Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Mock Camino, Day 2

Today real walking started. We walked 22 km along the coast from San Sebastian to Zarautz, with a total climb of 550 m, enjoying scenery of exceptional beauty. You can watch this video to get some sense of the place.

In practical terms, I planned a walk in my nature reserve that I know well by know, and I estimated it would be roughly 22 km. I was right, 21,68. Of course, my climb wasn't quite the same, only 323 meters, but I didn't take any extra climbs. The walk took me seven hours, with a half-hour lunch break and two short breaks. I had more stuff to carry than usual: more provisions, water and extra gear, such as waterproof trousers, having the recent hailstorm in mind. They say Camino del Norte is less crowded than the main route, and I didn't meet more than a handful of people on my walk. Did I get tired? You bet! Runkeeper says it was my longest walk since I started using the app. On a longer walk you come to a point, for me after about 15 km, when you stop noticing anything around you and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. At 17 km, knowing how much I still had to cover, I sat down by the lake, took off my boots and sank my feet into cold water. It was bliss, and after this I suddenly had more energy. Right now my whole body aches, in a pleasant way.

Yesterday evening, I re-watched The Way, to get into the mood. A question that goes through the whole story, that the characters ask each other, and that the Camino managers ask them at the end: Why are you doing this? Why did I want to walk the Camino? I have no faith, I don't believe in miracles. I have done three longish walks before: Norfolk Coast Path, Hadrian's Wall and the Orkney Islands. Why? Just because I could. Because, as the saying goes, they were there. Did I find whatever I was seeking on those walks? Possibly. I had good company, the scenery was stunning, and walking gives me a peace of mind like nothing else. I enjoy a good chat after a long day, but I don't want to talk while walking (and listening to music would be sacrilege). I want to be in that place, that space, engaging all my senses in the experience. I appreciate beautiful scenery, even though it isn't essential. But Camino was supposed to be exceptional.

I hadn't planned any travel this year because I wanted some quiet time after the recent turbulent period of my life, with retirement, move to Sweden, and more. But when my walking society offered a walking holiday on Camino del Norte, I signed up at once (first making sure I had cat-sitting covered). Like with the Orkneys last year, I was a bit anxious about being fit, so I have been walking a lot in my nature reserve. I have walked 500 km since January.

It was of course disappointing that the trip was cancelled, but hopefully it will still happen next year. But why, you may ask, am I pretence-walking now? What am I getting out of it? I kept asking myself this question today, and I don't have the answer. Maybe again, just because I can? Walking keeps me in good physical and mental shape, and staying healthy and fit is right now my highest priority and a full-time occupation. I am fortunate to have this nature reserve on my doorstep.

Anyway, I am extremely proud of myself for completing today's walk because now I know I can do it, even though the climb will be twice as high. But the scenery will be my reward.

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