Who would have ever predicted that the world would now be so restricted a year ago, when my friend Chris and I embarked on a journey that was going to bring so many new directions. Did we find ourselves? Read on.
Over the hills and far away, we sing along to some music I had downloaded on Spotify. It passes the time between chit chat conversation, well that was the idea, however, we talked over the music. The Camino wants you to converse and put the world to rights. My good friend Christine was tagging along on a trip that I had had been thinking about for over a year. By chance, I had been enticed on to a journey that I had never thought about or planned. So why? why was I walking the Camino de Santiago in the middle of May? rucksack and wet washing hanging off my back. Was I searching for something? Is this not just a long walk through woodland and villages? What really is the big deal here and why do so many people want to do it? I am not spiritual, neither do I feel the need to find myself. I was intrigued though. How did I get to this point?
I am going to blame my good friend Debra Bobbett who was living in the Jalon Valley in Spain, just down the road from me. Perhaps a little unfair to use the word blame because walking the Camino was her idea and one I need to thank her for. This challenge went on to give me some major life changes I so badly needed to address. Let me explain.
I had just returned from a big adventure, traveling Thailand, India and also Australia. I was a changed person. Six months away and feeling proud of everything I had achieved. I cannot express any more so. Travel certainly lifts you up a notch. Do people ever really get it though.? I guess only the ones who have done it. I had arrived back into my sleepy Spanish village and there waiting to hear my travel tales was my good friend, Deborah Bobbett, waiting with an excited smile on her face. I think Deborah did get it and that is one of the things I loved about her.We met in the flower shop that has a cafe, where pretty tables amongst floral blooms wafting mild scent, sit placed amidst the aroma of coffee brewing, something I was so looking forward to. Two pieces of cake sat between us, It could have been our birthdays. I had missed this treat. ‘No cake in India,’ I remarked, however, I just had to say it, ‘I feel better, no joint problems, they seem to have disappeared. Do you think?’ I asked, ‘it could have been something to do with the food in India.’
Still tucking into my moist carrot cake, and I might add, so was Deborah, she suggested we walk the Camino de Santiago next year. ‘I have always wanted to do it’ she commented, ‘ and I would love you to join me.
The thought of long walks and the idea of embarking on a fitness program amused my cynical brain as I apprehensively could see the cake treats being sacrificed. I was happy to be pain-free following the changes I had made to my diet in India but there you had no choice. In the flower shop cafe the cakes are so friendly, how are you supposed to not eat them. The words that came out of my mouth as my shoulders shrugged, the expected excitement, just a mere tinge on the tip of my tongue. “why not?’ I said. I had vowed I would say yes to everything but never believed in my wildest dreams that I could see myself doing it.
“We can walk every day, she said, We can also buy a bike each, marching me to the bike shop. Deborah had made up her mind. We are similar in that strength. You didn’t argue but I was still not convinced.
It is amazing how life has this knack of shoving surprises your way. I am a great believer to expect the unexpected. I have learned to accept and not fight against change, always willing to see what is in store and hiding around the corner. I do allow myself to go with the flow. When Deborah added the small piece of information that her friend was going to join us and that her friend was the niece of Paulo Coelho, a favorite author of mine. It was then I forgot all about cake. Yes, hard to believe at the time and I still have nightmares. Writing is my passion, nothing to do with going walking and giving up cake, but enter life, cheekily mocking and merging the two and cleverly presenting an amazing opportunity, one that was thrilling me to the brim. Was this the universe giving me the kick up the bum and forcing me to get my health in order?. I must say it was being creative. Deborah, walking, writing, Coelho links, bikes! and cake sacrifices. Crikey, I wonder.
A couple of weeks later another friend called me from Canada who said he was selling a nutritional plan and did I want to give it a go to help me lose some weight. The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place and it looks like I was now committed to walking the Camino de Santiago.
Now I am going to add here that her friend, the niece of Cohello never came on the Camino and neither sadly did Deborah Bobbett due to some personal problems that life threw at her unfairly, but by the time I had realised this, I had been walking hundreds of kilometers, I had lost 22k and felt super fit, and embarked on a six week training course so no, I had given up too much cake to think about turning back now
Enter my silly friend Christine, who called me and asked if she could walk it with me. She had done it before and although had convinced herself she would never do it again, thought it might be fun. I was delighted because all my efforts had been about getting fit enough to walk 275 kilometers. I knew nothing about where we were going, where we were staying and how long it was going to take us, but then I hate planning and I am rubbish reading maps.
Having little expectation was the right thing. We decided we wanted to be proper pilgrims, Bunk beds in hostels, blisters, people snoring, washing our knickers in the shower and trekking with our bags on our backs. No sending our bags on for us, Oh no. If I could have had a donkey and a big stick just for the sake of it I probably would have.. What is a pilgrimage without a donkey? Oh, and I decided it would be fun if we could go bell ringing. Like a couple of girl scouts, we booked flights to Porto in Portugal and we were on our way. Still not sure why except it seemed like a good idea and I had given up cake to do it.
TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE KILOMETRES we trekked through hot sun and the occasional downpour. (I have a certificate framed to prove it) A pilgrimage is about suffering, that is why they built churches on top of hills. Not to get closer to God but to make you SUFFER the walk up and up again.
Un deterred that was part of the challenge. As we walked we chatted about life and met others on the way, there was no enlightenment, I did not really expect one. The bones of St. James are probably not even in the casket in Santiago. I am sure some people believe that and who am I to say anything else. The people we met who were walking to find themselves surprised me when they say they are on their fourth or more Camino, one guy was on his 30th. If he had not found himself by now I do not think he ever will. I believe my Camino was there as a carrot. I had work to do prior to going and that was to get my health back on track. There are many reasons we travel, whether it is a world tour or a couple of weeks walk away. We need time to jump out of the circle and whirlwind of want, to bring ourselves downwards to simplicity so when we look up, we can see things for what they are and learn to appreciate life. Maybe this is life just saying, ‘Look, it is that simple really.
Suffer the sufferers who walk stony ground
Suffer the walk the longer way round
Suffer the hill and suffer the climb
The gravel, grit dust and grime
Suffer the heat suffer sore feet
Suffer the bliss of a good nights sleep
Oh look up ahead and walk up again
And now it is raining so suffer again
Suffer the ache in your ankle and bum
Suffer the bloating that that comes from your tum
Suffer the climb to the top of your bunk
Suffer your shoes that smell like a skunk,
Suffer the hippy who thinks he is right
When really you know it’s a pile of shite.
And out comes the sun, it is scorching and hot
The lost are a loosing
And I have forgot
The reason I’m walking
And talking a lot
I need to be grateful and think of my lot
You could meet your maker,meet god on the path
Then make a quick video to make us all laugh
The found are they founded
I’ve lost all belief
It’s all a mush mash
And I can’t feel my feet
But give me my due
I am looking for signs
But the ones I am shown are the ones that say wine
So suffer the pilgrim who comes unto me
I will show you the light and help you to see
I with lend you my torch if you need to pee
And on the subject of peeing
We are getting quite good
When you need to go,
And pee in the wood.
But first you must suffer, It’s to do with your sin
and I’m still not quite sure as I’m sipping some gin
There’s no reason or rhyme, we do what we do,
And as for the universe,
it hasn’t a clue
My sufferings done
I want to go home
To a big comfy bed and a charged mobile phone
The sufferings sorted, I promise I’m good
I have Walked the Camino
Is that understood
I’ve done it and proud as they give us a stamp
But my backpack. T-shirt and knickers are damp
So suffer Santiago for making us glad
We, re enlightened to realize
We’re just barking mad