Canadian Diabetes Association
. Thanks donors!
Taking a much needed break
Camino Summary to Date:
Money Raised for the Canadian Diabetes Association:
Summary of Week 3:
Burgos - Hornillos del Camino (20 km)
Hornillos del Camino - Castrojeriz (20.5 km)
Castrojeriz - Fromista (25.5 km)
Fromista - Carrion de los Condes (20.9 km)
Carrion de los Condes - Ledigos (23 km)
Ledigos - Calzadilla de los Hermanillos (29 km)
Calzadilla de los Hermanillos - Mansilla de las Mulas (24 km)
Feeling a little religious
I didn't need to wake up on the first morning of this week because I didn't sleep. My throat started to get a little scratchy the night before whilst we were walking around the Cathedral in Burgos, and by morning I had a runny nose, cough, and joint pain to go along with the sore throat. I'm not sure what I could have possibly done, said, or thought in that Cathedral that was so bad as to deserve this cold, but here it is. I'm starting to get a feeling that these trials and tribulations are all just a part of pilgrammage.
Including contracting the flu in the Burgos Cathedral, this has actually been the first week where I felt like this pilgrammage has had anything to do with religion. Before I stepped foot on the Camino, I figured that most of the pilgrims would be on the trail for religious reasons, and that most of the albergues would be run by churches and staffed by religious do-gooders. That hasn't been true at all. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to find a cross on a wall, or around someone's neck most of the time.
Sure, there have been a few miraculous stories told around the supper table. For example, there was a couple that started the pilgrimmage in Poland because they felt a calling. That distance is impressive enough, but it gets better. They had tried for years to have kids, but were told by doctors that it would be impossible. Along the way, she miraculously got pregnant (half the miracle is how they found the privacy in dormitories). She returned home to have the child, while the man is continuing on to Santiago at a feverish pace of 50 km a day to pay homage to the Saint who blessed them with child, and make it home before the baby is born.
Another similar story of saintly intervention in everyday life revolved around a man who had run out of money, could not afford a place to stay. Miraculously, his bank card was cured of its ailment, cash flowed from an ATM and he continued his journey to Santiago. He returned to the Camino to volunteer at an Albergue a few years ago, and is once again walking the Camino.
Thanks to a group of nuns who run an albergue in a town called Carrion de los Condes we were reminded that the origin of the pilgrammage to Santiago de Compostela is rooted in Christianity. The nuns sang to us, took us to church where we were blessed, gave us symbolic paper stars, and shared supper and stories with us. We found out that one of the sisters, from Hungary, became a nun after walking the Camino just so she could work at this hostel and help fellow pilgrams. It took her 3 years of apprenticeship to get her position in the Albergue, and she seems genuinely happy with how things have worked out for her. These nuns were amazing, kind, generous, and caring.
Now, I'm not an overly religious person, but given what I was experiencing, I dedicated a lot of this week's thinking to figuring out what I believe. I'm starting to piece together something that is working well for me. And that's the point. Having a belief is all about improving your life in a meaningful way during the day-to-day. I thought about jotting some of my thoughts down in this post but I don't think anyone really wants to read about it, or do they? Either way, if you have never taken the time to critically look at what's important to you, your spirituality, morality, and other such things... it's worth doing. Once you start to figure out where you stand, you can use that information to shape the way you look at life, and make decisions that you are proud of.
Poppies, poppies, everywhere!
This week involved a lot of FLAT walking. I'm talking (almost) Saskatchewan flat. So needless to say, I spent a lot of time thinking of home. I really miss the family and friends we left behind. I think it's been extra hard for me on the Camino due to the lack of reliable internet, the 8 hour time difference from home, and the pilgrim schedules (early to rise, early to bed) - it's nearly impossible to squeeze in a Skype call with family and scheduling something in advance is basically out of the question. I'm also starting to miss the very concept of home - being settled somewhere, even if only for a little while. While walking from place to place each day has been an incredible journey, it's tough sleeping in a different bed, surrounded by different people each night.
Just like home
The small towns we've encountered have reminded of how I'm truely a small town girl at heart (my hometown in Saskatchewan has a population of roughly 200 people). I love the tiny towns we encounter along the Camino (and there are lots of them, many of which must still exist only because of the Camino). I think I prefer them to the cities, which I often find depressingly loud, busy, and full of concrete. To give you an idea of how small some of the towns can be... one of the towns we stayed in, Ledigos, only had three businesses : an albergue, a bar, and a store - all of which were in the same building. After checking into the albergue, we walked out of the bar to find the store. We quickly realized that we could see both the entrance and exit of the town from where we were standing. So we asked the locals sitting outside the bar where the store was. They pointed into the bar. Asking at the bar, we were told to go back to the albergue. At the albergue, we were told to go to the bar. Finally, after walking across the courtyard between the two a few times, we found "the man with the moustache" that could open the nondescript locked door that housed the store for us. A lot of pilgrims would have found this tedious and would have complained about the size of the store, but I couldn't help but smile about the "small-townness" of it all.
Despite the flatness of the path, this week has brought some of the most challenging days for me thus far. The week started with a cold (that Mike so kindly passed on to me), continued with some crazy pains in my ankle/shin muscles, and ended with some new nasty blisters. Days 19 and 20 were particularly difficult. On Day 19, we only encountered two towns - one after 17 km of walking, and then another 6 km past that. Both towns were hidden behind curves and small hills in such a way that you could only see them about 1/2 a kilometre before you were there. And it was a hot hot day. By 9:00 we were already commenting on the heat, and it was 32 degrees Celcius before noon - with no shade on the path and no clouds in the sky. I found I couldn't possibly drink enough water to combat my thirst and, of course, developed a migraine from the heat. The heat and "hidden" towns played head games with me and it was a mental struggle to get to our destination. The next day, Day 20, was a Saturday. Typically, stores are all shut down on Sundays, so Saturdays mean stocking up on food to carry with us the next day. Along the way, we've discovered that many small towns shut down on Saturday afternoons as well, so we decided to beat the clock and arrive at our destination, Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, before the store closed for siesta (and, quite probably, for the weekend) at 2:00. This meant that we walked 29 km in just over six hours, with only one 20 minute rest. It was our longest distance of walking yet and since we chose an alternate path along an old Roman road instead of the primary one along the highway, we were walking the last part on a coarse gravel road. The muscles in my right ankle/shin were screaming with each step. My feet didn't appreciate the gravel, the distance, or the lack of breaks and rewarded me with my worst blisters yet.
But, while the challenges were many, the rewards were even more numerous. I surprised myself with how well I overcame the obstacles (for example, Mike didn't even know I had a migraine until I told him... normally anyone that knows me can guess when I've got one by the shortness of my temper). Even with a sore throat, runny nose, blistered feet, and aching muscles, it doesn't take much to make me happy on the road. In fact, it only takes three things - a full belly, an empty bladder, and dry feet. An extra good day requires only a couple of extras at the albergue - a kitchen and a blanket. We carry silk sleeping bag liners with us, instead of full sleeping bags. It gets a lot chillier at night than we expected, and the silk liners don't provide much warmth, which can mean sleeping in long underwear tops and bottoms, pants, wool socks, wool sweaters, and our fleeces when there is no blanket available. The last day of this week was particularly awesome... even though I was walking on freshly threaded blisters that hurt with each step, and we had to walk the first 18 km on gravel roads without a town to rest in, the day was one of my favourites to date. The scenery was beautiful and familiar (flat wheat fields), I had great Canadian music to listen to on my iPod, Mike held my hand as we started out after each stop until the pain of my blisters started fading, we had a nice long break with coffee (the first of my Camino!) and sheep cheese, and we made the final 6 km fly by with a refreshingly productive conversation about our future plans.
Sunrise on the Camino
More wheat fields
Can't escape the poppies!
Want to read more about our Camino? Check it out…
Our Camino, Your Camino… Our Challenge to You
Camino de Santiago Week 1 – Beautiful Landscapes & Unexpected Challenges
Camino de Santiago Week 2 – Getting Past the Pain
Our shadows in the early morning
Camino de Santiago Week 3 – Feels a Lot Like Home
Camino de Santiago Week 4 – Easy Walking
Camino de Santiago – We Made It to Santiago, But We’re Not Finished Yet!
Camino de Santiago by the Numbers – Our Budget and Stats
Guide to the Camino de Santiago
We've just finished our third week of the Camino and, while our bodies are a little battered, we couldn't be in a better headspace. As with the other weeks, this one has brought it's share of challenges, but also it's share of amazing experiences. Distance-wise, we walked 163 km and we passed the halfway point (in our typical non-ceremonial fashion. We didn't realize it until we crunched the numbers that night). We also raised an additional $45 for the