We’re walking the Camino de Santiago in June 2022. Come along with us!

A little humility coming your way

Today was our first day walking the Camino, and the Camino tried to kill us.

Maybe I should back up.

Walkers on the Camino tend to divide the pilgrimage into three phases. The first is physical, your body getting used to doing its thing. The second is mental, when the boredom starts to set in. The third is spiritual—growth and insights. Most of the people walking the Camino Francés started at the beginning, in St. John Pied de Port, France. Will and I, beginning in León this morning, are firmly in step one.

This is probably why the Camino tried to kill us.

Things went wrong without a lot of warning. First, neither of us slept. I can vouch for the fact that I heard Will’s telltale nose whistle during the night, but I can’t recall myself sleeping a moment. My eyes in the morning looked like I was coming off a long bender. And then, although we ‘d planned to eat breakfast of some kind before starting our walk, that didn’t happen. We ended up with café con leche, a croissant and zuma de naranja an hour into our hike. Things were still going well at this point. The scenery was breathtaking, we were getting into stride with our poles, the few people we met on our journey were people who we’d met the day before in León. (There’s a shorter but less scenic route from León, and most hikers we saw were heading that way.) Will, always faster than me, lagged behind a bit so we could chat.

Early morning clouds gave way to sunshine.

And then, somewhere between Chozas de Abajo and a Villar de Mazarife, things started to break down. We’d been walking for about five hours at this point. The sun was bright overhead, and I could feel myself growing dizzy and lightheaded. I kept the hydration bit in my mouth, huffing it every few minutes. I was already about five minutes behind, but thought about scarfing down a Trader Joe’s apple leather stuffed in my backpack in case of such an emergency.

A German tourist in a hiking dress passed, then turned back. “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”

This was the first sign.

I was glad to see this welcome.

The next was at a bar in Villar de Mazarife. I ordered jamón bocadillo and Fanta and then i simply couldn’t move. The act of bringing the sandwich or glass to my mouth was too great to consider.

Will and I talked it out, and we agreed that I was in bad shape. Good thing I learned some Spanish, as I needed it for the woman behind the bar. Perdón? Lo siento, estoy enferma. Puedes ayudarme a llamar un taxi?

Fifteen minutes later, I was dozing off in the backseat of a taxi, and Will was continuing solo. If you’ve looking for a hero in this story, it’s him. Or the German pilgrim. Or the woman at the bar in Mazarife. Or the taxi driver. Or the proprietor at BNB Puente de Óbriga, who took one look at me and hoisted my pack to carry upstairs herself. Or it’s the hostel dog, Niko, because dogs are always heroes.

Or maybe it’s me.

Because instead of passing out in the trail or causing an international incident by dying, I had to admit my mistakes, swallow my pride and finish with only 25,000 steps. (Will kept going, got lost, ran out of phone juice, and arrived at 5 pm with a sunburn and 44,000 steps. Which, as I pointed out, is about 40,000 steps more than he usually gets.)

Our bedroom. Sight of a future deep sleep, I hope.

Lessons learned today:

1. Get enough sleep.

2. For the love of God, eat something more substantial than a croissant.

3. Don’t try to be the hero of your own story.

I’m actually glad (now that I’ve showered, rested a bit, and pumped myself full of electrolytes), that I learned this on day one.

When we planned this trip, it was never my goal to walk every step. I was fully prepared to hop in a taxi, rest, heal, and start again. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Niko and Will, resting before dinner.


4 responses to “A little humility coming your way”

  1. Melissa Van Diepen Avatar
    Melissa Van Diepen

    Paula, you’re doing great! I love your perspective. I wish I was there with you two!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Know thyself!! Great job Paula!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Remember you are a California girl,not an Alpine native. Love your attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for bringing us along on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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