Thursday, 23 June 2022

Why do I walk a Camino Path

Like many of you who do something that others consider out of the norm I am often asked “Why do you do this…in my case walk a Camino?”

I never have a good answer to this other than “I like walking, for the adventure or the challenge or…”

A recent posting (copied below) from a Camino pilgrim from New Zealand caught my attention. He posted reasons why one should not walk a Camino. A number of Camino Forum members were quite upset with his posting…I was not.

I thought it was a very thoughtful, interesting and realistic description of what a Camino walk can be.

As I read it I thought “yes all those reasons not to walk are all true” however while true they are not deterrents for me. All potential problems to overcome leading to a very meaningful experience.

I don’t see myself as a “tree hugging pagan” as mentioned below but I am good with hugging a tree 🌲! I would add getting lost 😞 then finding your way and then rinse and repeat is part of my experience. 

The recommended backpack weight is 10% of your body weight…the posting indicates 15kg. So at 150kg bodyweight that would be a fairly heavy pilgrim. So adjust 15kg accordingly🤔

Point 4 strikes home big time! On the Camino Portuguese as I was navigating a tricky stretch (for me 😂) a sudden gust 💨 of wind came up (only I felt it) and I toppled over in a small creek…turtled on my backpack in a foot of water. Paulo was very respectful…”are you hurt!” …a few (ok maybe many) choice words from me “#%*^&$”…then the laughter started and has stayed to this day 😂

No Catholic reasons here for walking the Camino and watching the Botufumeiro swing is awesome…eyes were leaking watching it (also happens watching Netflix Christmas movies…you know when good always magically happens at the end)…so much dust in the air😊

My favourite quote from the post is “personally I think it's better to try then sit at home and wonder what if.”  

Very well said…maybe this is why I walk?

Buen Camino to anyone choosing to take that first step.

Occasionally mistakes are made applying sunscreen 😂


Camino Forum Member Posting…

Why you should not walk a Camino

As someone who has walked a number of caminos I often get asked about the best route, when to walk, what pack / shoes to use. But lately after a few questioning would be pilgrims I've had to re assess. Usually I avoid telling people what they should do, rather I point them in the best direction and encourage them to assess their fitness, reasons for going etc. It's not my call after all, and personally I think it's better to try then sit at home and wonder what if. But lately I've had to re assess.

The level of expectation, lack of fitness, inabilty to roll with the punches and blind belief in that the camino will provide have left me thinking that, well, the camino ain't for everyone. I would not think twice in telling an ill prepared tramper that they should not be let loose on our local hills and mountains. I'd warn them of the unpredictable weather, lack of support and frankly their lack of prepareness to take on what we refer to as Great Walks, which in typical Kiwi understatement are usually hikes suitable only for experienced outdoors types.

So in the spirit of fairness, I humbly offer these reasons not to walk a camino.

1. Lack of spiritual prepareness. Normally this would be lower down (or not at all) in my advice to would be hikers. And as a tree hugging pagan I don't claim to be the font of all knowlege on routes seeped in Catholic overlay. But generally what marks a camino over other long distance trails is its links to history and the walker / pilgrims desire to submit to a greater will and walk in the foot steps of others. This I do understand, as it is one of the prime reasons that has brought me back to the camino. You don’t need to be devout, but you do need to be respectful and recognise that it is more about the journey (within and without) that makes a camino special.

2. High expectations. No matter how well prepared you think you are, leave your expectations behind as you step off on your camino. You are not going to find enlightenment, there aren't hordes of camino angels waiting to save you. There may be some enthusiastic fellow travellers but no guarantee that they will form a new walking family to assist you along the way. Chances are the only thing you can really expect are blisters, water shortages, and a race for the last bed. You are more likely to be known as Grumpy from Minnasota or Fartsalot then your real name. But if you are lucky, then slowly, step by step, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and even a oneness with Mother Earth (make that Rock) and a grudging respect for your feet, legs and back or what ever else helps you get through the day.

3. Lack of fitness. Yes you need a level of physical fitness and mental fitness to get you through. Ideally you should be able to walk at least 20kms per day (30 to 40 some days) over rocky uneven surfaces carrying a 15 kg plus per day. Day after day. Not just a walk around your local park, but up and down hills, along the side of the busy roads, for at least 6 hours a day. Day after day. It's not just your body that needs to be prepared for this, but your mental fitness. You also need to be able to read a map, sort out logistics of your travel and enough brains to call it quits when needed.

4. Inability to roll with the punches. Yes at some point you will most likely roll head over heels off the path and end up with a face full of turf and your pack at a jointy angle over your head. If this happens then by all means use what ever language and threats to prevent you walking buddy from taking a photo of you, they will probably be doubled over laughing which should give you enough time to right yourself before they pull out the camera / phone. Apply the same pluck to when you are too late for dinner or a bed for the night. Remember the camino doesn't owe you anything, so be prepared to eat the dry bread and squashed orange you have carried and sleep on the floor. And maybe take a few extras the next day in case this happens again (which it will).

5. Remember, this is the path you have chosen. So when you feel put apon, or expect more, remember you are the one who chose to take this path and you can also choose to chuck it in and catch a train to France to drink Champagne and eat pastries if you so desire. Continuing on is your choice. Trust me, making it to the Cathedral and watching the botafumeiro swing ain't as exciting as being clean, sleeping in and not having to but your walking botas back on. You'll find your own end to your camino, when and where is up to you, it's more about the journey then the destination.

And finally, the camino is not for everyone, call me a heretic, but just because you watched a movie, read a story, talked to someone who knew someone who had done it, doesn't mean it is for you. There are a lot of things that can and will give your life meaning other then a camino, look around, there are plenty of things you can invest your time and energy into that will help you find meanining and purpose in your life if that is what you are looking for. And if you are just after a cheap holiday, then the camino is not the path you are looking for. Pain, suffering, and paying a price for the wicked life we lead were all part of the Catholic reasons for undertaking a pilgramage. Even the pagans undertook the route as part of an seasonal sacrifice to provide for a more fruitful year.

You may never really know what makes you start a camino, or for that matter to go back and do it again. But you should have a better reason then wanting a photo by the Cruz de Ferro or a video of you walking through the Holy Door. After all it's going to cost you a whole lot more then an airfare and a few toenails to get there