A couple of hours into my walk the morning from Maneru I was well into the countryside. Somewhere in memory are steep climbs. I’d just pulled myself up one of those when an older Spaniard with a white goatee slowed down alongside, speaking to me in Spanish. I got about half and cocked my head. He said it again, “A woman walking the Camino alone. You have much courage.”
I didn’t start out meaning to walk alone. It’s happened that way. I didn’t think I would walk so slowly. At first it was the Pyrenees and the pack. But the Pyrenees are past and the landscape more even. The pack on my back now seems almost a part of me. Still, the paths are often arduous, the rocks being most problematic for me. Imagine angled uneven trails with cobblestones but not human-made…off and on for miles. Most everyone passed me up. I didn’t care about that. From the beginning I was never in a race or on a schedule. I wanted to get to Santiago in one piece, enjoy the scenery, collect material for later artwork and any new revelations the way may bring.
Oscar was always well ahead. I had no problem with that. I was often with my own thoughts and practice anyway. And he’s more prone to strike up conversations with other pilgrims. He’d stop around lunch to wait for me or we’d meet at the closest 20 km point to find an albergue for the night.
By the time the Spaniard came upon me I was starting to have problems. My pace had slowed to that of a snail rather than the tortoise. A tendon on the top of my right foot was straining and my left knee was also talking to me. I’d felt the foot the night before but thought I could walk it out as I’d done a number of different aches and pains since we started. I couldn’t. Both were more and more insistent. I hadn’t twisted anything. I’d been very mindful of how I placed my feet. I think all the big rocks just finally had their way with them.
The trail was pretty much empty. I just toddled on. Another older gentleman, this one French, checked on me in passing, “Ca va?” In the middle of nowhere there’s nothing to do but go on. He must have taken a break somewhere because later he whispered as he passed again, “Courage!”
Wazifas were my steady companion and likely what got me through. I finally entered the town of Estelle. Luckily, the municipal albergue was the first thing I saw and checked myself in. Oh luxury, I was assigned a room that probably had 16 bunk beds but I was the first there. I went horizontal, shoes off. Soon the room was filled with chattering, mostly French and Italian. Later I was able to find a farmacia to get some high dosage ibuprofen. I could barely walk.
Why am I telling you all this? People tend to romanticize things. The Camino de Santiago is not romantic or airy-fairy. But it is a choice. As I walked I imagined medieval pilgrims with heavy robes and inadequate shoes, maybe no shoes, little food. Accommodations not what they are today. The paths were much less than they are now. None of the present-day pilgrims I’ve thus far seen are having an easy physical time. I’d say most better than me and some I’ve encountered are having more difficult times.
And with all that, there’s a reason people undertake this challenging journey…any such journey…with many returning to do it again. After all is said and done…it does something to us.
That’s why I made the choice. I don’t know where this will take me any more than I’ve known the outcome with all the similar choices I’ve made in the last 20 years…after I woke up. But I know it to be true and right for me.
Back to the storyline…. I never saw Oscar that day but we did reconnect via email. He was in the same town in a different albergue.
I decided the smart thing for me to do was bus ahead to Logrono, equivalent to a couple days’ walk, find a pension with a room to myself (ah, bliss) and stay off my feet a couple of days. I have done that. A quiet (more bliss) clean place across from the Catedral La Redonda. Below you’ll see the scene directly eye level out my window. It’s my first attempt at sketching using Art Set Pro, an art app I downloaded to my iPad. It’s tricky using a stylus on a screen. The mark doesn’t always go where I attempt. Learning curve. Probably a lesson in that, too.
Last night I went into the cathedral for a short time and found strong energy. This morning I returned for a couple of hours and took my prayer beads. Wazifa practice was extraordinary there for me. From some depth two wazifas that I’d forgotten came swimming up … Ya Shafi! (O Healer) Ya Kafi! (O Remedy)…
I now feel ready to continue on tomorrow.