weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Month: September, 2014

Longing For Silence

One of the interesting experiences of the Camino is the very long periods of time one has walking in silence. When we walk all day, there are lots of time when Terri and I do not talk to each other. We are both lost in our own thoughts and in the beautiful countryside we are often walking through. There is something very special about this experience of silence.

As I mentioned, I am reading a book by Wayne Muller called “Sabbath”. He talks about the experience of going on a hike without talking with the others on the hike but just being in nature and observing everything you see , hear and feel. I will quote from his book since it summarizes well what we have been going through.

“This kind of silence alters perception. We see differently in silence, when we are not expected to comment, analyze or respond. The Buddhist precept of Right Speech includes the refraining from speaking words that are not necessary. Things find their way deeper into our body when we are not in such a hurry to spit them back out. Mother Teresa said, “God is the friend of silence.” Things are born in quiet that cannot be heard in the din of our overly verbal days.”

We are so thankful for this special “Camino Silence” we have enjoyed!

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

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A Day of Rest

Today Terri and I took our first full day of rest since we started the Camino. We have taken a few short days of rest but not a full day. Both of us were really ready for this day off from walking the Camino. We have been walking for over 3 weeks without a full day off. I am not sure this was a very good plan! I was reading a book called Sabbath by Wayne Muller and read this section last night. It really speaks to this idea of the importance of rest.

“When we live without listening to the timing of things—when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest—we are on war “time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this.”


Terri's ankle is giving her a lot of pain right now. We are going to try and listen to our bodies better from now on so we can hopefully make it all the way to Santiago! Tomorrow we are going to try walking without her pack. We will ship it ahead to the Albergue we are staying at tomorrow night. We are hopeful this “rest from the pack” will be just what she needs to be able to continue.

 

Oh, how thankful we are today for our day of rest here in Leon! A great city to spend time in with so much great history. We even splurged and had a very special dinner tonight at the famous Parador Hotel and restaurant (see picture above)!

 

Buen Camino!

 

John and Terri


 

Determination

Today was a very hard day again as Terri was not well when we started and walked all day with a headache on top of that she has a very sore ankle. We started out in the dark and rain with all our rain gear and even had trouble finding the route in the dark and had to back track a couple of times till we were on the Camino path. It was a hard start to our day of walking.

I can not believe how much determination and grit Terri had today. She is one “tough cookie”! She definitely had on her “big girl panties” as she likes to say. It got me thinking about the folks that walk the the entire Camino in one shot,like we are doing over 5 to 6 weeks. Anyone doing this way needs to have incredible determination and grit to endure such a long and difficult journey. It is not for anyone that does not have that “true grit”.

We heard a statistic from a fellow pilgrim that really surprised us. He told us he heard from two different sources so maybe it is true. He said that only 11% of the pilgrims that start off in St Jean Pied de Port with the intent to walk the 500 miles to Santiago ever make it to Santiago. 11%! That is hard to believe but as we go along and see how difficult this walk is I guess it might be true. All we know is whoever finishes this 500 mile walk in the 5 to 6 weeks have some “real determination” and “grit”!

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

The Endless Road

Today we walked most of the day on the “Old Roman Road” that was built 2000 years ago and has been walked on for all these years. The amazing thing about the road we walked on today is that it is estimated that it took 100,000 tons of rock to raise the substrata to above the winter flood levels. What is crazy is that all that rock had to be brought in from somewhere far away since there was no source of rock nearby! It is very strange to walk on this road knowing this.

The other hard thing about walking this road is how monotonous and boring it is to walk all day on a flat straight road. We are now at the half way point of our walk and we are so excited and feel so happy to have made it this far but the last 5 days of walking have really been weighing us down. We have walked 5 full days now on flat level ground and you can see nothing for miles. There is very little shade as well. It has truly tested our resolve for walking this Camino. We have decided to do one more day of this “Meseta” walking and then head in the big city of Leon for some rest before we tackle the last 2 weeks which are going to be some of the most scenic section of the entire Camino. We are both very excited to get off this “Meseta” and on to the next region!

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

The Many Ways To Make Your Camino

One of the interesting things we have learned on “Our Camino”, is the many varied ways that people “make their Camino”. Everyone has their own unique Camino that they are making! I have used the word “make” over the word “doing” since it seems much more appropriate describing the Camino experience. To make something means you add something of yourself and are often creative in the process. “To do something” seems more rote and less creative.

When we made our plans for the Camino Frances, the traditional way that most people walk the Camino, we kind of assumed this was the way everyone made their Camino. You started at the border town in France, St Jean Pied Port, and you walk from east to west across the northern part of Spain in the period of roughly 5 to 6 weeks ending your Camino at Santiago de Compostela. What we have learned though is there are many ways to “make your Camino”.

Some we met started at their home city in Europe and started walking from their “front door” all the way to Santiago! We met a German woman that started at her home town in Northern Germany and was making her Camino all the way from her home. She started in 2006 and was doing pieces of it every year taking the train to where she left off from last stop. Some of the folks we met were coming back to finish up where they left off a few years back. It seems that many of the folks we met along the way live in Europe somewhere and are returning to do their next piece. It might be they only have a week but they make their way back to finish their next section.

We met one Aunt and her Niece that had 3 days off from their jobs and had decided to do a small section from the town they lived in, Burgos. We saw them early this morning as we were leaving the town of Fromista. They were waiting for the bus to take them back to Burgos. They both had to get to work today!

It has been facinating to hear each of the Camino stories. Equally as interesting is the number of different ways that folks choose to make their Camino. We see many walking, of course, but there are also a lot of bicycle riders as well on the Camino. We even saw some doing it on horseback. We also saw a man pushing a woman in a wheel chair hauling a huge pack! Speaking of packs we have seen a huge variety of pack sizes. In fact it seems the majority of the Camino walkers do the walk with a small rucksack and ship their gear each day from one spot to the next. It seems that the minority are carrying everything they need for the trip (like we are doing).

The thing we have come to understand though, is that there is no one way that is right because it is a personal thing. Each person “makes their own Camino”. No judging! There is no right or wrong way; only your own personal way!

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

It Is An Endurance Test

I was telling Terri that I thought the Camino is the ultimate “Endurance Test”. I told her that in the engineering field when a company engineers a new piece of equipment to sell, they will run the new piece of equipment through a battery of testing. A large part of the testing regime is performance tests to see if it works ok under all the different operating conditions and environments it will see during its use. After these sets of tests are complete there is often a set of tests run to prove that the equipment can have a long life.

Walking the Camino is an “Endurance Test”. It uncovers all the little flaws. That “old football injury” comes back to haunt you. New problems you never had before crop up (blisters or hip problems), they begin to surface and become real problems that you have to deal with. We have seen several folks that have had to call it quits and go home. Some just decide to take the bus for a while till they heal up some. Some have sent their heavy packs ahead and walk only with small back packs. Others decide to walk in their alternate shoe wear (sandals or tennis shoes).

What we have seen so far is that the Camino finds all the flaws just like a good endurance test does. So far we have been ok with the flaws uncovered. We are limiting our total mileage to about 20 to 25 km each day. Terri has found a good way to manage her blisters which are getting better each day. I found the magic of “Anica gel” for my “old calf injury”. We remain on track so far. We will see how it goes though. This is a very difficult test on our “old bodies”.

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

 

Completo

The Spanish word “Completo” which means full, is fast becoming my least favorite word these days on the Camino. It is the word that is used to tell you there “is no room at the inn”, keep looking for a place to stay the night.

Terri and I have been trying hard to let the Camino come to us as we go and not worry or be anxious if there is going to be room available at the end of the day's walk. We have been having mixed results and are now starting to book ahead each day so we know we have somewhere to lay our heads. We are not fast walkers and so what has been happening is by the time we arrive at some of these small villages with their sometimes limited accommodations, we find ourselves faced with very limited or no options for a place to spend the night. This means having to walk on often much further than we had planned or finding someone that can help us get to some place that can host us for the night.

One of the reasons for this problem is how many people are walking the Camino this time of year. We have been very surprised at the large numbers and this puts tremendous pressure on the little towns and villages to house everyone. In some of the small villages when they fill up all the accommodations in town they open up a civic facility and house pilgrims on the floors. So far we have avoided this fate.

Staying in the Albergues or hostels is part of doing the Camino. We have stayed in some very nice ones and some real stinkers. Last night was one of those stinkers. We were bunked up in a room with 10 other pilgrims with a single toilet and a couple of showers. The bunk beds in this case were very closely spaced with little room left over for your packs or personal space. We purchased the breakfast for the morning and by the time we got down there it was mostly gone. Not all the Albergues are like this though and we have stayed at some really decent ones.

What we have been doing recently to keep our sanity and to get a good nights rest is staying in an hotel or bed and breakfast occasionally. Today we ran into the same trouble again as we entered the town with many of the good Albergues full (Completo) so we sprang for a “casa rural” room and are loving it! It is like staying in someone's home!

One of the things about the Camino is you are constantly adapting and learning each day as you go along.

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

Village After Village

 

One of the very special aspects of the Camino is the large number of small “Villas” or Villages that you walk through or stay the night in the during the walk. We estimate that by the time we complete the Camino we will have walked through almost 100 small villages. The Camino seems to weave from one little village to another and almost always comes into the village at the Church of the town. In fact many of the Albergues you stay the night at are associated with and near the Church. Every small village has a church and it is amazing how beautiful they are! Even at the villages as small as 50 people.

Many of the little villages are existing today only due to the commerce of all the pilgrims that walk through their town each day. It always seems that when we need some water or bano's or a a bite to eat there is some “cute little village” appearIng on the horizon in the nick of time. Walking the paths and roads one gets very used to the comforting idea that there is a village just over the horizon waiting to serve our needs.

We never seem to tire of the sight of the next little village as it appears in the distance with its Church steeple and bells and the respite for just what we need. Oh, how special is the Camino path with its quaint scenic villages!

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

Let It Rain

It had to happen eventually and we were ready for it. Today we walked the majority of our morning on a good “Seattle Rain”. We even had a good wind driving the rain at us as we set out in the morning in the dark with our headlamps on. It actually felt good. We have been so hot everyday since we started the Camino. Every afternoon we would be just beat down from the heat and drag into our Alberque ready for a shower and something to eat. Today felt different we had all our great Seattle rain gear and we were off. We did notice not very many folks felt the same way about the weather conditions.

Talking about it this morning we made the observation that folks from Seattle are so used to doing things in the rain (if we didn't we would not do much). Rain is just what we do as they say. For those that live in areas where there is little rain and when it rains you don't go out, you can understand their reluctance to walk all day in the rain. I also felt a bit sorry for all the folks that wear tennis shoes on the Camino as their main walking shoe (there are a lot too!). Today was a tough day for them.

Today we are glad for all of our Seattle rain in helping us get through our morning.

Buen Camino!

John and Terri

 

It Takes A Village

One of the most amazing things we have discovered in walking the Camino is how interconnected one becomes with all the different pilgrim walkers you meet along the way. We have met so many people from all over the world. We have developed a network of fellow walkers from England, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Holland, Austrailia, New Zealand, and from the United States (probably 10 or 12 states).

You quickly develop bonds with your fellow pilgrims and in many cases you end up spending the night in the same bunk bed rooms, eating meals together and sharing a cafe con leche in the early morning as you start the walking. They say “it takes a village to raise a child” but in the case of the Camino I think “it takes a village to walk the Camino”. We have so many different situations where fellow pilgrims have helped out other pilgrims that needed some help. There was the couple we met and shared a bus ride and lunch with in Najera, Terry and Heather. Terry was very sick and was going to the doctor in Najera. When Heather needed some help in the doctor’s office with Spanish translation up stepped another pilgrim friend, Liz, from Sacramento who we have got to be friends with to help out Heather. She just happened to be there at the right time to lend a hand to another fellow pilgrim. This “coincidences” repeat day after day it seems. It is all part of trusting in the Camino. Often it is the fellow pilgrim that is coming to aid of the other.

Terri and I are really beginning to feel the “Camino trust” more and more and we are sure there is going to be opportunities ahead for us to be of help to a fellow pilgrim in need.

Buen Camino!

John and Terri