Walking 4 hours for my morning coffee…

Distance walked: 24.5km

When I arrived in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos on a sweaty, dusty, Sunday afternoon, I was hugely relieved to get a bed in the hostel. There wasn’t anywhere else to stay for another 17km and I was tired enough from walking 24km already. The ground seared from the heat and it was a relief to get in to the shade. I have to thank my fellow pilgrims for pointing out that the local shop was open for only an hour that afternoon. If I needed food or drink, I’d need to be quick. Just as well because not only was there nowhere to stay for another 17km, there was also nowhere to get food, either. Without that pilgrim’s advice, I would have missed out on the shop’s opening hours and I would have had nothing to eat for breakfast the next day.

The next morning, I ate my breakfast baguette sitting on the side of a corn field, with the morning sun in my face. I did some stretches. I drank some water. I gazed out on the flatness of the landscape and enjoyed that there were almost no trees, no shady spots from the rising sun. It’s one of my favourite memories of all camino, probably just because it is so simple.

That morning, I salivated in anticipation of a coffee. I would have to walk for hours to get one and I realised just how privileged I was, and am, in my everyday life. In my day job before camino, I often got a morning coffee to drink while I worked. The walk from my desk took all of 30 seconds and I did it without really thinking. Here I was, in the hot meseta, walking 4 hours to get my morning coffee. It felt incredible. And I thought of all my former colleagues who were surely at work that morning, perhaps walking 30 seconds to their morning coffee, and perhaps not quite realising how comfortable their lives were. They had no idea the efforts I was going to that morning but you know, my life was comfortable too. I didn’t, and don’t, have to walk hours every day to secure fresh drinking water. Compared to millions of others, I have a dream life. I’d do well to remember that more often.

I did do something rather stupid that day, though. I carried 4 litres of water in my backpack, which added a staggering 4kg of weight to my load.

Why?

Well, the previous evening I chatted with a pilgrim who allegedly cured her tendonitis and plantar fasciitis by drinking lots of water. I mean, 7-8 litres a day. On the surface this sounds plain ridiculous because it puts pressure on the kidneys and one spends the day looking for toilet stops. She insisted it worked though, and I was so sore and so reluctant to take painkillers that I thought I’d try it out. There were no water stops for at least 17km that morning so I filled my water bottles at the hostel before I started out.

Big mistake.

The extra weight hurt my shoulders and back. I drank all morning and even filled up along the way in an effort to hit the 7-8 litre target. Sure, the more I drank, the lighter my pack became. Great. But by the time I arrived in Mansilla de las Mulas that afternoon, I was sore in a whole new way. A word of advice? Don’t carry 4 litres of water at any one time, it’s really not a smart move.

As for drinking 7-8 litres of water each day to cure tendonitis? Well, I tried it for a few days with no notable results only that my feet were even more sore from carrying the extra weight on my pack and I needed to pee every 20 minutes. Medics have since explained to me that consuming that much water throws the body’s salt/water balance out of whack. Drinking that much water, even when walking 30km a day in 30-something degree heat, isn’t necessary. It also isn’t helpful. And carrying that much extra weight? Well, that was was definitely one of my dumb-ass days on camino!

Still, that morning coffee was AM-A-ZING. So good, in fact, that I had two…and you would too if you’d walked 4 hours to get it! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections for walking the Camino de Santiago

When I stayed with the nuns in Zabaldika, I received a slip of paper containing The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim – ten reflections for pilgrims walking the way.  I shared them here recently and on the back of that slip of paper, there was another reflection. I’m copying this straight from the page so language or grammar oddities are not my own 🙂

“The Way: Parable and reality

The journey makes you a pilgrim. Because the way to Santiago is not only a track to be walked in order to get somewhere, nor it is a test to reach any reward. El Camino de Santiago is a parable and a reality at once because it is done both within and outside of the specific time that takes to walk each stage, and along the entire life if only you allow the Camino to get into you, to transform you and to make to a pilgrim.

The Camino makes you simpler, because the lighter the backpack the less strain to your back and the more you will experience how little you need to be alive.

The Camino makes you brother/sister. Whatever you have you must be ready to share because even if you started on our own, you will meet companions. The Camino breeds about community: community that greets the other, that takes in interest in how the walk is going for the other, that talks and shares with the other.

The Camino makes demands on you. You must get up even before the sun in spite of tiredness or blisters; you must walk in the darkness of night while dawn is growing, you must just get the rest that will keep you going.

The Camino calls you to contemplate, to be amazed, to welcome, to interiorize, to stop, to be quiet, to listen, to admire, to bless…Nature, our companions on the journey, our own selves, God.”

 

 

The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim

I had never heard of “The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim” before I started walking camino. I never knew there were such things and to this day, I’m not sure how widely these are circulated or known. I’m also not sure whether these have been passed through the years or they are a recent creation, and that lack of knowledge may be relevant to some. You might not want to embrace something that’s hundreds of years old. You might not want to embrace something that’s been around only twenty years.

Still, let me continue.

When I stayed with the nuns in Zabaldika, I received a slip of paper with the ten points printed on them. Like everything else on camino, some things will resonate and others won’t so these may or may not be your groove.

Me?

I liked the message and I carried that slip of paper all the way to Santiago, and home, in case it took on a monumental significance with time.

I think the exact wording of these threw me off somehow but in my own way, I came to similar understandings and insights. I resonate with the sentiment. And I even resonate with the sentiment of sharing these because they might encourage reflection and compassion along the way. Camino is so much more than a budget walking holiday or a boozy way to see Spain. I’d like to contribute to the more reflective side – the side that encourages personal change in a positive way.

So, without wanting to be too religious-y, here they are. Just because.

The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim

  1. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that the “camino” opens your eyes to what is not seen.
  2. Blessed are you pilgrim, if what concerns you most is not to arrive, as to arrive with others,
  3. Blessed are you pilgrim, when you contemplate the “camino” and you discover it is full of names and dawns.
  4. Blessed are you pilgrim, because you have discovered that the authentic “camino”begins when it is completed.
  5. Blessed are you pilgrim, if your knapsack is emptying of things and your heart does not know where to hang up so many feelings and emotions.
  6. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that one step back to help another is more valuable than a hundred forward without seeing what is at your side.
  7. Blessed are you pilgrim, when you don’t have the words to give thanks for everything that surprises you at every twist and turn of the way.
  8. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you search for the truth and make of the “camino” a life and of your life a “way”, in search of the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
  9. Blessed are you pilgrim if on the way you meet yourself and gift yourself with time, without rushing, so as not to disregard the image in your heart.
  10. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that the “camino” holds a lot of silence; and the silence of prayer; and the prayer of meeting with God who is waiting for you.