Pilgrimpace's Blog


lenten journey 2
February 14, 2013, 7:44 pm
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For the first time in ages, I’ve been reflecting on my walk along the Camino de Levante in 2009.  I wrote this:

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It is hot under the September sun.  I am drenched in sweat.  The land stretches away flat as far as I can see on every side.  It is La Mancha.  The fields have been harvested.  The colours I can see are brilliant blue sky, red dust in the fields, yellow dust in the stony path.  I can hear the road I know to be a quarter of a mile away, my boots hitting the path.  Ahead I see a bush.  I take off my rucksack, sit into the patch of shade – which is not much cooler than the sun – pull off my boots, drink water, now warm, from my bottles, eat large red plums.

 

My body has become used to this.  Every morning, I wake before dawn, wash and dress, put everything into its accustomed place in my rucksack.  I say Morning Prayer.  I drink a couple of litres of water.  If there is a café open in the pueblo I drink café con leche and eat cake.  I set off as the sun rises, wanting to walk as far as possible before the heat.  My body aches but it is used to this; I’m averaging 15 miles a day; the furthest has been 27.  My feet have toughened; the blisters are gone.

 

If I pass through a town or village I stop to drink cafes and refrescos and eat bocadillo.  I carry fruit and chocolate, along with a frighteningly heavy quantity of water.

 

I have a Spanish guidebook to this solitary pilgrimage route with strip maps.  The local amigos groups have marked the route with yellow arrows or blue shells.  I never get too horribly lost.

 

My Spanish is basic.  I have enough to ask the way, to find accommodation, to buy food, to follow Mass, but not enough for a conversation of depth. If I meet anyone I stop and talk, thirsty for company in my loneliness.

 

I arrive in the town or village where I will be staying in the early afternoon.  I find accommodation – either a specialist pilgrim albergue or a hostal.  I rehydrate and shower.  I find a restaurant serving a Menu, a cheap three course meal with a bottle of table wine.  I return to the albergue – in these early weeks I am always alone.  I wash my clothes.  I write my journal.  I sleep.  In the late afternoon I explore the town on aching legs.  I find my route for the morning.  If there is a public library, I use the internet.  I text my wife.  If the  Church is open, I join the Rosary and Mass.  Sometimes the priest takes me under his wing.  I find a bar, watching the news or the football.  I eat and drink more.  I try to sleep in another bed.

 

My mind and spirit are getting used to this.  At the beginning it was overwhelming.  If I could have run home with no one noticing, I would have.  Now the walking steadies me.  I take it a mile at a time, a day at a time.  There is a huge distance to go to Santiago but my worries are burning away.  I am embracing the solitude and simplicity.  I will carry this forward when I finish.

 

In a week, I will climb out of the Meseta and reach Toledo.  My friends, Karen and Roy, will join me for a few days.  I will change my mode of travel and use their car.  We will drive to Avila and Segovia staying in hotels.  I will then catch the train on to Zamora to complete the walk, now through the green mountains of Galician autumn.  Other pilgrims are there on the route from Sevilla.  There will be plenty more lessons to learn here.

 

I put my boots back on and stand up.  After a quick look at the map, I heave my rucksack onto my back and start walking.  A song comes to my lips.

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You captured the fatigue, the heat, the journey very well. Thank you for sharing this leg of your journey! Peace-Mary

Comment by waymarkers

I have only walked the Camino Frances, and so was perhaps not as lonely, but beyond that, every routine you mentioned was so familiar. I carry those memories in a special place in my heart and pull them out every once in a while to remember how simple and beautiful life can be. Thanks for the refresher!

Comment by Beverly Sizemore

thank you both,

Andy

Comment by pilgrimpace

Thanks again Andy! Haha the Levante!! You bought back many a good memory. What it does is to expose every small weakness and doubt in your mind and body, and then, when all seems hopeless, you start to build again. These were some very important days in my life. I have never been so despairing. Then when I finally learned to face myself and accept all my faults and failings, I finally saw the good parts! I am not terribly religious but I have now learnt to face both life and my death with some equinamity solid in my trust in myself and with quiet confidence in me and the people around me. I often think back to the lonely vastness of the La Mancha, the lonely pilgrim trudging across an empty landscape. That’s where we are, what we have to face. If we learn to do this alone then, in my opinion we become a whole human being. Enough of the heavy stuff. It was a fantastic experience, culturally, historically and also with reference to what I have written above. This year I hope to attempt the Ruta de la lana, another very lonely Camino. In a way I sort of long for the solitude and the emptiness again. The strict, ascetic landscape of the Meseta. Stay well Andy,hope to hear from you soon.

Comment by Kevin Francis O'Brien

Hi Kevin,

away last week, so sorry for not replying sooner. Thanks for your memories – I read them and keep saying ‘yes!’. Good luck with the Lana,

Andy

Comment by pilgrimpace




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