- June 14th, 2010
- Walking the Camino
On the second day of the walk, the words of the poet Robert Frost came to mind, ‘Two paths diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by.‘
That day there were three paths. The middle path had a very clear Camino sign and so I followed that one. Perhaps the most travelled route. Yet although many people walk the Camino, 2008 figures count 125,000 pilgrims, perhaps it is a less travelled route in the grand scheme of life?
During the day it started to rain lightly. I was well prepared for all weather, with a rain cover over my pack and wearing a poncho that covered the pack too. With teenage memories of a wet and miserable weekend hiking in Snowdonia in Wales, I was taking no chances on my sleeping bag getting wet. It was packed in it’s own waterproof bag inside my pack – just to make sure!
Multi Lingual Conversation
It rained more as I entered the forest. A lovely gentleman ahead held the gate open for me saying, “Servicio” with a smile. I wasn’t sure which language to respond in and simply smiled back. We began talking in French until I mentioned I was English. “Oh let’s speak in English then,” he replied, mentioning he was Italian, a true Roman from Rome.
He walked on slightly ahead and opened the next few gates for me, as we negotiated the increasingly muddy path and deep furrows that required real concentration not to slip. The walk felt less strenuous than the ascent the day before. It really makes a difference starting off early and making kilometres of progress before midday.
The Quintessential Pilgrim
With only a banana for breakfast I was ravenous by lunchtime and enjoyed a tortilla queso, a delicious spanish cheese omelette. I stopped for a 30 minute break and enjoyed putting the weight of my pack down for a little while to rest my shoulders.
I recognised a man from yesterday. I wasn’t familiar with the flag on his pack and wondered what nationality he might be. I pictured him walking in the Bavarian Alps and thought perhaps German? He wore a red bandana around his neck and the scallop shell symbol of the pilgrim hanging loosely on a string below.
Tall and thin, he was dressed in kharki shorts that were high above his knees. He looked very relaxed, a seasoned walker, sitting with his pipe and enjoying a break in the middle of the day. “How are you doing?” he asked. There wasn’t much conversation, just a greeting, an acknowledgment amongst pilgrims, a brief yet warm exchange.
I discovered he was Dutch and he felt like a guardian angel watching out for me on the path, allowing me my own journey, yet quietly caring and protective. I have strong memories of the pilgrims I met along the path being kind and considerate and enjoyed the comforting camaraderie of familiar faces and friendly banter.
The Rhythm of Walking
My shoulders were starting to feel a bit sore, my feet felt ok, although I was very conscious of slight changes in my step. Sometimes an area felt uncomfortable and I would think to myself, ‘my knees feel strong’ or focus on another area of my body, knowing the niggles wouldn’t last. Somehow each one disappeared or did I just stop thinking about them?
When I was really in the flow of walking, just striding along, it felt like a four beat tune. Just one step, one step, one step, one step, the sound of rhythmic footsteps crunching on the ground.
Momentarily all thoughts of aches and pains disappeared. The mind became still. Then I became aware of the physical again and more thoughts arose. I loved those brief moments when I was simply present to the experience of walking.
The joy of being in the moment, letting go of the past, trusting the future!
If you’d like to receive the latest posts via email please subscribe to the blog from the home page.