Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guest Post - The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Part II

An Update from my friends on the pilgrims' trail:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Day 26 of Walking
Molinaseca, Spain

Despite bad weather and an incipient overuse injury, our walk of the Camino is going well. Our days have become predictable, repetitive and simple. I like it. 

By my GPS we have walked 280 miles in 26 days--almost 15 miles per day at a pace of 2.5 miles per hour or a little more. We now go a bit shorter and slower most days than we did at the start because tendinitis at the ankle is a problem. 

Typically we are out of bed by 7 a.m.  At most we have coffee and toast at our night's albergue, and then we start walking between 8 and 8:30 a.m. If we can, we look for more coffee and something substantial to eat after an hour or two of walking. The menu at each cafe in every town is much more likely to offer a ham or chorizo sandwich on a 12-inch loaf of French bread than it is to offer bacon and eggs so that is our usual breakfast (and lunch).  Later in the day we stop at least twice more for coffee or Coke, perhaps another sandwich, and a 20-30 minute rest. 

We are getting more and more basic in our needs. A shower every three days seems less important to me than it did four weeks ago. We carry only a single change of clothing so we do laundry by hand in the sink now and then, laundering our hiking pants and outer shirts only every week or two when we arrive early in the afternoon at the occasional albergue that has a washer and dryer. 

It has rained much of every day for at least a week. Unfortunately I left my rain/wind pants on a drying rack in an albergue on a rare morning when I did not need to wear them first thing. That simplifies my already-narrow clothing choices, but I still have to decide whether To start off with my rain jacket for rain and warmth. It can be hard to rummage through the backpack on a muddy road to switch clothes at the start of a hard rain. Choices. Decisions. 

What with rain and low visibility and battery problems, I have kept my camera deep in my pack. And I actually enjoy the freedom from taking it out from the top compartment multiple times every day when a possible snapshot appears. There are pretty landscapes when you can see them and in the villages there are long stretches of picturesque 2-story stone houses along the cobbled main road, but I would not consider photography to be a primary reason to walk the Camino. 

Lately I rarely listen to a book (when I do it is currently Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!) and even more rarely music (heavy on Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash and Willy Nelson). Walking the Camino seems to be enough to pass the time. 

The walk still is not religious or particularly spiritual for me. It is mostly a physical challenge. And it has turned out to be a tougher physical and mental challenge than I expected. But, since we are in fact doing it day by day, the extra challenge seems good. 

Still, I certainly understand why many others, often in their early 20's, walk with the idea of figuring out what to do next. One man walked because he had lost his job and had time and a need to think things out.  Many have religious reasons--not necessarily Catholic--in whole or in part.  Many people have returned for several years, usually starting each time where they left off the previous year. We met a large group of disabled youths from The Netherlands who traveled a part of the Camino in wheelchairs, each one bundled and attended by at least two able bodied persons. 

Only a meeting with two very old and sick and frail sisters--first at an albergue overnight and then a brief encounter along the route the next day--troubled me. They had two wheeled metal carts, one of which they sent ahead each night. The other, filled largely with medicine and warm clothing, they took with them on the path. I do not think it conceivable that they could have completed the day's journey over very steep rocky and rutted climbs, and much less could they do the hundreds of miles to Santiago, which I think was their goal. I think it entirely likely that they could be caught between towns and die. I wish that their Church had exhorted them that completing such a painful and perilous journey is not an essential route to their prayers or salvation. 

Most of the time B and I walk fairly close to each other, occasionally with other pilgrims, but mostly it is at rest breaks that we converse. So walking becomes pleasant hours of contemplation--of kids, of grandkids, of minor tweaks to finances, of past and future trips with B. We arrive at our albergue by 3 or 4 p.m.  We nap. We have a Pilgrim's Menu dinner, which sometimes is quite good. I could do with less rain, but minor screw ups and adversities seem to have synergized into a very satisfying adventure. 

Day 27 

No rain today! We have now done 395 miles. Probably we will reach Santiago in eight or nine days.

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