Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 29, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 4 comments

It’s official. I can legally call myself a pilgrim having fulfilled all of the requirements. I officially walked 713K from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela and my feet hit the ground 1,023,293 times… if you’re a step counter. One particularly long day, I walked 41k and logged a few steps under 60,000. But, hey, who’s counting and more importantly , who cares?

The numbers really don’t mean anything. The first time I ran the Boston Marathon, I thought my time would be forever etched in my memory. Wrong. These adventures are not about time or pace but more about people and place.

If you ever tackle the Camino, one thing you need to know (actually there are several tips which will be in my new book) is that the final 100k is VERY different than the first 600. Many tourists will begin there Camino in Sarria, about 115k from Santiago.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this group of walkers is reviled by hard core pilgrims who have been walking on blistered feet and battered bodies for weeks. I’m lying. Peregrino wannabes are bussed to the start line. Invariably they have name tags and are wearing designer clothes. At the end of each of their 5-7 days of walking, they stay in fine hotels sipping vino tinta. But if they can go the distance, they can get the magic “Compostela “, the certificate and stamp that says you’ve walked the Camino.

Let me say a few words about this last aspect of the Camino. At the beginning of your walk, you acquire a “credential” which is a small booklet that you get stamped every day of your walk to verify that you actually walked.When your walk is over, you need to go to the official Pilgrim Office to have your credential approved. At this point, they issue the final stamp and an authentic certificate (see below) (for 3 Euros!).

When I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Tuesday, I prudently went to my albergue and got cleansed up. There’s nothing worse than a smelly pilgrim! Me and a friend then headed to the great Cathedral. There is no fanfare when you get there, no welcoming party or brass band. You are just another tired, blistered, battered piece of protoplasm. Nobody cares about your journey to the promised land.

We were starving and chose food and drink to gird ourselves for the most challenging part of the Camino: standing in line to get the official Compostela.

When we arrived at the Pilgrim Office, the lineup stretched to Portugal. We were facing a minimum two hour wait. Do you have any idea how appealing this sounds to someone who can barely stand upright? We chose more drink over the lineup and vowed to be first in line the following morning.

Human nature is funny. Oddly dozens (hundreds) of people had the very same idea. ! The office opened at 8:00 a.m. this morning and I thought (mistakenly) that a 7:15 arrival would put me at the start of the lineup. Do you remember the old Monkees hit song “ Daydream Believer”?

I was about 20th in line but was peckish, so I dashed to a nearby cafe and scarfed down a chocolate croissant (I will dedicate an entire chapter to croissants!), freshly squeezed orange juice and strong black coffee. Thus fortified, I went back and joined the herd. The number had doubled to 40 and within minutes had swelled into the hundreds.

“Do I really need a certificate” was a thought that crossed my mind at least a dozen times. A picture of my feet would be a better indicator that I had “fought the good fight and finished the race”. I only had to await 45 minutes to get my accreditation.

So, I’m a pilgrim. Big deal. I have university degrees that have gathered dust for decades and I would imagine that this new piece of parchment will also occupy a distinguished place jammed in behind some other memorabilia.

What I will remember most about this experience is not the physical exertion, irrational eating (and drinking!), the amazing scenery and the triumphant entry into Santiago de Compostela.

While all of these will be etched in my memory, as long as I have one, it is the people I met along the trail that will stay with me for a very long time.

I have repeatedly reported that everyday was like a meeting of the United Nations.People walking the Camino let their guard down and share their most inner triumphs and tragedies and trust me, there are plenty of both.

On the Camino, people look after one another. As many have said, “the Camino gives you what you need, not what you want.”

Most fellow walkers will leave here soon feeling exhilarated and quite sad as our paths will never cross again. While I certainly feel some of this, I will have the chance to relive the experience when I sit down to write my book.

I can’t thank all of you enough for your kind words and expressions of encouragement.

Someone once said “ nothing good comes easily” and this certainly applies to the Camino. But the sweat, tears and blisters (!) were all worth it.

I would do it all again tomorrow … if my feet wouldn’t hate me so much!!!

Buen Camino.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I know it’s not Thursday but I’ll be on a bus to Porto, Portugal tomorrow so you’re receiving this today. I doubt if the bus will have wifi!

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4 Responses to Thursday Tidbits

  1. Mary MacPherson says:

    Bravo! And thank you. Safe trip back home.

  2. Norm Arsenault says:

    Good job Len. Are you nuts!!! Just kidding.enjoy the break. You feet will thank you. All the best.

  3. Linda says:

    You’re a “walk” star my friend!! Congratulations

  4. Yvonne Fox says:

    Congratulations, Len. Safe journey home.

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