My Camino Story - Part 2

From Natural Life News & Directory May/June 2022, p. 35



Five or six months before my departure for Spain and the Camino, I jammed my toenail after an exceptionally long training walk, and it started turning black. The doctor said it would probably fall off in four to six months. Three months before my departure, I had two wisdom teeth pulled. Six weeks before leaving, I turned fifty. Four weeks before leaving, I discovered I had a torn meniscus in my knee and received a cortisone shot. One might say I was falling apart before I even arrived.

On October 23, 2014, I arrived in León, with its beautiful cathedral, where I met my priest friend, Father Frank, for his birthday. We began walking the following day. Frank had walked the entire Camino in 2012, and in 2014 he invited other parishioners to walk with him. He started in the Pyrennes with four other parishioners at the beginning of October. Two left when they arrived in Pamplona to explore more of the country. Two others left him in Burgos to return to their lives in Chicago.

The Meseta is between Burgos and León and is a long, relatively flat plateau. Many people avoid it, preferring the hills and countryside. Frank had developed shin splints, so he decided to forego the Meseta and rested in León until I arrived.

Our original plan was to meet another parishioner in Sarria on Halloween and then we would all walk into Santiago together. The Camino doesn’t care about schedules.

You can do as much training as you want before arriving, but it doesn’t guarantee you won’t have issues. Something interesting happens to you when your job is WALKING - the soles of your feet become hardened, and you settle into your individual stride and pace. The Camino doesn’t care about training.

Father Frank already knew what to expect, his feet were already hardened, and his stride and pace were already established. I was already impaired and was a "hot mess," for lack of a better term. The Camino doesn’t care about excuses.

People go on the Camino for different reasons, some religious and others not. Regardless, most people will bring the bible, the Brierly Bible that is, which spells out the different options of lodging, dining, the towns, and the route, with elevations and appropriate hazard warnings, indicating steep uphills and downhills with red exclamation points. I came face to face with one of those exclamation points when Father Frank said, “You need a Plan B. You’re never going to make it.”

To be continued…