We just got back home to Denmark after spending a month on the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago. The backpack sits in a corner, not yet fully unpacked, a white conch proudly hanging on the side – somehow it is hard to understand that I reached my goal, finished the pilgrimmage tour, am back to the real life – like if it was anymore real than the camino.
So how was the Camino?
Many wonderfull experiences, many fantastic people, a lot of magic on the way, and even my fairly rational soul was moved and felt sensible, open. Blisters on blisters, aching feet – that still feel a bit numb, some days to hot, other days to wet. I had to send home my good old mountain boots, and buy a pair of new lightweight hiking shoes. And I became very good friends with our walking stick.
We walked 800 km during the summer heat, on asphalted highways, dirtroads, grass, mud, cowshit, you name it.
Crossed north of Spain, starting in San Sebastian/Donostia – trought the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturia and finally Galicia, ending in Santiago de Compostella.
We walked a variant called the “Camino de Norte” or the northern route, and from Oviedo we followed the oldest of the pilgrim tracks “Camino Primitivo”.
Totally, we spent 26 days on walking, slept in the albergues on the way, moved forward every single day.
The third day was the hardest one. Crossing forrested hills from Deba to Markina, I was crying, the feet were miserable with – yes, blisters – I was sure that I will never make it, ready to go home. Then we came down from the mountains into the little medieval pearl of a town Markina, and were greeted by Marko in a beautifull albergue, located in an Dominical Convents high, calm walls. He greeted us with a big heart, garlic soup and wine – we started talking with other pilgrims – and all of a sudden going home was not an option anymore.
We met so many fantastic people on the way. In this regard the camino is truly exceptional.
First time you meet somebody, you greet them, exchange names, countries, where do you go, where did you start, the like.
Second time you meet them, it is hello, all smiles and waving.
Third time you meet them, it is your best friend, with whom you can share your dreams, hopes and worries.
Why did we do it?
Many times, uphill, in the worst of the heat, I was thinking that I have been a very bad person, with a very bad karma, since I ended up here. I felt in contact with myself, more whole as a human being with the child I once was, and the woman I am now – and could see who I would like to become in the future.
You walk every day, yesterdays town is in the past, you don’t know where you will be tonight, only the present exist. You feel this is a strong allegory to your life, that your life, your family, job, attachments, are like cities in time, you are passing trought them, one day you enter, another time you have to leave them. It is only the moment of walking that is real, don’t be impatient for it to be over
You walk and follow the yellow arrows, and the conches, with radiating arms, that all meet in a single point – Santiago de Compostella. As you walk, you know that pilgrims have been walking here before, that you follow their footsteps for hundreds of years, every day, someone have been walking this road. The camino – really its just signs – but it is a special world, with special people, a Nation in its own right.
Tourists require. Pilgrims thank. I learned that early. Without this humble, thanking attitude, the road would have been to hard, I wouldnt have been able to complete it.
I feel more as a human, have a stronger sense of the preciousness of my life now, than 800 km earlier.
It was hard, hard, hard, but it was worth it.