Three What’s App messages I’ve received from Jason today:
1. I’m very happy (he says this and includes the following photo)
2. I’m climbing a big hill (with the following photo)
3. Thanks for the Father’s Day greetings, kids. I’m happily exhausted, climbing a big hill.
And where am I? I took the bus today. I’m neither exhausted nor hot. I’m at our next stop, sitting in a cafe and I know this was the right decision for both of us today!
Galicia is experiencing a heat wave. It comes at an interesting time on the Camino. Yesterday, we hiked through the mountains across the border into Galicia. I was carrying my pack, walking well until we hit 20 km (about mile 13). The sun was high and the temperatures had reached into the low 90s. We came over a hill and saw the pueblo where our hostel was waiting. When I say we “saw” the pueblo, I mean…it still seemed so far away. In order to reach our resting place, we had to walk through a valley. That meant we would have to follow the trail down and then up again. That last hill turned out to be a steep, long one. (Or maybe it just felt that way). That was a tough finish to a pretty decent walking day for me. My back gets tight on the left side after 10 miles or so, but my hip was feeling okay, thanks to my new walking style, which I’ll talk about in a later paragraph.
The forecast for the next stage of walking: hotter weather and 30 km. I pretty much knew yesterday afternoon that this feat was not doable for me. So, this morning, I took the bus with a couple of other pilgrims.
Jason wanted to do this walk. Despite feeling dizzy yesterday after the heat exposure, he felt no desire to take the bus. He is loving pretty much every aspect of this wilderness. There are fewer small towns/bars/resting places on this Camino than on the Frances, so it is more like wilderness walking. For this reason, Jason is carrying his lunch today and double the water he normally takes. I was able to take some weight for him, but still, this will be a challenging day.
Over the past week, as the Primitivo has unfolded before us, Jason and I have tried to figure out how we can do this walk together. We seem to be finding our way, but it’s sort of day by day. In the end, it still feels like we’re doing it together and for that I’m grateful.
I believe my capacity to walk further and more quickly is growing, but at too slow a rate to match Jason’s pace. He has such speed, endurance and will. No one who knows him would doubt this, of course.
I happily (with challenge, of course) walk 20 km, even 25 km in most weather. I can enjoy the pace and appreciate the scenery. Regarding my hip, I have tried a strategy of forcing my gait a bit. Every step, I consciously lift my left leg higher and straight up. I minimize swiveling my hips. This way of walking has actually worked well to help my hips tolerate the mileage. I can feel my left “glute” getting stronger.
My typical walking style is right body dominant. I know this about myself, but have not run into too many issues regarding this fact. It’s lazy, but I’ve felt no need to address it. I’ve made it this far as an athlete and a regular runner/walker/hiker in the Bay Area for many years. However, walking day after day and going the distances we have to accomplish on the Primitivo has forced me to deal, so to speak.
I attribute the strength of my right side (and relative weakness of my left) to many years of playing right-handed baseball and just favoring that side in every area of my life. Even violin is a right-arm dominated instrument (and many years of playing has exacerbated a slightly crooked body).
My closest friends notice it periodically when they see me walk. I worked an office job for a physical therapist after graduating from Stanford years ago. He was convinced that one of my legs was longer than the other and that I would eventually have problems with my back or other parts of my body as a result. In measuring my legs though, the difference was not as much as he thought.
The Camino has revealed this particular weakness and it’s good for me to see the problem without denial and finally address it.
As my friend Daniel told me the other day. “Your camino is your camino.” Likewise, Jason’s is his. The way we’re walking does feel like one of those marriage compromises, where each person tries to honor the other and bend over backward to not be a pain in the ass to the other. For example, Jason walks slower when we walk together, without complaining. And when I bus to a sweet little cafe in the next town…I don’t send photos of my cafe con leche to rub in the fact that I’m sitting in a cool enough room to drink a hot coffee at 11 AM.