Tag Archives: Walking

A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim on the Vía de la Plata: Part 2


If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, this will make more sense if you start there.

[Arrows]

After 16 kilometres of arrows pointing straight ahead, it was very exciting to turn. You can see the park entrance in the background.

12:43
The sign is for the park! I don’t see the entrance yet, but there is hope.

12:46
There are two yellow arrows pointing to the right! Just by the four kilometre mark. Very exciting.

12:55
I collapse under a tree in the park to eat lunch. There are a lot of trees. It’s pretty, but very cultivated-feeling for a nature reserve. This is probably a European thing.

It feels ridiculously good to get my boots off. Weirdly, I have had some energy since the chocolate but my feet are extremely unhappy.

Everything is beautiful. The birds, the trees, the wind rushing through. It was worth the pain and angst to be here now.

1:14
A cyclist comes by, stops, and says something I don’t understand in Spanish. We exchange buen Caminos and he takes off.

1:16
A chainsaw starts up nearby. Oh, well.

1:36
Onward!

I walk along thinking about how on a day like today you could eat all the chocolate you wanted and still lose weight. This segues into a thought about how Camino organizations could promote themselves: “Come for the life-changing experience; stay for the chocolate.”

1:45
I start to worry that if I think these sort of thoughts I’ll never have a life-changing experience. Not that I actually expect one, but I wouldn’t turn it down.

[El Berrocal]

El Berrocal provincial nature reserve.

1:53
I feel much better. My feet have miraculously stopped hurting, and the trees are providing intermittent bits of shade that make life bearable.

What’s 13 more kilometres, really?

2:01
I pass a guy (day hiker?) who wishes me buen camino. He is followed by a young guy wearing only swim trunks who is talking on his cell phone. The whole thing is a bit surreal.

2:42
I stop for a break. My feet are unhappy again. I’m very ready to be done.

3:14
My feet are better, but I have no energy. I have just tried walking with my eyes closed. The path is straight, so it was surprisingly effective—for a few seconds at a time, anyway.

3:22
I spoke too soon about the feet—the pain is back with a vengeance.

3:29
I just walked up a hill and I thought that was it, but it keeps on going. It’s really not fair to give me hope like that, only to snatch it away again.

[Berrocal]

Still in the nature reserve. The monolith in front is an example of the Vía de la Plata markers in the area.

3:31
I think about blog post where I’d written about being utterly exhausted. So this is how it feels, I think.

For some reason this seems seriously funny. I laugh and feel a surge of energy.

3:41
I apply more sunscreen. I can’t seem to move. My chocolate is very soft and I’m worried it’ll melt and get all over everything in my pack. I eat a piece very fast so it doesn’t melt all over my hands since my water is too precious to use for clean-up. I feel much better.

4:03
I’ve been keeping an eye out for a walking stick all day. Now there are huge piles of cut wood along the path. I stagger up a pile, and eventually find a stick that’s straight enough, but it has a crack running through it. I decide it’ll work temporarily.

But then I decide to climb one last stack, and emerge with a pretty, straight-ish piece of crack-less wood.

I feel rather odd from the heat, but yay stick!

I decide that I am not going to take any more breaks. I just need to get there as soon as possible. Did I mention it’s hot?

[More Berrocal]

More of the nature reserve.

4:12
Breeze! Lovely!

4:14
There are tiny tiny wisps of cloud in the sky, which is good in theory, but they show no sign of covering the sun.

But life is better with the stick and the breeze, even if I am on the verge of collapse.

4:19
I stop briefly because I’m worried about chocolate getting everywhere. Better to just eat it. But I am so hot I can’t even finish all my chocolate, so I leave the rest in an outer pocket of my pack.

4:27
There is no shade. Judging by the sun, I seem to be walking south, which seems counterproductive since Santiago is a long ways to the north. It is hot, hot, hot.

4:36
There’s an intersection, with a yellow X by the route that looks the most promising. In this case X does not mark the spot, so I look for further Camino signs. There’s a gate leading to a cow pasture, and a path going up a seriously steep hill. I think I see an arrow on a sign up the hill and start walking.

When I get to the sign, I realize that what I thought was an arrow in fact wasn’t. In a lucid moment, I remember walking through cow fields on the Chemin du Puy. So I backtrack. Sure enough, there’s an arrow indicating the closed gate and the cows.

Paranoia, I decide, can be a wonderful thing.

[Cows]

Right at the end, there were cows everywhere.

4:44
Cows, cows, and more cows.

I am hoping to soon reach the viewpoint that my guidebook tells me is 1.5 kilometres before Almedén de la Plata, where I’m headed for the night. I’m sure I should’ve reached it by now.

I have alarmingly little water, and stop intermittently in patches of shade to lean on my stick for brief moments before continuing.

On the plus side, while my feet and legs are a bit sore they’re not nearly as bad as I though they’d be at this point. Wherever this point is. But my head feels … weird. Not entirely in control.

Mostly, though, I’m just determined to get to Almadén. I’m sure absolutely everyone else is there already.

5:00
I rest in some shade. This seems smart despite the dire water situation because the heat is killing me. I have got to be close.

I think about medieval armies marching across this country in the heat and decide they were all insane.

There is a blister on both my thumbs from my stick (but I adore the stick).

5:06
I hear voices!

Ip and Anni, a Danish couple I’ve met before, appear. It turns out they’d gone all the way up that hill that I’d started to climb—the Himalayas, as Ip calls it. This is their first Camino, and it hadn’t occurred to them to walk through the cow pasture.

I am very very happy to see people. It’s good to have company, and if I collapse they can trickle water in my mouth and revive me.

5:09
Anni says the path running up the seriously steep slope ahead is on our route. I say it can’t be; surely our route will branch off and go around the horrible hill. After all, my guidebook says there are no serious climbs between Sevilla and Astorga.

[The hill]

Climbing the hill.

5:11
As it turns out, my guidebook is wrong. Our route doesn’t branch off. The steep path is covered in bits of rock, perfect for sliding out from under your feet. Brilliant.

At least I have my stick.

5:13
I climb the hill surprisingly quickly—I’m in better shape than I thought—but I’m not nearly as fast as Ip, who’s way ahead.

We stop at the lookout on the top. I show Ip my blister and he lends me a glove to cover it.

The descent is steep and rocky, but being able to see the town just ahead lends me strength.

6:02
The Danes take off for their room above a bar, and I’m left on my own, looking for the albergue. I ask a passing man for directions and he escorts me part of the way there.

6:07
I run into the same young German guy. He looks ridiculously rested and directs me the rest of the way to the albergue.

6:09
I meet up with two other German pilgrims. One got in at two this afternoon. He suggests I use the exercise equipment on the corner by the albergue if I need a bit more of a workout.

“I think I’ve had enough,” I say. I even manage to laugh.

The Evening
After I reach the big albergue and check in, I don’t let myself collapse. If I do, I’m reasonably certain I’ll never move again. Instead I go through the usual routine—shower, wash some clothes, buy some groceries, and go out to a bar with friends—a Frenchwoman, an Austrian, and the young German guy—for dinner.

“If pilgrims are happy, I am happy!” proclaims the bar owner, who brings us special tapas.

Back at the albergue a little later, I collapse into bed. As much as I can think at all, I think I am content.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 10:00 am
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A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim on the Vía de la Plata: Part 1


It’s hard to explain to people who’ve never done it what it’s like to walk 20 or 30 or so kilometres a day.

So one day, when walking from Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almedén de la Plata on the Vía de la Plata, I took almost-constant notes. This post is based on those notes (though I have to admit I estimated a few of the times). I wanted to be able to provide a blow-by-blow description of a walking day.

I should point out that this was not a typical day on the Camino, insofar as there is such a thing. It was one of my two most difficult days on the Vía de la Plata. I’d only been walking for two days, so I was most definitely not in shape, and I had to walk 29 kilometres—a distance you would never absolutely have to walk on, say, the Camino Francés.

So, to any potential pilgrims out there, please don’t let this deter you!

[Castilblanco de los Arroyos]

Following the arrows through Castilblanco de los Arroyos.

6:30 a.m.-ish
I wake up because everyone else in the Castilblanco de los Arroyos albergue is awake and quietly making noise. I get up, get dressed, and eat fruit and yogurt I bought at a little grocery store the night before.

7:23
I talk with a middle-aged woman. I think she’s German. (It’s a relatively safe assumption. Almost everyone, at this stage, is German.) She and her husband have just discovered their bikes were stolen.

Me: But what are you going to do?
Her: I don’t know.
Me: I’m sorry.
Her: Buen camino!

7:27
I chat with a Norwegian man, one of a group of six from Norway. They’re skipping the 16-kilometre highway portion of today’s walk by taking a car to the nature reserve entrance. I think of the taxi driver who came to the albergue yesterday and said the highway was “peligroso“—dangerous.

I plan to walk the whole way anyway. Possibly I am crazy. But if so, I’m in good company.

7:31
I’m the last person out of the albergue, except for the stolen-bike maybe-Germans. I start walking.

7:33
I realize I took the wrong street and am walking seriously uphill. But I think I’m going in the right direction (never mind that I have no sense of direction), so I keep walking.

7:34
This can’t be wrong since there’s a shell and an arrow, but I’ve never been here before. But my water bottles are empty since they were too tall to fill in sink at the albergue, and I really need the fuente I thought I would pass on the way to the Vía de la Plata route.

This is not a promising start to a 30-kilometre day. I keep walking in the hopes that the fuente will show up.

7:38
I stop to tighten my laces and as I keep going think about the act of walking.

I am a plodder, I decide. Only that implies slow and steady, and I’m only slow. The best metaphor I can come up with is a drugged—or maybe dying—butterfly. I dart slowly (can one dart slowly?) from place to place and take far too many photos.

[Fuente]

It's not a very exciting fuente, but the water was good.

7:41
There’s the church! I think the fuente‘s just down the hill.

7:44
It is! I fill my three bottles.

7:53
I start plodding again. Everyone must be ahead of me and I am slow. The three litres of water I just added have made my pack ridiculously heavy.

It’s going to be a long day.

7:57
I start to drink water in a desperate attempt to lose weight.

8:08
It’s a beautiful walk through town. There are birds singing, and the flowers smell wonderful, and two people have already wished me buenos días.

I feel happy and wonderful and my pack isn’t so bad, really.

8:13
I officially leave Castilblanco and find myself walking on the narrow shoulder of an almost traffic-less highway. It’s quite rural, with roosters crowing, and this early in the day there’s still lots of shade.

8:16
I start climbing the first hill of the highway. It’s graded for cars—no problem.

8:24
A young German pilgrim passes while I’m standing around scribbling notes.

Him: Na!
Me: (Look confused.)
Him: It means hey. (Big smile, cheerful wave, keeps walking.)
Him: See you in the next village. (Quickly disappears into the distance.)

8:34
The sun is seriously up now, so there’s no more morning chill. Roosters continue to crow. The occasional dog barks.

I walk along thinking about what I’m doing. How does writing down my every move alter the journey?

Then I refine my walking metaphor and decide I walk more like a drunken butterfly. Which sounds almost like a Tai Chi pose.

8:45
I realize I forgot to apply sunscreen and do it.

9:07
It’s beautiful. I’m happy to be walking. And it’s not exactly peligroso—there is maybe a car every ten minutes, if that.

9:16
I convince myself that I’ve left vital things behind, and stop to make sure I have a) credential and b) toiletries. I do. I’m not sure what I’d do if I didn’t, but it’s good to know they’re there.

9:37
I walk past a sign: “Disputacion de Sevilla, 15km.” Fifteen kilometres to where? I wonder.

9:38
The hills aren’t so bad, but as soon as one ends, there’s another.

[Highway]

The highway at 9:41 a.m.

9:43
Sign: 14 kilometres. That means I can walk five kilometres per hour, including over the steepest hill yet. Very exciting.

9:52
I stop along the highway for a break. There’s a bit of garbage around, but it’s not too bad.

10:13
I don’t think I’ve seen arrow for while. Should I be worried?

10:15
Never mind. There’s one.

10:38
I stumble off the side of the highway onto gravel. I might’ve sprained ankle if it wasn’t for my boots.

10:51
The bottoms of my feet ache a bit, but they’re fine really. And the breeze is nice.

11:07
I adjust my pack straps so shoulders don’t hurt. My feet are sweaty and a bit sore, but okay.

11:13
My next landmark is the entrance to the nature reserve, 15 kilometres from where I started. I just want to get to that turnoff so I know I’m actually making progress. I know I must be—it only stands to reason—but it would be nice to have some confirmation.

11:18
What if the arrows just take me along highway—augh! That would mean no shade, and no beautiful nature. Just cows and cork trees and never-ending highway.

11:19
Surely I must be nearly at the turnoff.

I distract myself by thinking about the Romans who travelled the Vía de la Plata so long ago. Their milestones would’ve been rather like the kilometre signs I’m passing now. Only they’d have known what their stones were for. If I make it to kilometre one, I have no idea what I’ll find.

I keep myself busy taking photos, measuring how fast I walk between kilometre signs (three to five kilometres, depending on such variables as terrain and how many photos I take) and eating trail mix. The hills have started to get rather steeper.

11:31
I should stop for a break but there’s no shade. I walk on the gravel for a while. It’s not as hard on my now-sore feet, but it’s uneven and walking is slower.

11:35
I have reached kilometre eight. If I reach kilometre five and there’s still no turnoff, I may panic.

11:46
I start to sing Ultreia, a French pilgrim song, to keep up my spirits, but only make it through the first verse. I don’t remember the words, after that.

11:50
There’s a middle-aged guy in a van at the side of the road. I’m not seriously worried, but I do feel cautious. We are, after all, the only people in the area and there’s virtually no traffic.

He starts talking to me in Spanish. I speak fluently, but only because I’m expressing basic thoughts. He’s in the van to start with, but comes out as we talk.

Him: You’re off to Santiago?
Me: Yes.
Him: And where did you start?
Me: In Sevilla.
Him: And how long will it take you?
Me: It’ll be a little less than two months.
Him: Two months! And are you enjoying the countryside?
Me: Yes, it’s very beautiful.
Him: You should be careful in the sun. And you’re walking all the way? You’re not going by car at all?
Me: No, no car.
Him: Que te vayas bien. (“May you go well.” Touches my shoulder.)
Me: Gracias.

[Trees and cows]

Trees and cows: the main views from the highway.

And I set off again.

11:57
He passes me in his van and waves.

11:58
I realize I should’ve asked him about the nature reserve, which I’m starting to think is a figment of someone’s imagination—maybe a mass hallucination that for some reason I’m not allowed to share.

12:01 p.m.
I make some calculations in my head. I really might not have walked the 15 kilometres to the nature reserve yet—but surely it’s going to appear quite soon?

12:05
I adjust pack straps again. My shoulders are happier.

12:11
I drop my pack by the side of the road and visit some bushes. On the way back I can’t see my pack for a moment. For one crazy second I almost don’t care if it’s gone—it’s too hot to keep walking anyway.

12:13
I stop to get out chocolate and look at my guidebook. With the sun overhead now, there’s no real shade. It turns out it’s 16 kilometres to the nature reserve, one kilometre more than I’d thought. This makes me feel weirdly better about not having reached it yet.

Onwards!

12:18
I find a bit of shade and stop to eat chocolate. There’s a nice breeze. I fantasize about sleeping here until the heat’s gone away.

But I’d feel much better if I found the park first.

12:27
This is the highway that never ends…. Shouldn’t there at least be a park sign somewhere?

12:33
I’ve reached the five kilometre sign, which means I’ve walked ten kilometres in the last three hours, including rests. And photos. But still, it seems depressingly slow.

12:34
I can keep up my desperate trudging, on and off the tarmac, because I’m fuelled by chocolate. I am very glad to have three litres of water—I only had two yesterday.

12:35
The joints of my big toes hurt—an injury I’ve never experienced before.

12:36
I hate that group of Norwegians. I realize this is entirely irrational since walking here was, after all, my choice.

12:37
There’s a noisy construction crew by the side of the road. We exchange holas as I walk past.

12:41
There’s a sign ahead. Could it be the park?

* * *

You can keep reading in Part 2.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 10:00 am
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I’m Off Then (to Toronto, England and … oh yeah … Sevilla)


[Walking stick]

After I decided to walk the Vía de la Plata back in January, I spent some time on the Internet reading about cities along the route and dreaming.

Most of the websites I found were aimed at tourists, and included sections like Getting There and Away. The first time I saw those words, my instinctive response was confusion.

Obviously, you get there on foot and leave walking.

A split second later my brain kicked in and reminded me that most travellers take planes, trains and buses.

I’ve been one of those travellers. I backpacked around Europe, volunteered in Thailand, worked in England and travelled in Mexico, Southeast Asia, and a bit of China. And then I walked the Camino from Le Puy to Santiago, and decided walking was by far my favourite way to travel.

So I’m off again in two days. I’ll be doing some non-walking travel for the first week: flying to Toronto to visit friends, then to England to see another friend … and finally to Sevilla, where I’ll start walking the Vía de la Plata.

I’ve spent the last few months accumulating information and other things I’ll need for the trip, walking around the neighbourhood with my backpack, and buying a variety of airplane tickets. And I still can’t believe I’m really going.

It seems too good to be true.

* * *

As far as this blog goes, I have at least one post ready for you next week.

After that, I’ll try to keep you posted intermittently (I’m aiming for at least once a week) about my Vía de la Plata walk.

If you want to follow along, you could sign up to receive posts by feed reader or e-mail (just use the box on the right side of this post; Google and I both promise not to use your information for nefarious purposes), or “like” the Pilgrim Roads Facebook page to receive updates in your Facebook feed.

Or of course you could just check back here occasionally.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 2:50 pm
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Walking Revelations—Or Not


[Celena and Glory]

My sister Celena, who for some unfathomable reason would rather ride horses than walk. But there may be hope for her yet.

My sister Celena didn’t used to be interested in walking pilgrimages.

I once called her from a phone booth from somewhere on the Chemin du Puy—I think it was St-Côme d’Olt. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it must have been about the gîte d’étape accommodations or how far I’d walked that day.

“I’m so glad it’s you there and not me,” Celena said.

“Me, too.” The sincerity in my voice must have impressed her, because she still tells that story today. But it didn’t make her any more interested in pilgrimage.

For the past few months, though, Celena has been proof-reading the majority of my blog posts, and even allowing me to interrogate her afterwards. (“Does it really make sense?” “Are you sure it’s not too long?” “Are you absolutely completely positive I don’t sound whiny?”)

And finally, after reading my interview with Brandon Wilson, she announced that she would like to go on a pilgrimage with me someday.

The blog posts must have got to her. I hardly had to proselytize at all.

Last week, Celena told me I should write about pilgrim revelations. She wanted to know what walking pilgrims learn along along the way.

“It isn’t really like that,” I said. “I didn’t meet anyone who’d discovered the meaning of life, anyway.”

“I know that, ya hoser.” (She really talks like this.) “Write about the small revelations.”

I gave her my best don’t-you-ya-hoser-me glare. But I thought about what she’d said.

“I don’t know if I had any revelations, exactly. It was more experiences that really mattered, but I’m not sure exactly why.”

“But you must have learned something that could help other people in all that eternity you’ve been writing about.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, in some ways that’s what my blog is about—trying to figure out why the Camino was so important to me. But I can’t just wrap up ‘my Camino lessons’ in a tidy box and hand them over. It’s something you have to experience.”

But Celena wanted to know more about those experiences—not just mine, but pilgrims’ in general.

I directed her to All the Good Pilgrims. Robert Ward does an amazing job of describing those little moments that are somehow important, I told her.

“Is there an audiobook?”

“Not as far as I know.” And that was the end of that. Celena is raising a two-year-old and running a horse training business. She doesn’t have time to read books these days: she listens to them while doing other things.

“You should talk to your blog readers,” Celena said. “Ask them what they learned while they were walking.”

So, what say you, gentle readers? Do you have any answers for Celena? What revelations, large or small, did you have while walking, or on some other adventure? What experiences mattered?

(If you’re reading this in your e-mail or a feed reader, please click through to the post to answer and/or see other responses.)


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 3:38 pm
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Walking Time


[Candles]

In the church at St-Alban-sur-Limagnole, along the Chemin du Puy.

A little while ago, I described two months on the Camino as “an eternity.” It made so much sense to me at the time that I didn’t consider the words. But a little later, I started thinking about them.

In non-Camino life, two months fly by the way cars speed past walkers.

But when I was walking, two months felt like forever.

I’m not talking about the dragging, glance-at-the-clock-ever-few-seconds time that’s so familiar to students in a dull class or employees in an endless meeting. Some might associate that sort of boredom with long walks—but those are rarely, I suspect, the people who’ve gone out walking.

A few years ago, I spent a fair bit of a summer reading about time. Not scientific time—that Stephen Hawking stuff goes over my head—but the human experience of time.

And one of the things I read was that when you experience the same things over and over each day, time feels like it’s moving more quickly. The science behind this idea had something to do with the circuits in our brain. If we use the same ones all the time, our brains stop really paying attention.

So in a weird way, we live shorter lives if we never break out of our routines. Because when it comes right down to it, it’s our experiences that count, not the readings on our clocks and calendars.

* * *

Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere.
—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

One of the reasons children experience time as moving more slowly is because they’re always encountering new things.

I heard an interview with psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik on one of my favourite radio shows the other day. Gopnik said young children are much more conscious and aware of what’s going on around them than we adults tend to be.

Adults’ attention, Gopnik explained, is like a spotlight: we look at what we think is important and tune out everything else. Young children don’t know what’s important and what’s not, so they notice everything.

It is, in many respects, a wonderful way to be in the world, but it’s not efficient. Young children spend a lot of time sleeping and crying as they try to process all they experience. They’re not so good at getting important things done.

But, Gopnik said, adults can recapture some of that feeling through travel. When everything is new and different, we notice so much more. We become more alive. Travel isn’t the only way to reach that state, of course, but it can really help.

And I suspect that’s a big part of why time slows down on the Camino.

But it’s not only that, at least for me. I’ve done a fair bit of non-Camino travel, and time, then, didn’t slow to the same extent. I think the speed of Camino time also has something to do with the slower pace, the way life shrinks when you’re rarely thinking more than 30 kilometres ahead.

Maybe that’s part of the reason some of us get addicted to walking pilgrimages. We’re more awake when we’re walking. We live more deeply. And time stretches out toward eternity.

* * *

What do you think? Did you experience time differently while you were walking, or at any other time in your life?


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:31 pm
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4 Comments

Uphill All the Way


[The Alto del Perdón]

Climbing the Alto del Perdón, soon after Pamplona, Spain.

A week or two out of Le Puy, a Swiss pilgrim named Sascha told me he preferred walking uphill to down.

At the time, I thought he was crazy.

I wasn’t in particularly good shape when I set out, and the Le Puy route starts out with the cruelest terrain of the journey to Santiago: a few weeks full of steep ascents and descents.

Going down wasn’t a lot of fun, particularly on rock-strewn paths where the wrong step could send you slip-sliding away, and quite possibly end in a twisted ankle. But with a good walking stick for support, the descents were manageable.

The ascents—particularly the steep ones out of places like Monistrol d’Allier, Conques, and even Cahors—were the worst.

If you’re twenty-eight years old (as I was then), it’s seriously embarrassing to have hordes of French retirees pass you with ease, leaving behind only the echo of the click-click-click of their trekking poles.

You tell yourself it’s because the bulk of their luggage is in a van on its way to the next gîte d’étape while yours is all on your back, and besides, those trekking poles seem to give ordinary people super-human endurance.

But you don’t really believe it, so you push on and on, even though every cell in your lungs is screaming for air.

And then, of course, you end up looking like a fool anyway, when you finally have to stop and your breath comes in shuddering gasps.

If you’re alone on the trail, you take it a little easier: two or three steps, stop, gulp some oxygen, repeat. All the way to the top.

[The descent into Monistrol D'Allier]

The descent into Monistrol D'Allier, near the beginning of the Le Puy route.

But the nice thing about walking for hours each day is that you do eventually get into shape.

I began to understand what Sascha meant around week five. Going up hills was still physically tough, but I could actually breathe rhythmically as I did it. Ascents became a bit of a challenge—sometimes even fun—instead of nearly insurmountable obstacles that might kill me.

After you’ve spent six weeks walking up to them, even climbing the Pyrenees isn’t so bad.

And Sascha was right—the knee-jarringly steep descents really are a lot worse.

Now, I wish I could tell new pilgrims that that’s just how the Camino is: it starts off physically difficult, but it’s all downhill (or uphill, as the case may be) from there.

Alas, it’s not that simple.

It did work like that, for me at least, in terms of being able to walk over hills and mountains. But there are other factors.

[Between Manjarín and El Acebo]

Between Manjarín and El Acebo, in November.

I thought if you got blisters on a hiking trip, they were supposed to come at the beginning, and then fade away as your foot hardens.

It didn’t work like that for me. My blisters (an matched pair on each heel) arrived on the way out of Cahors, a few weeks into my walk.

And then there’s this lassitude that in my experience—and from what I witnessed in others—descends on many pilgrims, often after weeks of walking. It can last for periods of anywhere from a day to around a week.

I figure it’s at least as much mental as it is physical. Even though your body is perfectly willing to sprint up mountains, every action somehow feels like twice as much work.

It may only hit you once, or maybe a couple of times for relatively brief periods. Everyone is different. I also suspect it’s more common among people who are doing longer walks than the Camino Francés.

Of course, the converse of those periods are the times when everything comes together, and each action seems twice as easy and filled with joy besides.

There are a lot of ups and downs—in more ways than one—when you set out to walk the Camino.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 3:01 pm
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