Am I now an 'official' pilgrim... just because I have a pilgrim passport in my pocket and a backpack on my back weighing ONLY 8 kilos that contains everything I need so as to keep me physically healthy, happy and jumping for joy, for at least the next... however long I want..?
What definition can be given to a pilgrim anyway? Most consider it be to those who walk for religious purposes. But I heard something quite striking, these past days... 'a pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose'. Thats it...!!! Hearing this, I felt so recognized! The individual pilgrim / wanderer / walker determines their own purpose. And my own individual purpose is also defined... For now, Im a wanderer with the purpose of finding strengths on different levels, by means of doing something Ive never done before. Simple... No need to analyze ;)
This morning, I put my backpack on my back, at 08.30 and left the hostel. I moved away from the centre of Seville, after spending 2 days roaming, exploring, eating tortillas (spanish omelettes) and meeting people from some random walks of life. Amongst others there was an Egyptian guy who has left Egypt for the first time in his life and is amazed by the Western culture; a heartbroken Turkish girl who is travelling for the first time by herself and in desperate need of company and let me not forget to mention the most handsome Spaniard Ive ever met, who couldnt understand why others can be so inspired by Spain (this was probably the reason for him to be so fascinated by my enthusiasm).
These were lovely people who made my stay in the hostel quite homing. And outside the hostel I had a few random meetings. The most significant one was yesterday morning (Thursday). I was one of the hundreds of cafes in the city centre having breakfast. A girl sat down behind me. When I was about to leave she randomly asked me if I was doing the Camino. I was shocked that she guessed what I was in Spain for! 'The shoes are a giveaway!!!' Of course... Ive got 'walker' written all over me at the moment!
There were definitely forces at work that brought us together. Because she herself had only just arrived in Seville, from Germany, and was starting the first leg of the journey today too. We ended up spending the day together and it was such a blessing... It really got me on track. Any doubts I had about whether or not to do it, subsided. It raised my excitement and I suddenly felt less alone... Because at times, since first arriving in the city, I wondered if I was the only one who was walking the Via de la Plata! However, in a city - with thousands of tourists - it would be almost impossible to find pilgrims and to connect... Let me stress the word ALMOST, because my meeting with this lovely German lady proved that nothing is impossible!
We were going to start walking together. However she had decided to get a bus from the centre of Seville to a town just north of the city, so as not to have to walk through a massively muddy area (which was a result of the unexpected rain thats been falling on this area of Spain for the past weeks). But I decided against the idea of hopping on a bus, just to save myself a muddy venture. And this morning, as I left the city, I was of course met with a stretch of slush that was quite daunting... I wasnt alone however in getting through the slog. Because, just as I left the city, I met 2 other ladies from Austria, who I walked the first 10 kms with. We helped each other and - even though small parts of myself wanted to be alone - I was so grateful not to be doing that muddy stretch without their help.
After 10 kms we met another lady, from Australia. And before I knew where I was, Id left the Austrian women behind, as my pace as speeded up, and was totally engrossed in spending some kms with this lady from downunder. Our pace was quite similar too.
As we walked and chatted about some quite cool stuff, we were greeted by other walkers, everyone wishing each other well, yet individually sticking to their own pace.
Because of the massive rainfall, some of the rivers had burst their banks, so we were told by roadworkers to walk along the national highway. And we did - getting drenched along the way, as the huge thick black clouds up above opened themselves up. That was actually quite a highlight for me... I felt so ALIVE being one person amongst the strangling walkers, dotted along the highway and being blown to pieces. It was liberating not to have the urge to run for shelter or to HATE what the conditions were bringing us... But to simply say... this will pass... In those moments all you can do is continue walking, and keeping focused... (doing anything else would only drain energy). In that acceptance it didnt matter that the water started seeping into my boots and the poncho didnt withstand the pounching raindrops.
Its true what they say: after rain, the sun always appears... And it did come out...!!!! When the sign for Guillena appeared, showing only 4 more kms to todays destination, the sky was blue again and I was WARM!!!!!!!!! At that same time, Id 'lost' the Australian lady as I was trotting along in my own happy zone and thats was also when I found myself alone for the first time. Wow... I felt so free... as I munched on an energy bar, smiled to the sun, said hello to the cactus and orange trees and waved to all the cars racing by that honked at me as if to say 'Happy Camino!'.
At that stage, yes my feet were aching, my socks were soaked with both sweat and rain... but my body wasnt exhausted. That was probably due to seeing the town of Guillena way off in the distance, but coming closer and closer, with each step.
I made my way through this beautiful typical Spanish village... the white houses were like a postcard and it was so peaceful; Siesta of course!!! It was only 5 hours after I said goodbye to the owner of the hostel in Seville. Great timing!!! I soon found the Albergue - the hostel especially for pilgrims.
As I walked in, I felt I entered a community of wandering souls... all doing this for different reasons, all with different levels of fitness and all with different stories and experiences to share. I realized within minutes though that I wouldnt have the privilege of hearing their stories, as there arent any English speakers.(My German has been coming in handy, even if its not up to scratch.)
For the first time tonight Ill be sharing a dorm room with 9 men - all above the age of 55 or 60. What an interesting scenario. Tomorrow morning everyone will set off again, heading for the same destination, yet at their own pace and with their own individual reason for walking. As will I.
So... reporting from the local library in Guillena, after the first 24kms, Im going to be seeking some dinner, some compeed (for my blistered feet) and Ill follow that by some lovely sleep (with earplugs... because I can only imagine the music that 9 sleeping/snoring men can make!). I wonder what the next legs will bring! It will only be amazing, seeing as my legs will always carry me onwards.