Something clicks in my left foot when I articulate it and Nick the blister brings new wonders daily. My right foot is mostly numb on the underside and I think there’s a blister coming on the sole which will be … unpleasant. My right Achilles tendon is deeply unhappy with me but has calmed down a bit since last week when I thought it might be gearing up to snap. My bum is tight which can only be a good thing. The sides of my hips are moaning, my thighs are beginning to look at their contract. My calves … they’re my calves. They don’t care They have always been impenetrable blocks of muscle. I scream if you massage them. They carry me.
Mostly it’s feet. The dull pain in the bottom of my feet – the bits where there’s still feeling. This didn’t stop me waddling to the bar for a glass of remarkable crianza for €1. There’s a different relationship with a good glass of wine at the end of a day here. It goes into your muscles. It lessens the pain. And it helps you sleep in a room full of grunting stinking wandering people. It’s an earnt luxury and not an obliviating habit. I’m glad I didn’t go with my initial instinct of walking this route sober. It’d be wretched. I’ve never failed to wake up before dawn and it helps me make peace with these crowded auberges, which I still hate.
What the hell am I doing this for? You may ask. I’m trying to work it out myself. I’ve always been a fan of ordeal medicine. It’s the same tendency that sees me spewing into a bucket all night while someone plays didgeridoo, letting someone scrape frog poison onto a burn in my arm so I can cry-shout-purge for twenty minutes, put painful berry stuff in my eyes because it hurts. “It has no medicinal value. It just hurts.” “I know. Do it.”
This is an ancient rite, this pilgrimage. The path is narrow. It’s hard and long.
Different people take different things from it and do it in different ways for varying reasons. I now see no harm in people cutting stages out, taking taxis, sending their luggage ahead. Why not? I’m not doing that yet because I’m stubborn and I’ve got my ascetic thing going on. But I might have to soon. And they can do what they like. This is mostly just about you, every day, doing this as best you can. If I can walk the whole way without damaging myself I will. If I have to cheat, so be it.
The spiritual history is undeniable here. The stones resonate with prayer. There is power in shared articulated hope, in shared pain, in simultaneous wonder. When people breathe together they can do the impossible. When people pray together, in whatever form that prayer takes, that prayer has power. It’s why I’ve been mentioning my chanting in this blog more often. It’s become a big part of my day. Sitting in the morning watching the pilgrims pass, blessing their journey and hoping for mine, and that of my friends. Connecting with a universal flow and breath through “Nam myo ho renge kyo”
Whatever we connect to when we meditate, be it the universe, God, our untapped inner strength – we connect to something and it gives us clarity and strength. I’m getting on very well with devout Christians and confirmed atheists. Everyone respects that we are all here on a journey experiencing similar difficulty together. For some of us it is worse than for others.
There’s a lovely Croatian guy I met who has already given himself shin splints so badly he had to get a cab yesterday and book a physiotherapist today instead of walking. That’s part of his journey. He will come out stronger and knowing his body better. In the hostel today the guy in the bed next to me can’t use his legs anymore until he’s slept. There’s nothing left in them. I left him flat out and went to get my wine. I’m lucky. I have a decent working knowledge of my body. If this clicking becomes a popping I might have to change something. But I’ve been going a week longer than most of these people. I’m not falling apart. Sleep rebuilds.
I didn’t know it but starting in Lourdes has given me a weird kind of kudos in the hostels too. I got a bottom bunk near a power socket out of the volunteer running the place. She likes it when people have been at it a while. She knew I’d need the bottom bunk. And I do. I’ll likely be asleep in an hour if I can find food. And it’s ten past seven.
Industrial path today, often by roads. Sun hard, path straight. Factories making it possible for me to have amazing things but poisoning the water. Much less tissue paper surprisingly. And the prize for the blingingest altar goes to Navarette. You pay a euro to light it up. I paid but I still had to rush the photo as there was a devout guy behind me fretting at the tourist blocking his prayer.
Unfortunately it doesn’t play gangsta rap when you pay. It should. It really should.