As most of you know, since the beginning of the pandemic I have battled health issues. Every time I thought I had gotten back up, it came roaring back, knocking me to the ground.
But in the past three months, coincidentally since we moved to our house in Palas de Rei, and since I got the vaccine, I am getting stronger and stronger. I have many more good days than bad ones. I can breath again, too. Yes, after Covid I have asthma now, but it’s under control. And my heart is holding its own, too. So, it’s time to get back up on the horse.
I know it’s a crazy year on the Camino. I keep hearing ‘the Camino provides’ and I believe it does. Just not beds, it seems. This year is a different year. Nevertheless, I have decided to start a Camino in St Jean in September.
Why am I contemplating this in such a crazy year? Especially after all the health challenges of the past 18 months? Well, that’s precisely why I want to go. And to go now.
In our little pop up Albergue campground on the Frances, we don’t get the Sarria to Santiago walkers. We only get the long haulers. Those who started much further back. Burgos, Roncesvalles, St Jean, Burgundy or Bordeaux. Germany, Belgium, or The Netherlands. These Peregrinos are different to the one week walkers or bikers. They even look different. You could pick them out of a crowd. And they are more peaceful. Comfortable with silence and solitude. Their Camino isn’t a vacation. It’s a prayer or a meditation.
I believe the soul recognizes itself in others. When I meet these folks, I know them instantly, remembering this feeling. Completely in the moment and self-contained. I recall coming home to the US after two months, where I could sit in silence for 8 hours. The tv or radio was too much. Loud voices were harsh to my ears. The Camino had healed my soul. And I wrote a first draft of a book in those first 8 weeks. I had written it in my head over 36 days in the hot Spanish sun.
So, while I know it will be difficult, I am going anyway. I’ll be smart about it, and because we live on the Camino, I‘m aware of what I’m in for. Reservations this year will be my friend. I may have to stay in one place for a few days. To let crowds pass by at major starting points on weekends or fiestas.
I also know that after the past 18 months I am in the worst possibles shape. When I walked from SJPP in 2017, there were two brothers who hopped on a plane from Boston. Each of them was likely 300lbs. They had old Boy Scout gear from the 70’s, and already broken down shoes. But they came to walk. And they did it slowly. Everyone’s Camino is their own. I had a fierce admiration for these two men, and greeted them with hugs in Santiago at the end. They had each lost so much weight as to be unrecognizable- if they weren’t twins. But they made it and let nothing stop them. So I figure if they can do it, so can I. And I have the benefit of experience and the time to train a bit.
Pics from my walk today.
Melide is 5 km- ish from our house. 10 km round trip. I’ve begun walking into Melide each morning. It’s a nice walk, and the last uphill into town is a good test of my fitness, which is terrible. And coming home is a long sustained uphill, too. But each day I will get stronger and stronger. If I can do 200 kms on this walk, before I head out to Pamplona and the bus to St Jean, I think I’ll be ready for that first climb up to Orrisson.
This Camino will be very different for me. It won’t be so much about the emotional side (although it might surprise me). I think it will be more about getting back into my body and regaining my health. At a pace all my own. As Jeff says ‘You can take two months if you want to. Stop along the way. See everything. Do what you need to do.’
I’d like to walk in our gate with the look of a long hauler. With an open, healed heart and a quiet mind. And calves that can crack walnuts. 😉 If I can do that, the uncertainty and hardships along the Way will just be more challenges I will have overcome. And I’ve overcome just a few in the past year, so I know it’s possible. I’m ready.