It has been a delight to hear from so many of my dear readers that you enjoyed following the story of my hiking adventure. It has been an amazing time for me, sharing this with my hiking loving daughter and so many other wonderful hikers we met from around the world. It truly has been a world family, as the funky restaurant in Finisterre was called. We have made friends that I know will last a lifetime, as well the many memories.
Walking a Camino gives one a new perspective in many ways. Considering it began a millennial ago as a religious pilgrimage and hikers are still referred to as pilgrims, that is to be expected. Even for someone hiking it in a secular manner one cannot help but hark back to the thousands upon thousands who came before, who trod the same paths, and think of those who will come afterwards. Those feet made the steps in the Santiago cathedral, though made of stone, wear down. Walking up them to see the statute of St. James, one truly feels the history of the Camino.
As we began from Oviedo I started with some trepidation that I could actually hike our proposed distance. But thanks to Mandy’s patience and hiking/packing advice, starting out with shorter days and building up to longer ones, I gained confidence, built up stamina, became more sure-footed and better balanced. And the old body held up. Yes, I got a few blisters, but they healed, had a hip start to ache, but had Aleve to ease it, overall I felt great about it. All the walking the year ahead, talking my friend Jane’s ear off, also helped.
Meeting other hikers every day, sharing the usual greetings of “hola” and ” buen camino” make for an easy start to conversation. The Camino is a social leveler. When you meet the first question is usually, “where are you from?” Mainly to figure out if you have a language you share. Then it’s “where have you hiked from?”, “Have you hiked other Caminos?”. No one really cares about what you do for a living, how much you make, what your education is. Just learning about the person as a person, a fellow pilgrim. It was a freeing experience.
Pilgrims are more than willing to share their experience, their help, their food, whatever anyone needs. They know it could be them that might need it at a later point. There’s a lot of paying things forward. Communal living in the albergues is another adjustment. At times we had space with just a few bunks with a bit of privacy, but often it’s a dozen or two of bunks, all filled, with packs spilling out, sharing just a few bathrooms. You become quite conscious of the space you inhabit, the time you use shared space and resources, how you impact the others around you.
Some things fall away. Like caring about appearances, knowing we all smell, though the Camino is generous in the fact that we could shower every day, do laundry now and again and had beds, albeit some more comfortable than others. But when we were tired at the end of the day it was wonderful to not have to set up a tent or worry about cooking food. And it gave us the opportunity to share meals. Though it was a challenge as a vegetarian and vegan to find appropriate food and we ate more than our share of bread, bocadillos, tostados and egg and potato tortillas, we survived full and able to continue walking.
I’ll remember the smells of northern Spain – the eucalyptus, mint, wild fennel and the omnipresent smell of cow manure. Walking through farms and past farmers on their daily chores. Women greeting us out their windows. The view of the mountains ahead and the amazing feel of accomplishment as you look back where you just went through. The first sip of the morning’s café con leche and the delicious Spanish wine. Having new friends encouraging you as you lag a bit and a daughter who says “you did well, mom”.
Overall, this was one of my most memorable life experiences. I’m so happy I was able to share this with my amazing daughter, who hikes regularly far more strenuous hikes. It has given me many insights into her life on a trail, which hopefully will give me a better understanding of what and why she loves what she does.
And so, gentle readers, thanks for coming along with me on this adventure. I hope I was able to convey to you a bit about what the Camino is like, especially for those who will never do one. And if you enjoyed my tales, I intend on blogging future adventures. The next begins in just another month. I hope you’ll come along with me.