An article by Ken Budd in July’s AARP’s magazine resonated with me:
Whatever scares you, do it. Now. Escaping your comfort zone can make you happier, smarter, more confident, more grateful, and more satisfied with life -while strengthening ties to the people you love.
Doing what scared me, and escaping my comfort zone, is exactly what I did when I walked the Camino.
Even though I’ve wanted to walk along the Camino for almost twenty years, I could easily have said, “Oh well, I waited too long. I’m almost a senior citizen, I have fibromyalgia, too many food allergies plus I.B.S (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and I’m scared to travel alone.”
I haven’t mentioned my various aches and pains, or food allergies before. It’s too boring. Try to imagine the difficulty of traveling as a simple pilgrim when you’re allergic to basics like wheat, cheese, lentils, nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, green peppers etc), plus chicken (!).
After Sarah Eagle-Woman (an Urban Shaman and fourth generation Apache Medicine Woman) told me earlier this year that my animal totem was a horse, and I was meant to face my fear, I knew I just had to do it.
When I reached Santiago and the monk gave me my Compostela (certificate on completing the pilgrimage) with my name in Latin, I felt so proud, my eyes filled with tears. I wasn’t the only pilgrim to weep.
When a blogger receives an award, you’re expected to share a list of things about yourself. Here’s my list from the Camino.
0 blisters on my feet
but many others weren’t so lucky
1 toilet for everyone
2 people hiking with their dogs.
Dogs aren’t allowed in hostels, human and dog have to sleep outside.
This guy’s from Switzerland and hiking with his dog “Kira”.
Grainne (pronounced Granya) walked 573km from Ireland to Santiago with her dog Finbar.
Grainne walked with a purpose: to raise money and awareness for
- Paco Larrañaga, a man who has spent almost fifteen years in prison (in both the Philippines and Spain) for a crime he didn’t commit, and
- as Finbarr is a rescue dog, a percentage of the money will go to the Friends of Animals Rescue Centre Mullingar and the Dog Action Welfare Group Cork in Ireland.
She left her cards along the route
3 Courses in a Pilgrim’s Meal
After many years of eating a restricted diet I’m now able to eat small quantities of wheat, white cheese made from goat or sheep milk, a bite of a tomato and a few fries. Each time I looked at the menu I wasn’t sure whether I’d find something I could eat.
Menu del Peregrino:
- Starter (usually soup, sometimes a salad),
- Main course of meat or fish,
- and for Dessert, a choice of fruit, yoghurt or a slice of the Tarta de Santiago (St. James Tart):
When it’s made well Santiago tart is spongy to the touch and delicate on the palate, with a distinct almond flavor.
Note: Choice of Wine OR water. Not both.
4 bug bites
Origin unknown. Discovered in Santiago. Two on left arm, one on left cheek, one on right wrist. Sue Kenney thought they were bed bug bites. Back at home I washed everything in hot water, and put everything in the dryer – even my backpack, and pure wool socks – and what I could fit in the freezer spent a week there. So far so good. No more bites (plus touch wood I haven’t seen anything jumping about).
5 euros for my walking stick
6:30 a.m. rise and shine every day
7 animals along The Way
8. Walk up to eight hours each day
9 favorite meals
- i. Soup:
I really missed my greens.
I don’t know whether the Spanish don’t eat vegetables, but I can tell you that pilgrims meals didn’t include them. The only time we saw vegetables was in soup.
- ii. Tortilla francesa
This very tasty asparagus omelette – called “tortilla francesa” in Spain – cost E3.30
The guy in the bar didn’t speak English and he confused me by asking whether I wanted bread. (I realized later that you could get it as an omelette sandwich.)
- iii. Breakfast for pilgrims is Tostada, with jam and cafe con leche.
The tostada isn’t just bread toasted in the pop-up toaster. It’s made from thick slices of Calabrese bread and toasted over a special gas thingie that goes round slowly and tastes completely different from “American toast”. Yum-my!
(I ate more bread on the Camino than ever before, and had no problems!)
Even the cafe con leche tasted better than coffee back home.
Is it because they heated the milk?
- iv. Jamón
Jamón serrano is made from the Landrace breed of white pig which has been dry cured for six to twenty-four months. It’s served raw, in thin slices, on bread.
Galicia’s at the coast so of course you eat fresh fish…
- v. Pulpo (isn’t orange pulp – though every bar had freshly squeezed O.J. which was wonderful – but Spanish for “Octopus”).
Wherever I went in Spain the Pulpo was boiled, sliced into chunks, tossed with olive oil and paprika, and served with toothpicks on round wooden plates. Cooked this way it’s a delicious firm fish (not tough and chewy like in the States). Don’t stop yourself from tasting this simple, tasty Galician meal by the “yuk” factor, as most of the women in our group. Just try it. You’ll be glad you did.
The pulpo in the above photo which I ate at Ezekiels, the famous pulpería in Melide, cost me E6.50.
- vi. Langostinos
When Maria ordered “Langostino” she thought she’d ordered lobster, and was disappointed when she saw these creatures on her plate. Until she tried one. Oh my god they were the most juicy, delicious “prawns” I’ve ever eaten.
- vii. Sardines
You haven’t eaten sardines until you’ve eaten them fresh like this. They aren’t even distant cousins to the canned variety. I hope you’ll try them!
- viii. Spanish cheese
Maria bought these two wheels of cheese from the cheese maker – the woman in the middle – who sold it to her unwrapped like this.
We ate it for breakfast next morning. It was light and slightly crumbly…
- 9. The best pilgrim’s meal at a refugio…
Three soups, three main courses – meatballs, and chicken and a pasta dish with cheese – plus about half-a-dozen deserts
10 Pilgrim essentials
- sleeping bag
- hiking boots
- hiking socks (Merino wool)
- one quick dry – not cotton – button front shirt with long sleeves
- one quick dry – not cotton – tee-shirt
- one quick dry pants (with zip off bottoms that become shorts)
- jacket/rain coat
- shower shoes
Lise’s backpack was a much better size. Mine was too big for me. It was full of stuff I thought I needed…
… On day five I gave my pillow to this nice young man who worked at a Monastery
11. I walked 11 days on my Camino
12. Our group of twelve
Congratulations for reading all the way to the end. I know it was long.
– with thanks to Priya who gave me the title to this post in a comment….
My previous posts on The Camino:
- On my hike next week you’ll call me a “Peregrina”
- Walking in Spain: The Camino to Santiago
- Walking in Spain: follow the yellow arrows on the Camino