Jason, Gabe and I walked into the outskirts of Santiago yesterday around 11:30. We were rushing to make the pilgrim mass at noon, but didn’t quite arrive on time. Actually, we did, but the guard would not let us into the cathedral with our backpacks on and trying to find the “storage” service for them would have taken too long. We plunked down on a stone bench, panting, sweating. We had practically jogged the final 1 km. I almost cried.
Thankfully, Jason reserved 2 nights for us in Santiago. The hurry into the city and the stress of wondering whether or not we were going to be on time reminded me of my life in America. Hmm…probably not the best way to enter into a worship service.
We attended mass today instead (the cathedral was packed, so I understand why they say no to backpacks. We were able to get to church early and prepare ourselves. We arrived 45 minutes before noon and barely found seats.
I’ve never attended a cathedral mass like this. This was a large space and full of expectant people. The eager faces inspired me. We all shared a very particular experience and this service for me and others represented the finale. It was obvious there were many Catholics, but I also viewed observers/non churched people happily watching and participating. I suppose that should come as no surprise. The sermon, in Spanish of course, was a welcoming word, an invitation to continue on a Camino of faith. I hope those who didn’t understand the Spanish felt the vibe of the priest.
Hundreds of folks walk the Camino in some form…It’s amazing. I’m not sure I had a sense of this while on the Norte or the Primitivo. We didn’t see many pilgrims on the way. On the Norte, we probably saw 20 to 30 folks per day, often we ran into the same 20 or 30 each day. On the Primitivo, it was a slightly different crowd, more intense and athletic…folks who walked 30 km per day pretty easily (so it seemed). Again…20-30 people per day. Once we joined the end of the Frances route, we encountered 200 to 300 pilgrims each day. The numbers were almost overwhelming and made me grateful we chose the less traveled road for our Camino.
Overall, I know I have grown stronger physically and emotionally. I have gained speed and endurance. My back is stronger, it hurts less than it did in the beginning of our trek. I also have learned to live with more pain. My hips ache each night, impacting my ability to sleep. I take a full dosage of ibuprofen and that helps a bit, but not enough to completely give relief. The pain upset me at first, but I have come to accept it. I also had hope that the pain would go away or get better as we kept walking. It has not really…at least I don’t think it has changed, but my attitude about the pain changed. I do eventually get to sleep, but it takes a couple of hours. I’m no longer stressed about that.
I also have accepted that I have great difficulty (even with no pack on my back) walking more than 25 km per day. If I were to keep walking 20 km for another 3 weeks, would my body change and would I grow even stronger? The body is amazingly adaptable. Would I become one of those people who can trek the 30 km, no problema?
I’m not sure. I’d like to think so, but for right now, my body revolts, similar to the early days of walking the Norte. The pain I have been feeling is something I can live with. Maybe I need to learn to live with more? That conversation will have to wait for another Camino or backpacking trip. Tomorrow, Jason and Gabe continue their Camino to Finisterre, the “Ends of the Earth” reached by the Apostle James in the first century. It was the end of the Earth as he knew it.
They will hike for 3 intense days. I will bus to the coast and try to find an albergue where I can serve by cooking my special lentil soup while I wait for Gabe and Jason. Some of you are familiar with my recipe. I’m excited to feed pilgrims, for a change of pace. (I miss cooking).
For any concerned, I do not think my hip issue is causing permanent damage. I feel confident about this, though I cannot explain why.
For me and Jason, the Camino has been a unique way to spend time together and good for our relationship as we navigated challenges together. Some of our most dynamic growth moments over the years have come in cross cultural situations where we have had little control over our environment. That pretty much defines the Camino.
The moments with Gabe have also been precious. He is a wonderful travel companion and fun person (non complaining) all around. He also will walk along and encourage me, telling me how well I am walking. It’s a kindness that I will always treasure, the way he has postured himself in traveling with us, asking for very little and giving much of himself in companionship and carrying extra weight in his pack when needed (again without complaint).
Jason and I are trying to figure out how we can walk more once we’re home…whether that is regular hiking days or walking to church, walking to various appointments. My dog park walks are definitely short…compared to what we have done here. It’s possible I can increase that mileage. Lots to ponder.
Andar es pasear el alma
I don’t want to give that up.