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Punished by Day 2 on the Road to Santiago

May 27th, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

Let’s start with the statistics.

26.8 kilometers  — (16.7 miles)

6.5 hours on the road

41,360 steps

That was today on the Camino de Santiago, here in Spain.

Added to Day 1, yesterday, that takes our 2018 numbers to 51.7 km, (32.1 miles), 12.6 hours on foot and 79,140 steps.

Is that the sound of FitBit melting down?

Pilgrimages can be a rough road.

Of course, we brought this on ourselves. We and our friends, the duo  from St. Louis, who had been thinking about a journey to Santiago de Compostela Cathedral for years now. We volunteered to go along. We offered ourselves up for the pilgrimage. All four of us.

But that kind of walking is not something that comes easily to the average middle-aged (or older) person, perhaps battling jet lag, let alone those of us who stroll for an hour a few times a week and consider themselves in fighting trim.

(Guilty as charged.)

A person needs to work at this to survive the Camino mileage, and that doesn’t come from a few miles in the previous month.

Those feeble half measures led to a day of punishment in the hills and dales and woods and rocky paths to be negotiated before the pilgrimage’s end, at Santiago.

Today was about the longest leg of the “short” yet-still-official version of the Camino, from the little town of Sarria, in northwestern Spain, to the cathedral 75 miles away.

Today, we went from Portomarin to Palas de Rei, with lots of hills, climbing from 1,082 feet to 2,362 feet. A day in the park for serious walkers or runners. A grind for the rest of us, especially those pushing a toddler in a baby carriage and the couple which between them had four packs (front and back, for each), a large shopping bag and a piece of luggage on wheels.

I have become convinced the flashing red light of “leg that will break you down” is when you have not yet gone half way and you are eating lunch. And we had gone barely 10 km (of what turned out to be 26.8 km walk) when we broke bread at a roadside snack shack.

I suggested on this blog, in April of last year that “if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right”, meaning this walk to Santiago. And by the end we pretty much all were doing it right, today. A knee here. Heel blisters there. Little toes sure to lose their nails. Aching shoulders and obliques, throbbing hips, creeping stiffness from the feet up.

It was not fun, and at the end we had to do the calculations: Was it better to hobble on steadily with few or any stops … or to get some pain relief and rest five minutes every 45 minutes or so?

The correct answer? Neither!

To keep-on-keeping-on is a steady route to collapse. To halt and resume is to lose time to un-kinking muscles and joints before making any real progress again.

Eventually, the four of us all made it to Palas de Rei. One or two of us may have ingested more ibuprofen than the normal aching person ought to, and slathered on a bit more painkilling ointment than was a good idea and gone to war with blisters … but we were all there, looking for a place to sit.

On the Camino, taxis and buses are usually somewhere nearby to take the stricken on to the next town, but we avoided it — though we considered it, when we saw phone numbers posted on signboards.

What stayed our departure? The knowledge that the Camino requires walkers to walk all 75 miles from Sarria to Santiago. Riding in vehicles means you have not completed the journey and the “failed” pilgrim is left to mull his or her relationship with God. “Is ‘A really good try’ good enough when dealing with the Almighty?”

We have four days left of this, but it ought to get easier. “Ought to” being the imperative words. Shorter walks. Weather appearing to become a bit more favorable. No rain, we hope, and perhaps slightly warmer temps.

The night before, we collapse on our bunks and hope by some miracle we find the strength to carry on in the morning.



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