10 July 2015

Pilgrim's Progress 2

 I am glad I do not have to wear his shoes.

My Pilgrim's Pass with the stamps collected so far.


While the Bears are squabbling over what they should write about next, I thought I might give you my review of the Camino so far. In fact it is exceeding my expectations. I had imagined it would be much like my circumnavigation you sail/walk alone but meet up with folk in the anchorages/albergues. You all have respect for one another as you are all doing the same thing and suffering the same sort of pains. With most of these folk you become friends easily and quickly, particularly if there is something you have in common; culture, language starting time and point. With a few there is a meeting of souls and you become friends for life. Where the language and culture is different, there is still this respect, but there is distance, you see each other again and again and greet each other, but there is more effort needed to begin a real friendship. As you are both weary at the end of the day this seldom happens and you retreat into your shell and your own comfort zone.
What I did not fully appreciate is the true religious and spiritual nature of the Camino. It does pervade all and adds a certain spice to the mix which makes it all so very unique and special. In one particular case I have met a young man who like me suffered the loss of a partner last year. If I were this man's father, and I am old enough, I would be immensely proud of him for the way he is recovering and living his life. As it is I feel a sense of pride in myself that we should become close friends for life. Call it "Karma " that we should meet! Well I must, must I not?
Walking up to 25-30 kilometres per day, day in and day out, while carrying a pack of 15 kilos or so, some carry more and a very few less, is hard on the body and does require a certain determination. I was surprised at how many end up with some very poorly feet or other real problems like tedonitis, and yet they carry on. Only a few do the whole journey in one go and even less walk back again. The majority do it in stages and those who attempt the whole Camino in one season are generally the retired generation. There are a number of young people, either in a gap year or having finished study, before starting to work for a living and they too try to do it in one season. I have met a 77 year old woman doing it for the third time, she has her pack sent ahead for her, and a 74 year old man on his third trip.
I have done my level best to stop in all the churches in the towns where I stop for the night to pray. After all that is why I am here. Most of my life, I'd admit to being a doubting Thomas, not really believing in the power of pray, and yet I have earnestly prayed this time, perhaps for the first time in my life; for my adopted family and friends. In one case I have a dear friend who had been diagnosed with one form of cancer, and it sounded horrid what he was now going through, so I prayed every day for his recovery, or at least for the surgeons skill to cure him. Now I give thanks for the fact that my prayers were answered! Facit: do not underestimate the power of earnest prayer.
Most who know me well, know that I am an incurable romantic and I seem to get worse the older I get. I firmly believe in love and what it can achieve and think that is the reason for our being, to love one another. My desire to do a pilgrimage from Farnham to Canterbury was born out of this romanticism. As a boy I went to school in Farnham and I know the south of England well and thought it might be fun. Yet the experience here in Spain has shown that it is not practicable. There is no pilgrim infrastructure in the UK for example. There the churches will all be locked up. The overnight accommodation instead of costing between €5-8 per night will cost around £40 per night. Where in England can I get a three course meal with a bottle of wine and water for between €10-15? Nowhere is the answer, it will cost me around £25 instead. So I have decided not to attempt it. Instead I now will walk back down the Camino as far as my time will allow and possibly to Leon, before crossing over to England. Then next year I will come back to where I left off and walk all the way back to St Jean Pied de Pont in France. Such is the pull of the Camino. Inshallah!
Buen Camino!