I walked the Vía de la Plata in 2009 while pilgrims were still not a daily sight, and a small, young-looking woman like myself walking alone was rarer still.
The old ladies in the towns would always commend me for being valiente, so brave! , and marvel, astonished, that I was walking solita, all alone. There were dangers in the woods! “Lobos!” they warned. “Wolves! The kind with 4 legs, and the kind with 2!”
These women also warned me about the mighty jabalí, but my limited Spanish meant I had no idea what a jabalí was, and none of my dictionaries provided a translation. So I just nodded and smiled and assured them I’d be careful.
But I was soon to find out for myself what they were talking about, no translation required.
For one day, as I was walking along a gorgeous, solitary, damp forest path, sunlight filtering through the leaves, minding my own business and ambling on at a pleasant clip, I heard off to my right, a shake of leaves, and… a very, very loud… SNUFFLE!
“Cchwaoink waoink cchhwank!!!!” it insisted. “Cchwaoinkkkkkkkccchhh!!”
And before any thoughts registered in my mind, before I could even consciously acknowledge danger, my body had jumped into action, springing into a fencer’s lunge, with a pole in each hand, each pointing in the direction of the sound.
As I caught my breath, the scene unfolded as if I were, for the third time this Camino, watching myself from above, a movie scene unfolding beneath me. And there I was, the heroine, face to face with the legendary jabali — A wild boar.
I was panting, chest moving wildly up and down, still in my fencer’s lunge, trembling, the sticks
pointed at its large black snout. I saw no tusks, only beady eyes staring right at me. I stared into its
ugly face. It stared back.
“Is it going to pounce on me?” I thought. “Am I going to die? OMG
What do I doooooooo?” I was frozen in panic, trying
to shove the walking poles menacingly in its direction.
The jabalí just stared on back with its beady eyes and
sized me up. Making its decision, it snuﬄed out a
bored yawn, turned, and waddled away with one
last look over its shoulder that seemed to say,
“Don’t fuck with me, lady.”
Even though the threat was gone, I held my defensive pose, still trembling, sticks in the air, for
a few minutes longer, before dumbly realizing the movie was over and I was brandishing my poles at an empty expanse of
forest. I shook myself out of my daze and shakily got back into step. Perhaps I’d scared the beast—- though not as much as it had scared me!
Back into my slow stride, this time I was sure to CLACK!!! my sticks down heavily with each step, CLACK, CLACK CLACK!, singing out Eidelweis in a warning to all the jabalís and friends out there: “Here I come, piggy piggy piggy! Don’t be scared, Mr. Jabalí, it’s only me; it’s only me, Mr. Jabalí, here I come, it’s only me…” ✦