The Camino pt. 2: The Way Unfolds
By nature, I am not a morning person, but on the camino, I let myself follow my instincts. Many days, those instincts woke me at sunrise or slightly thereafter, my heart pulling me back to the path; I quickly became addicted to the meditation of walking. Despite the fact that most pilgrims typically start out in the mornings, I rarely saw another soul for the first few hours.
On the way, I find peace in my own company, and watch, intrigued as I unfold, unfettered by the expectations of day-to-day life.
As I walked, I was present with my thoughts in a way that I rarely am at home in Canada. On my commutes or in my neighbourhood, I typically have some kind of music playing; I love having a soundtrack to my life. On the camino, however, I only turned to music on my first day, as I trudged through the rain and took an accidental 6km detour, bringing me to 39km as I just started out. Every other day, I embraced the symphony of my surroundings.
I listen to the music of the streams, cutting through the woods, the call and response of the birds as they play, the sound of the breeze rustling the trees, the beating of my heart as it whispers quiet truths.
The lack of earbuds also meant that I was open to connection with other pilgrims who crossed my path. One of my fears before embarking on this trip was that I wouldn’t end up meeting people or making friends, especially because I wasn’t staying at the typical pilgrim’s hostels. Fortunately, this wasn’t a problem. They say on the camino, you never walk alone, and I found this to be true. On my first day, when I got a little lost while walking in the rain, another pilgrim appeared, and while we didn’t share a common language, he helped me navigate the path back to the coast, and I was immensely grateful to not be alone in my anxiety.
Lost in the rain, only ten kilometers into my walk, I find connection without language. Kindness knows no country.
On my second day of walking, I awoke to a stunning blue sky and spectacular views as I followed the river out of Vila do Condo. I was a little nervous as I was taking a route that wasn’t well marked, in order to connect to the central route from the coast.
After a few peaceful hours when I hacked the route alone, I cut off the path to take a photo of a beautiful archway I’d spotted when another pilgrim appeared. Her name was Anke, and she became my closest camino friend. We were both a little nervous about getting lost on the unmarked route, and without discussing it, we fell into an easy step together. After a few hours, we stopped for a rest when we spotted a beautiful eucalyptus grove, which became one of the most enchanting scents of my journey. I spread out my poncho for us to rest in the grass, and we didn’t notice a dark cloud approaching from behind. Before long, the rain was softly falling.
There is a magic found in new friends, as we laugh, resting in the rain, stepping outside of convention. “Most people lie in the sun,” Anke says, “but we lie in the rain.”
Anke and I parted ways before either of us felt ready to, but I had a hotel booked, and Anke’s feet had called it a day. Fortunately, our paths were fated to cross again, several times. I also met many other incredible, inspiring people on the way. The most amazing thing to me was how quick everyone was to help one another and provide support. From sharing food, to medication, to blister plasters, to advice, there was a sense that we were all in this together. I made connections with people from Germany, Denmark, Russia, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and more. On the camino, everyone walks for different reasons, but the sense that we were all on the same wavelength meant that we had insightful, enriching conversations that went far beyond small talk.
As Joan, Martyn and I cut through the woods, we pass waterfalls, rivers, and fields of wildflowers. I embrace their lessons of seeking and finding, and walk further into the remembering of who I am.
As the days passed on the camino, time slowed, and my concept of distance shifted. On my journey I walked through wild weather, rain, hail, and thunderstorms. But I found, to my surprise, it didn’t dampen my joy. As I cut through misty woods alongside meandering rivers and ancient roman bridges, through arches made of jasmine, alongside stunning coastlines, I found beauty in every moment. Despite the struggles of my body, the pain in my feet, shoulders and hips, I found a deep peace that I didn’t anticipate.
In a eucalyptus grove, on a quiet dirt path, well-worn with age and the footfall of millions, I breathe deeply, walk slowly, and weave a small thread of my own history into the tapestry of the Way.