?:
upload_2016-7-2_13-46-53.png

From 2013. Found a strange new marker with no stones on it so added this.....didn't last long......asked a fellow who arrived at the albergue later that evening if he had seen it. He said: "You mean that Buddhist thing? Yeah, I saw it and knocked it down!" People get testy about these things!
 
M

Mike Trebert

Guest
#28
Inookshuk - sort of like this?:
View attachment 27493

From 2013. Found a strange new marker with no stones on it so added this.....didn't last long......asked a fellow who arrived at the albergue later that evening if he had seen it. He said: "You mean that Buddhist thing? Yeah, I saw it and knocked it down!" People get testy about these things!
Some people might remember the Olympic logo, but if they did they probably wouldn't have known what it was. I have to say that guy (the shorter one) in the photo is a real attention grabber!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#30
A rock is a rock. You stack it up, you knock it down, it's still a rock. It's a part of nature.
A plastic bottle, candy wrapper, underpants, shoes, boots, ribbon, photo, Coke can? That is trash. It is not natural, and it's got no place on the trail.

There's a difference between a rock and trash. Rocks are cool. Trash needs to be disposed-of properly. It's that simple.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#36
The thread has come full circle back to the article the OP cited.
Some of us will continue to enjoy the whimsical joy of trying to create gravity-defying stone piles, and on the camino that's obviously not an environmental problem. If it irritates you (as happens to me on a bad day)...well...you're missing the fun.

And then there are the rock labyrinths.
That's another discussion, perhaps, but I find it interesting that these are much less likely to induce annoyance (at least based on what I experience and hear from others). Even though they're bigger and take up more of the landscape.
It seems irrational to be annoyed at a small cairn but not a big labyrinth. Obviously it's not the structures themselves that are annoying, but something else. And that something else is always interesting to explore.;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#37
I would have been very, very grateful for a cairn last week when my trail disappeared and I was trying to find a route out of the backcountry. If I am ever back in that area, I shall pile up a cairn or two to tell lost travelers where to go next.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#38
I shall pile up a cairn or two to tell lost travelers where to go next.
But isn't the problem the fact that you don't know, at the time, which is the correct direction! You would have to walk back. On the other hand, you would be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs so that YOU will be found!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#39
But isn't the problem the fact that you don't know, at the time, which is the correct direction! You would have to walk back. On the other hand, you would be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs so that YOU will be found!
@C clearly:
But my post says that: "If I am ever back in that area, I shall pile up a cairn or two to tell lost travelers where to go next." A cairn or two usefully placed would have saved me two days of searching. I later spoke to someone in the trail office about getting a formal park sign placed where it would direct other travelers across the river and onto the vestigial path on the other side. But I rather like the idea of cairns, as they put the responsibility on the traveler, who does not have to wait for the authorities to act.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#40
@C clearly:
But my post says that: "If I am ever back in that area, I shall pile up a cairn or two to tell lost travelers where to go next." A cairn or two usefully placed would have saved me two days of searching. I later spoke to someone in the trail office about getting a formal park sign placed where it would direct other travelers across the river and onto the vestigial path on the other side. But I rather like the idea of cairns, as they put the responsibility on the traveler, who does not have to wait for the authorities to act.
I was thinking I'd have to make the same mistake several times before I'd remember the next time! However, two days of searching would probably burn it into my memory.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#42
In the Galician language we have two different words for this subject. "Fito" is a pile of stone to mark a way whereas "Milladoiro" is a pile of stones where people leave a stone at special/sacred places like Cruz de Ferro or San Andrés de Teixido. From this thread what I see is that there aren´t two different words in English Is that true?
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#43
In the Galician language we have two different words for this subject. "Fito" is a pile of stone to mark a way whereas "Milladoiro" is a pile of stones where people leave a stone at special/sacred places like Cruz de Ferro or San Andrés de Teixido. From this thread what I see is that there aren´t two different words in English Is that true?
I just asked @Ricky Yates who happens to be a native British English speaker and he said that cairn is more used to just indicate a way marking and, whilst there is no specific British-English term to indicate the stone marker of a sacred side, the word has developed from Scottish-Gaelic càrn (plural càirn) that can mean both. So, me guesses it depends on with which accent you speak ;-) The best person to ask about this would be @Tincatinker imo.
Buen Camino, SY
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#44
The nearest I might get to it would be tumul, (english tumulus/i) as a word for a grave marker or memorial though not in current usage so far as I'm aware. Perhaps also tum, and by extrapolation tomb. Most often, in conversation, reference is simply to the stones, or his stones. Cairn seems to have been adopted into English as the word for a pile of stones that is in one way or another of greater significance than a mere pile of stones.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF , SJPP to Santiago Sept/Oct 2016
#45
The Inuit people in Northern Canada build the most elegant cairns/markers called Inuksuit out of loose stones. There aren't many stones up there and the weather is brutal, so these small way markers have to be rebuilt frequently over extremely long periods of time. But only a few chosen elders are allowed to rebuild them. Some resemble human figures, some seem like doorways or windows. They seem sacred, are fragile, save lives and yet are transient like life itself.

The Artist Andy Goldsworthy creates very short-lived sculptures out in nature using materials like ice, leaves, delicately balanced stones. Some sculptures are assembled deliberately along a tidal area where they will only survive for a few hours. Some of these works collapse repeatedly while he creates them. These sculptures survive only as the photographs he makes. Life and beauty are fragile and nature takes back.

I've taken many photos of the countless Camino memorials. Most are very small. All are vulnerable - just a few delicately balanced stones, prey to wind and rain. They seem built not to last, there are sometimes fading photographs and small notes. The huge mound at Cruz De Ferro is apparently bulldozed or "tidied up" quite often.

I'd say most people who walk The Camino, often meditate about impermanence.

The solidity of stone is illusory.
I grew up aware of the significance of the Inuksuit. On a small remote northen Island in Inuit land (North Eastern Canada)... stands a very large Inuksuit that is visited only by chosen elder, it is said to be a doorway between worlds, this Inuksuit stands for Spiritual purpose. Been a lover of stones, big and small, I also Have Andy Golsworthy's books... I appreciate your use of the word impermanence in relation to cairn, it reminded me of when I discovered several cairns made of beach rocks at our local wilderness parc (Canadian Pacific coast). The rocks on our shore are rounded, really difficult to balance on top of one another, nevertheless that morning, someone came to the beach and took the time to play! Several lovely rows of stone stood like a small forest... it made me smile... The next day, the tide took care to erase it all, impermanence is perfect for some cairns!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#46
The nearest I might get to it would be tumul, (english tumulus/i) as a word for a grave marker or memorial though not in current usage so far as I'm aware. Perhaps also tum, and by extrapolation tomb. Most often, in conversation, reference is simply to the stones, or his stones. Cairn seems to have been adopted into English as the word for a pile of stones that is in one way or another of greater significance than a mere pile of stones.
So, the word for Milladoiro woud be Cairn and doesn´t exist a clear word for Fito.
I think that in the Celtic language spoken in Galicia before the Romans, the word for Milladoiro was Carn, because all the current Celtic languages (Gaelic, Wlelsh, Briton (Bretagne) have the root carn in the word for cairn and there is also some toponomy in Galicia The clearest is Carnota in Costa da Morte.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Camino(s) past & future
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
#47
Rebekah, sorry, but could not disagree more.

There are brand new, lovely concrete markers, installed in the past two years between Sarria and Santiago.

Already the egotistical turistas have magic-markered them, stolen the brass mileage plates, and left empty bottles, cigarette wrappers, rocks, socks, bras, boxer shorts, cheap tennis shoes, and flowers stolen from residents' gardens as their "personal rituals."

Leaving rocks is NOT the same as a cairn. Leaving rocks and other detritus screams, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME.

Tourists leave their crap and "ritual" garbage behind.
Pilgrims leave nothing but footprints behind.

In the wilderness, a cairn is left to help others.

On the Camino, a rock is left as self-memorialization.

Shame on those who have left the Camino a messier place, and blessings on the pilgrims who walk behind and clean it up.
I wish I could like this a million times.
 
Camino(s) past & future
First camino beginning September 2018
#49
I think wilderness is different to cultural landscapes though. I personally love all the cultural pilgrim made artefacts on the Camino.
So long as it doesn't get out of hand is there really any harm?

View attachment 27529

Personally all my energy goes into my legs!
I'm not sure if any. R actually stops to read some of the messages/notes left by Pilgrims as they pass these pikes of stones. Not too far out of Orisson, I stopped to have a look at dome of the notes and was so touched by those in the English language. (Rest are French and Spanish) The pain and heartache in those notes brought tears to my eyes: children who died so young, spouses and hard relationships etc. I really don't see any harm in the cairns. They don't get too large after all. I think we should be concentrating more on the debris left behind by Pilgrims. There's a small town way before Arzua which has posters showing the litter left by Pilgrims. I actually cringed though I had not dropped even a tissue on Camino for the full 30 days I was on the Way.
 
Camino(s) past & future
First camino beginning September 2018
#50
I'm not sure if anyone actually stops to read some of the messages/notes left by Pilgrims as they pass these piles of stones. Not too far out of Orisson, I stopped to have a look at some of the notes and was so touched by those in the English language. (Rest are French and Spanish) The pain and heartache in those notes brought tears to my eyes: children who died so young, spouses and hard relationships etc. I really don't see any harm in the cairns. They don't get too large after all. I think we should be concentrating more on the debris left behind by Pilgrims. There's a small town way before Arzua which has posters showing the litter left by Pilgrims. I actually cringed seeing that, though I had not dropped even a tissue on Camino for the full 30 days I was on the Way.
***
 
Camino(s) past & future
----
#51
Not too far out of Orisson, I stopped to have a look at some of the notes and was so touched by those in the English language. (Rest are French and Spanish) The pain and heartache in those notes brought tears to my eyes: children who died so young, spouses and hard relationships etc. I really don't see any harm in the cairns.
I did not see any of these superfluous stacked stones between SJPP and Roncesvalles but maybe that has changed now, too. What I did see, is the habit of leaving stuff of the kind you describe next to anything that looks remotely religious, in particular the Virgin of Biakorri and the Thibault cross. At first I thought it was a local tradition but then I realised it was what passing-through camino walkers leave behind. I often wonder how many of them know or care why the statue or the cross are there and why they feel the need to add something artificial to this part of what's left of our natural landscapes:

2 views from Biakorri statue:
Pyrenees.jpg Junk Orisson.jpg

Every stone pile and every piece of paper or photo or other memento left is an invitation to many others to do likewise.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#52
I, like Jeff, use all my energy on the Caminos walking with my legs. I am just plain too tired to even think of bending over to pick up a rock!
 
Camino(s) past & future
First camino beginning September 2018
#53
I, like Jeff, use all my energy on the Caminos walking with my legs. I am just plain too tired to even think of bending over to pick up a rock!
Some of my fellow pilgrims were very surprised I had not added even a single stone to any of the piles already in existence, really too tired and feel for sure I would have fallen over trying to pick up a pebble, especially when I had no idea why I should do so. I did stop to read notes, though. Ha ha, probably taking a break!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
#54
A retired bomb disposal officer told me that in certain countries a pile of stacked stones can be an indicator of nearby roadside mines/IEDs. Not an issue for Spanish camino routes, I completely accept, but it offers another quite stark example of the practical importance some of these structures can have for human survival.
 
Camino(s) past & future
First camino beginning September 2018
#55
A retired bomb disposal officer told me that in certain countries a pile of stacked stones can be an indicator of nearby roadside mines/IEDs. Not an issue for Spanish camino routes, I completely accept, but it offers another quite stark example of the practical importance some of these structures can have for human survival.
I have also come across some cairns(actually pointed out by our guide) while on the Drakensberg, South Africa. These apparently put in place by Bushmen as grave markers.
 

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