Now is as good a time as any to share some reflections on the first part of my Camino thus far. I have just now received a photo of ME walking, taken by the Hungarian pilgrim I was about to meet whilst resting at El Zaguan. Her name is Kinga. She walked as if floating on air. She made it look easy!
It brings back all the memories of being there and it’s no small thrill to have a pic of myself in situ for a change. Walking the walk. My purple Berghaus rucksack (still overweight), the shell from Christina of Germany hanging off the back, the walking sticks, my boots (now at rest on the railway bridge into Santiago).
Up to Fuente de Cantos, the place of chanting, I’d walked approx. 116 kilometres all up. I’d been walking 5 days so far since 4th September and was spending the 9th and 10th of Sept lolling about the oasis of Zaguan.
The Via de la Plata, in that first week, wound us peregrines through such different landscapes, across vast plains and up damn mountains – it was breathtaking in every sense. We’d walked through herds of goats, past black pigs and sheep, through cattle moving on to further pastures, all free ranging.
The land was oak trees and acorns. Dark and misty in the pre-dawn mornings of the Type A’s I was travelling with and brightly sunny with shading trees later on in the day.
The scenery was ever-changing and wondrous. There was even a small stretch that featured gum trees, our Eucalyptus trees that had me torn with homesickness.
I’d learnt so much already about the Camino – NOT how to distance myself from weird interactions with other pilgrims (believe me, there were even weirder moments ahead of me before I finally learnt how to “be” as a pilgrim!) but how to walk alone for hours every day and really enjoy that – how to appreciate the beauty of the countryside and the animals I met and how to appreciate my body coping with all that walking.
Because I had promised my brother in Oz to let him know I was safe, I was using my smartphone every day and emailing him and sending pix to Facebook of my travels so I was in contact with “civilisation”. People asked me if I was having fun? Enjoying it? And you know, I felt bad because I couldn’t honestly say “Yes, this walking is FUN!” because it wasn’t – it was bloody hard, effingly hard!
I was gratified when talking about it with Vicky, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in the last 2 days of my (and her) Camino and we walked into Santiago together. She also said that no, it wasn’t fun – it was hard work doing all that walking. And she was a veteran (as I am now).
So, no, it wasn’t fun – and at the time, I found it hard to enjoy – my hips would seize up around 15 kilometres making steps smaller and smaller, the soles of my boots seemed to disappear so it felt like I was walking barefoot on those sharp Roman stones and don’t get me started on how your legs swell up because of that very same walking!
And if that’s how it was for me, then it was the same for all of the pilgrims. But it was never a reason to stop and give up. The magic of those first few kilometres when everything was in great working order was sublime – just walking and the music and the natural surroundings.
And the being “contained” by the Camino road – all the signage, the flechas, the other pilgrims. Such safety. And the feeling of following in the footsteps of thousands of other pilgrims since medieval times. From village to village, from church to church.
And when walking, that sinking down into the road when the body and the road become one – when everything is synchronised.
Now all that sounds romantic so throw in my festering festival and a few choice swearwords and physical aches and pains and you’ll have a more realistic idea of how it felt at the time!
And that was without the blisters which were 50 kilometres away from me and a major breakdown – but hey, more on that later!
Buen Camino, amigos,