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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The rhythm of a pilgrim

 5 Days of walking and I find myself in Monesterio; a town just over the border of the state of Extremadura. Since leaving Seville I've walked over 110 km, seen some amazing parts of Spain and met some of the nicest and most caring people.

The days seem to have started flowing into one. A certain rhythm has started to take over. There's this drive that keeps us all moving and constantly wanting to get to the next place. And then, there's this other drive, that wishes to keep us in the moment, savouring each landscape, each stage and each day. And as this happens, everything else that was something of a worry or concern, up until a week ago, becomes irrelevent

In doing this pilgrimage, and therefore being a part of something of a community, I've had moments of feeling as if I'm on a tour. It's the strangest thing. But I've realized it's because every walker that started out on the 5th of April from Seville, is walking the same stages each day. So everyone ends up in the same village and often the same hostel, every evening. I've been reminded of my tour guiding days, quite a few times. I've even contemplated WHO is the GUIDE on this particular tour? Who has organized this Camino? Who is the person that marked the way, with these yellow arrows guiding us all safely to a hostel every evening, where we can wash, eat and sleep before setting off again out into the Spanish landscape the next morning? Who made this possible? Well, this post isn't about the history of the Camino. Instead, I'll say that all of us walkers or pilgrims, are the creator of our own tour. We may be following the same yellow arrows and staying in similar hostels. But, we as individuals, are making our walk ourselves. It's our own experience, serving an individual purpose.

Even still... I couldn't help but talk about this feeling of being on a 'tour' with one of the other ladies this week. And most will feel the same way. It's not a bad thing though. Especially if you're walking alone - which I am (most of the time). With familiar faces coming together in the evening, after a long walk in solitude, it brings those hours of pacing alone back into balance. It's also brilliant to practise European languages, to get tips, to support others and to exchange experiences - be they good or not so good.

I can't really say I've had moments that weren't so good. Well, a part from the blisters on my feet. That's actually quite an issue right now. I don't think I've ever seen my feet in such a condition before. I've around 10 blisters at the moment, and they're not really healing yet, because my boots get wet (if I'm passing through a stream) and the blisters moisten.... Ouch... (but I won't go into further detail... it's not too rosey). Other than that, today I had a small slip walking through water. Nothing major though - just more handwashing ;) and I lost my lenses (now I'll be wearing my glasses until I'm back in Ireland. I´m not really ecstatic about that, but it's just a matter of getting used to them again).

These few tiny things aren't important at all. Not when I take the massive triumphs I've had, into account. The 3rd day (07-04, from Castilblanco to Almaden), was a highlight for me. For most, it was a dreaded stage, due to it being 30kms. But I was actually on top of the world. Even if the first stretch of 18km was along a hilly, strenuous, monotonous main road. The setting was beautiful though, the sun was shining and I was able to unload the layers of clothes!!!! FINALLY!!!!! As each kilmeter passed, I got more into a zone and loved every step. After the 18kms along the main road, the next 12 passed through a national park and... WOW... I've never felt so alone in the world, but so blessed, grateful, alive alive and oh so alive... as I walked through the hills. It didn't matter that my feet felt as if they were being stabbed with knives. Because my voice was singing, my arms stretched open to the world and the kms made me feel I'd found the centre of the world. Every blister that was swelling, became irrevelent. Such a sight, cured everything. Amazing!

On that same stretch, I met lots of people who I could've walked with. But I wanted to stay in a free state... So I greeted them all, wishing them ´Buen Camino' and I continued walking, in my happy seclusion, taking conscious space.

I've since realized that it really does make a difference whether or not you're walking with someone or going it alone. On the 4th day for example, the stage that took me from from Almaden to Real de la Jara (15km), I walked with a Spanish couple and a Frenchman. That was totally different. It felt more strenuous because I was talking, concentrating on speaking German, trying to follow their Spanish, wanting to take in the beautiful surrounding and also trying to keep the same pace. It was quite hectic to be honest, but I was actually delighted to have done that. Not only did it bring me to open up more, but it also kept my mind distracted from what was happening inside my boots. Yay!

Today, the 5th day, which took me from Real de la Jara to Monesterio, was 22kms. I wanted to do this stretch by myself. And I did. It's probably been the toughest day so far. But that's okay. I know it's impossible not to go through a stages of being challenged. Circumstances, terrain, wheather and energy levels are constantly changing, all adding to the overall experience of everyday. And just before coming online today, I had a chat with a wonderful lady from Holland, who brought me to realize that such a journey is an accumulation of stages and kms. There's no real stepping away from it - even if you do take a day to rest. So I know I'm trying to come into a balance so I can sustain my energy levels, share my company, soak in this experience and trust that by simply going with the flowing rhythm, everything will always be clear - especially whilst wearing these specs!!!!

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