I have been on the camino for two weeks now and it feels as if it has been a lifetime. When I meet people in town and describe something to them the days run into each other and the places I stayed and the people I met are a Blur. The few consistent things have been my body which keeps me going each day despite the aches and pains from walking 20+km a day, my bag which carries the few belongings I have chosen to carry on this journey and a few people I have walked with or continue to meet in Albergues along the way. The rest of life moves along as I do, walking through different terrains and towns, past different people, local and fellow pilgrims. The camino truly is life and it constantly reminds me to not get attached: to an idea, a place, a person. We must just flow with whatever comes up.
The first lesson I learned is to move at my own pace. The first three days I attempted to keep up with my friend Julie and the route suggested by our guidebook, but when my feet began to swell and blister from the rocky mountain paths and the heat of the day I had to stop to rest and listen to my body. In those first days there was nothing quite like reaching town, having a shower, rubbing my muscles down with some oils and putting my feet up with a cold beer. Thank goodness for the other pilgrims I met who could relate and create a bond of solidarity with, as we helped doctor each other’s wounds. It creates a great sense of comradery doing something as amazing and crazy as walking 900km from one country to the coast of another
At the beginning the camino was not what I expected! The number of pilgrims far surpassed what I thought, some 300+ a day, the 26.5km 1400m climb up and down from St Jean to Roncesvalles on the first day was way more intense than I could have imagined and my belief that this was going to be relatively easy for me was quickly shaken. But each day I keep on walking and meeting new people of different ages, health and fitness levels and reasons for embarking on this journey and it kept me going. There is no special type of pilgrim, just a desire for something different, something simple, something profound.
The landscapes the first few days through the Pyrenees and the Basque country were absolutely spectacular with foggy mornings keeping the sun at bay till it finally melted away and revealed the mountains, blue skies and animals grazing in the fields whose bells we could hear ring through the fog. The towns along this stretch did not seem Spanish at all but something out of a German film, White washed with red roofs. Not until we reached Pamplona did it feel like we were in Spain. I absolutely loved Pamplona, a university city with lively tapas bars, street music, funky shops and a spirit of youth and fun. The day we spent there was such a bolster to my spirit and a good break for my body. It wasn’t until I reached Logrono and bought new walking sandles that were a size bigger than usual that my feet finally felt good and I was able to continue walking at a comfortable pace. I spent two days walking alone in the rain and was able to find the peace and serenity I expected of the camino. On my own I was able to find my own pace, breaking for coffee or meditation when the urge called me. It is such a simple and awesome thing to live in this way, waking in the morning and throwing on your only clothes, eating breakfast, setting out to walk until you need rest, food, water or are inspired to, then when your body has had enough and you come up on a town with a place to stay you stop and allow yourself to be welcomed into this new place, given a bed, a place to wash, a meal and if you are lucky a washing machine to clean the two changes of clothes that you carry on with you. It brings so much gratitude to my heart!
More to come soon.
Love and light on the road of life