We left Pamploma today, famous for the annual running of the Bulls down the center of the old city. The walk was especcially beautiful with rolling hills on both sides of el Camino. The pastoral land of sheep and cattle of the last three days has given way to corn and hay and grapevines. The gardens are full of 12 feet bean poles and red plump peppers and even artichokes. I plucked some mistletoe from an almond grove of trees. Jonathan gave me a kiss for that.
We are up before 6 am each day stretching and packing. We are offered at most hostels a continental breakfast but we want to get on the road while it’s cool and eat after sunrise. We are out at 7 and sun is over the mountains by 8. We walk with one or 2 friends or alone, much of our time together. We have a strong clip to begin. By 11 am my feet lag, my shoulders ache, carrying a 20 lb pack.
By one pm I’m kaput, a rag wrung out. And still there are hills to climb, some with loose gravel. I’m always aware of the surface of the roads—loose chunky gravel, dirt with round stones, tiled sidewalks, packed dirt. I place my feet carefully, a few of this flow of humanity on this camino have fallen. We see many sweet shrines. We walk about 25 k and arrive in a village about 2:30.
The journey is stretching each one of us on the camino. Each of us struggles with our own Devils, fears of the future, learning what our bodies can endure.
Each day my stamina is better, but every day there have been times of doubt that I think I can’t make it—I imagine curling up by the roadside or fanticize that a train comes to whisk me away. It’s hard and fun at the same time.
On Sunday we left our friend Joe Sternfeld at the Estella parochial hostel, then walked 29 k to Los Arcos (the Arches). I thought of my Quaker friends, our intangible but omnipresent support during this arduous pilgrimage. Then I got a message on Monday. I arrived again to our destination completely depleted. I had made a serious mistake for the last 3 days–I felt Polly but maybe it was Diana or El prompting me with a message. For 3 days I’ve gotten chills and today on arrival I couldn’t shake them for 2 hours, lying on my cot. This NewEngland body of mine had a bad case of heat stoke. I was drinking during the day but by about 1 pm my muscles throb so much I don’t notice any thirst. This will change.
I’m so immensely grateful to be alive. The pilgrimage has taught me respect for pain. Jonathan asked Aaron (about 6’5″) who recently climbed Mt. Kilamangaro if his ankles hurt as we went up yet another hill. He stared squarely at JVB and said, “everything hurts.” So I quickly exit from my own sore muscles and dowse myself with gratitude. Or I find a song to hum, It’s a Long Road to Freedom, a journey steep and high. But when you walk in love with the wind as your wings, and cover the earth with the songs you sing, the miles fly by. Sister Miriam.