I heard an interesting Camino story today. There is a German woman who walks the Spanish route every year and she walks only to empty her mind. She leaves her family and buys a one-way ticket for France where she starts walking to Santiago de Compostela, and she walks until her head is clear. The nugget of her story is that she has never been to Santiago – she finishes what she needs to do before she gets there, and then she goes home. Talk about the journey and not the destination, right?
Her story resonates with me, as my experience so far is quite different than what I expected, and most days I don’t have many thoughts at all. It’s becoming clear that emptying the mind is my daily reality, here on the Camino. I thought there’d be much more self-analysis and thinking things through, but so far nothing. You know when you’re driving your car and so deep in thought, that all of a sudden you are a mile down the road and you can’t recall any detail of that last mile? Then you realize what you were thinking about to make you go blank for awhile. Well, it’s kinda like that with the caveat of no deep thoughts. I wonder if meditation is like this? I’ve never been able to meditate, try as I might. But I think I know now what it feels like.
It reminds me of one of our dogs, Mr. Rusty Brown, aka beef brown. Rusty came to us with many strange but endearing habits. One of the best was when he randomly sat staring at a wall for up to 15 minutes at a time – we always said he was ‘waiting for the bus’. Well, maybe I’m at a big bus stop on the Camino…..ah, I digress…
While I walk I think of very few things, and here they are (in no particular order): Why do blisters hurt so much? When did I drink last? When did I last pee – am I hydrated? Where is the next yellow arrow? Also random observations about all the gardens I walk by….And that’s about it.
The physical challenge is harder than I thought. Much harder. I’ve come to the conclusion that any day requiring more than about 26km is just not enjoyable for me. I don’t mind digging deep and pushing through, but I want my Camino to be more than just getting the job done. I want to have energy for simple things like saying ‘Bom Dia’ to the people I pass, looking on the doorknobs of the small hamlet houses to see if the baskets of bread have yet been delivered, and observing the communications of the housewives as they stand at gates and chatter away.
These last four days have kinda blended together and I think I’ve walked about 95km total, and since Coimbra there has been much more road walking – and on highways too, so have felt the need to be much more alert under certain conditions.
The other day I walked most of the day with an older German man. He liked to walk with me cause I am so slow. A compliment I guess, or maybe my caboose status from Vancouver hiking has made it over here, too. After three heart attacks, and 35+ years of smoking, he now has limits (but power to him for doing multiple Caminos!). We started walking together the next day, even though I didn’t want to, but felt obliged. I was having an awful, slow morning and when he commented on my slow pace and the fact that my feet hitting the pavement sounded like an elephant walking, I shut down and told him to go on ahead. After all, I didn’t want to walk HIS Camino. It was a good lesson in deciding not to be around a certain energy. Best decision I made that day. We wished each other ‘Bom Caminho’, then parted ways.
The only few mentionables specific to these last four days is there have been many smaller stretches that are the original pilgrim route so a few medieval bridges and Roman paths, ‘Estrada Real’ has also been part of my journey (refers to Queen Isabel’s Caminho in the 1600s) and in Agueda they were setting up for a month long arts/music festival – lots of colourful umbrellas lined the streets.
Tomorrow is my last day of walking on my own. Kara flies in to Porto and we start walking together on Monday. The plan for tomorrow is to walk 20km to Grijo, then taxi the last 14km into Porto. I’ve read numerous reports of the last 15km into Porto are long, busy roads and industrial areas – I’ve had enough of busy roads for now, so a taxi will be great.
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(I’m on a first generation iPad mini and WordPress,with sometimes spotty Internet, so the challenge is real).