My ‘miles per day’ includes everything. Walking into a town for mid-morning, cafe’ con leche’, going down a side path to a perfect picnic spot or even climbing up 3 flights to the top floor in an albergue (pilgrim hostel). It will differ from the ‘official’ miles between towns, yet perhaps better reflect an actual day, on your feet, on The Camino.
Also of note… This is my Camino. My Way. If you are considering ‘talking a long walk’… It will be different. I invite you to make it your own!
Day one was a beautiful sunny cool day where the birds sang and puppies played at my feet. Literally! I cried several times out of simple awe. After all the thought and preparation… I was walking El Camino de Santiago!!! Physically I felt great and I settled into carrying my pack.
My plan was always to walk The Way by/with myself. I anticipated walking some with others but held the intent to lean away from doing so. I stayed in St Jean Pied de Port 2 nights in a lovely guest house and met 3 other pilgrims including Mark from Australia. The above said, I previously decided that perhaps I would walk with someone the first couple days as they are the most mountainous. Mark and I agreed to walk that first day together and share another guest house in Valcarlos.
That morning I needed to walk into town before I left and as Mark was all ready… I said ‘go’ and so he went on his way and I left alone, a little later. Leaving 'later' in the morning has become ‘My Way’. So as I intended, I walked that first day alone and did not even see another pilgrim all day. I loved it! I was on The Way…
I loved the French Pyrenees! It was a beautiful day of hiking and I say hiking rather than walking on purpose. It is a hike. Up. Another perfect sunny cool day. While day one was completely solitary (other than critters) day two began a wonderful bonding with other perigrino’s. Pilgrim’s on El Camino. Lots of stopping, chatting, encouraging each other on.
This was the day I found out my physical conditioning was good. I will not say it was easy, yet my body felt strong, my cardio conditioning responsive and my pack felt great. I continued to marvel at the beauty, the realization of the Journey and the sense that it all felt very shimmery.
On day two I experienced a lovely synchronicity. At one point I needed to find a place to squat. Yes, this is how it works on The Camino. In walking down a little path I found a magical place and had a remarkable experience. This is its own post and will follow another time… I will just say, I continue too hold the intent of being willing to stop anytime, anywhere and for as long as I want. I believe it is in these ‘called to’ places… The Way reveals Herself.
Crawling up the last steps to the mountain pass and Roncesvalles felt like a great accomplishment. That night I gave up the ‘guest house’ experience and stayed in the (very nice) municipal albergue. 185 beds and after the bonding that occurred getting there… A deepening of the community that is pilgrims walking The Camino.
I felt so good in my body. After warming up, the soreness was replaced with a feeling of strength. Then… The last part of the day was a very steep decline on rocks, shale and granite. This is where my conditioning lulled me into a false sense of invincibility. Hmmmmmm… Dare I say I was over-confident in my ability?! I descended too fast. Rock hopping rather than careful stepping.
I also emotionally beat myself up a bit which is pretty easy to do while walking in the rain! Yet, self-pity and self-disappointment was not going to get me another 500+ miles. What else did I flow through my day? I do have a lot of self-confidence and if I place my attention on something, I can gather accomplishments well. That rainy sometimes painful day… I asked myself the question: How has my self-confidence served me and how has it not? Where is the difference and how do I recognize it? Day four of walking alone, I found myself walking with me…
On day six, during my almost 13 mile walk over a mountain, I only briefly saw two other pilgrims. I met the first, shortly after my good cry. I had stopped to take my pack off and remove a layer of clothes when a man walked by, looking at me directly in the eyes and we wished each other a ‘Buen Camino’, he spoke with a thick accent. He had that feel about him that it seemed he looked directly into my Heart. I walked behind him a for a short while and then we entered a series of turns and bridges, where I passed him as he stopped to adjust his pack. We shared more sweet smiles. Then a few more turns and I never saw him again. Yet something about our brief interaction sent Peace flowing through my Heart. I saw Joe in his eyes. I have never seen him again, I still wonder if he was ‘real’ or simply a Camino Angel.
As many times as I have seen this sculpture that depicts pilgrims over the ages… For the first time I noticed the dog. And weeds shaped like Hearts.
Yes, I am on the right path... And I am never 'alone'.
Unfortunately, what followed was a long steep downhill hike that made my knee howl. This was not good. At the end of the day I walked into an Alburgue and met a woman from The Big Island of Hawai’i. We immediately knew each others ‘language’ and shared a delightful conversation that evening.
This was my first time walking with anyone for more than 10 or so minutes. Interestingly while I enjoyed it, it also felt distracting. I don’t even remember much about what we walked through. This has nothing to do with her… Only my internal Journey.
Day seven, I also simply felt tired. More emotionally tired than physical. I explored the little city and felt very drawn to the ancient bridge. It was then I realized it had been two weeks since the full moon and that night was the dark of the moon.