So I walked. For five Days. And then I had to stop. Somehow I got a cold/flu that was so bad, that I could not continue and had to cut the planned Camino half way through.
I walked from Porto (well, from Povoa Varzim – the furthest point to the north that Porto’s metro system will take you) to Tui. I did just over 120 km in five days (not counting the “got lost somehow” detours and the evening walks, as that took me to almost 140km!).
What’s the experience of doing Camino like? Well… it’s many things!
Every day I felt I was stripped to the primary parts. This is in the sense of my body. Aching and blistered feet. Heaviness of the 7.5kg backpack on 20km days. Mosquito bites in places that rub, like backpack straps…
Also in the sense of my mind. Every morning I was up to the challenge. Feeling the energy to bounce out of the hostel I was staying in, and just walk. But then towards the noon, I’d get to first of many crises, thinking I will not be able to complete the walk, that it’s too hard, that my body is too weak. And towards the evening, when I was refreshed, clean and fed, without the heavy backpack to bear, I found myself in the most meditative mood. Emotions would come and go. Sometimes I’d cry. Sometimes I’d be so knackered, I’d fall asleep and wake up in the evening. And in the morning it would all start again.
The experience is very raw. The energy you expend during the walk is vast enough to make you stop worrying about the petty things and pressures that are really not worth your emotional labour. You are tired and cannot concentrate, and at the same time you see and feel things clearer.
I only did half of my walk. I am now back home ahead of schedule, still feverish, still coughing. Still disappointed.
I went through the initial stage. My blisters were finally healing. I finally got used to the weight of my backpack on my shoulders. And I had to stop.
I got a few people suggesting to soldier through (which I did for two days (both over 20km walks). But those people were not in my shoes and I learnt that I have to stand up for me and my wellbeing over the expectancies of others.
Talking of lessons:
- There are arrows everywhere, showing you which way to go. There’s no need to try and outsmart the path. And if you do, you’re highly likely to get get lost, and have to retract your steps. Trust the arrows. They are there to keep you on track and to free your mind from thinking about the route. They are there to help you concentrate on BEING on the route.
- You find out who and what is important for you. At the end of a long day you won’t be agonising about things that don’t really matter. You will think about people and things that do. You will count your blessings.
- You will (likely) cry. Cry from exhaustion if you walked a long strip in full sunshine for five hours and finally got to your hostel, which is cool and has a shower and a bed waiting for you. You will cry in the evening, sometimes unsure about what.
- You’ll meet a lot of nice people. Some of which you will not be able to verbally communicate with. And you will have great, meaningful conversations with them (even if you have a problem understanding each other there is always another soul that will help you both out).
- You will learn that there is not much you really need to get by. Some food, a shower, a place to stay and recuperate, blister plasters. Suddenly all else becomes luxury.
- You learn that you can be self sufficient (providing minimum resources of course!) and that you can find solutions to problems by yourself, without waiting for others to “save you”. You don’t want others to save you. You feel empowered to keep on going and rely on yourself
- You learn your body is strong. You learn to appreciate it for what it is capable of doing for you.
I am a stubborn person, thoughts going through my head now are concentrated mostly on how and when I can finish my Camino, to get to Santiago and accomplish this achievement.
If I return, I think I’d take someone with me. I’ve experienced it solo, next time I’d like to experience it with a friendly soul.