29 Why Walk the Camino

I believe the Camino experience is not what most people expect when they get here, even if you have prepared for months before starting out. I know I was training, or at least walking in preparation before my first Camino in an attempt to become accustomed to 20+ km distances each day. The problem was I could only find the time to walk 20 km on the weekends, but during the week it was all I could do to find the time to walk 5. When I arrived and started walking I found the distance was not a problem, but the repetitive distance day after day was.

Add to the equation my training ground is basically a flood plain for Lake Ontario. There are no significant hills even if I had thought to train for this….which hadn’t dawned on me at all.

For this Camino I can say I had virtually no preparation. In fact I have found many people have walked very little prior to arriving at their starting point. Some, OK probably most of these unprepared Pilgrims will most likely have more problems, but not all. And many people who have done everything possible in preparation may suffer in the same proportions as the unprepared Pilgrims.

Before you decide….. I think it is a good idea to try and prepare as much as possible.

So what proportion of the people out here are doing so as a religious undertaking? This is strictly and empirical judgement, but I would say the minority. Maybe 15%? For some people I am sure it becomes a religious experience, but the vast majority are here for another reason.

Some are here for the physical challenge, some are here wanting time away to sort out something in their life, others are looking for answers…..the commonalities however are quite basic. Each person is willing to set out. Each person is going to be changed in some way.

Each person is a Pilgrim.

I am often asked if there is a moment when you have a epiphany? No. I really don’t think anyone has this moment in time during their Camino.
I have noticed in myself and others a period of personal peace. Being removed from day-to-day pressures, simplifying your life, and eliminating issues we all pile up over time, especially in my case, I feel a sense of relief.
Unfortunately this relief is temporary…yeah, I know, everyone says the same thing. “Take what you’ve learned on the Camino and apply it in your daily life”.

Sounds nice, but it really doesn’t work that way. Again….at least in my case.
Perhaps the basic take away is unlike a winter vacation for a week where you try to get a break, The Camino really is a radical departure. You must go back in both cases…..but the lasting effects are dramatically different.

Another profound difference is the acceptance of others. On the Camino you can choose to be alone, or not. The reality is you are probably surrounded by a couple of hundred people at any one time, and all are responsive. If you ask “May I sit here?” you will most likely end up in a conversation. The exchange may be isolated to that one time, or it may be repeated…..

I met a young Korean woman who was walking alone early on in this Camino. We introduced each other as is the custom. Her name was Kim and my name of course is Cam. This was the literal extent of her English language skills. We had a bit of a chuckle about our names, but in that we have nothing else to say to each other we went on separately. I saw her probably for the next three or four days sporadically.

Our traveling times became very different and I have not seen her since. Today I came walking down a very rugged path and I found her sitting on a small bridge with one shoe off rubbing her leg. She was obviously in pain.

Using the basic languages that we both had, mostly basic English, I determined that she is suffering from shin splints. She had no idea what to do about this but it was really causing her tremendous pain. Lila had given me a tube of topical ibuprofen a couple of days ago so I pulled this out of my pack and tried to explain this would help with the pain. Eventually she understood and put it on and I gave her the tube. And she smiled although she didn’t understand what I said but at least excepted accepted the gift.

I went on my way leaving her on the bridge knowing that this would probably reduce the pain a bit at least.

I don’t expect to see Kim again….and I am hardly the only person to share on the Camino….I’m no saint. But this type of sharing is extremely common, and actually doesn’t stand out as uncommon.

So what about today. This is the last day of any serious climbing and we will gradually ascend about 500m and then gradually descend from here for the remainder of the walk to Santiago.

The climb out of Portomarin is steep, long, and not at all welcome first thing in the morning. I meet a woman from Australia. She is here with her Catholic Group, and they are walking the last 100 km. I know, I know, don’t talk religion…one of the big ones….but I can’t keep my mouth shut. We talked about a myriad of topics over the next hour. She didn’t change my position, and I didn’t sway her faith… (yet that is) We split up at a rest point and I walked the rest of the day listening to my music.
Today’s music list:
George Harrison album Brainwashed (becoming a favorite)
Frank Zappa album Have I Offended Someone (always a fav)
Wailin’ Jenny’s album Firecracker

The lack of rain in Galicia is an obvious major problem. This region is referred to as the Ireland of Spain. Normally it rains a great deal. This year however there has be a dramatic lack of rain. As I mentioned previously the authorities are considering declaring a drought. This is serious. I mentioned the forest fires earlier, and today we walked through an area affected by fire very recently. The small of burnt wood, grass, and just about everything else was thick.

When I arrived in a small village I thought it was only had another 3 km to go today. That was until I looked at the name of the Pension directly in front of me. I had actually already arrived at my destination. I had stayed here with Susan and Bene 4 years ago, and according to Bene this was a favoured  camp for Charlemagne and his troops. This time however I was staying in the Pension rather than the tightly packed Albergue.

Nothing like a private room and en suite bathroom.

I sat for a short while outside of the Gonzo Bar and met a lot of nice people.
Michael and Kanji (Kanji is from Taiwan, Michael from somewhere….)
Cathy and Nancy (Nashville)
Steve and his wife (Australia)
Kim and Jaqui (London Ontario and Woodstock)

While sitting in outside some hunters arrived and brought their kill in to show their friends and family. This was an enormous hare…..not a wild boar, but probably much more tasty.

Everyone seemed to really liked talking and drinking with little end in sight, and still no dinner, so I decided to bail early.

My walk tomorrow is about the same as today. Today was about 25km, tomorrow should be 26 or so.