Camino de Santiago: Day 4 (Christina)

From Cizur Menor to Cirauqui (24.4 km)

Solitude is my companion on the Camino today.  I begin my day again at 6:45, seems to be a pattern now.  I start out alone and after walking for half an hour I pause to take a brief video to introduce my day – something I am doing each morning.  I am feeling really good today physically.  My feet are healing nicely and my hip has no pain.  But as I introduce my day on video, I get all choked up with emotion, out of nowhere.  I am so surprised. Before I know it, I am sobbing and I cannot stop and I don´t know why I am crying.  I cry for a good half hour as I continue to walk, thankful I have the path to myself just when I need my privacy the most.  I realize this emotion stems from a feeling of intense gratitude that I am on the Camino alone. For the first time in my life since childhood, I have no one to take care of but myself.  No husband, no children, nobody.  And even more, now others, like Pablo at the Albergue yesterday are reaching out and extending kindnesses to me, which I accept humbly and with gratitude. Receiving and accepting care from others is foreign to me – I am usually the caregiver. Being on the receiving end has touched me profoundly.  What power a simple act of kindess can have!

After such a good, cleansing cry I feel myself in a rather contrite mood, and ready for a confession.  I will not beat around the bush but will get right to the point.  On day 1 of the Camino, I stole a knife from the Albergue in Orisson.  At the time I rationalized my act.  First, I needed a knife to cut my cheese for the day and did not think there would be a place to buy one.  It was a necessity for me.  Second, it was a cheap knife, one of many, it would not be missed.  Third, I felt the Albergue was overcharging and therefore taking advantage of the pilgrims.  Two euro for a small 400 ml bottle of water!  That is thievery!  Regardless, I stole the knife.  I am now a Pilgrim and a thief.  And I didn´t even feel bad about it.  Even when I confessed my sin to Pauline the next day, I felt no remorse.  But today, all of a sudden, I feel regret.  I wish I had not done it.  I do not feel guilt, just regret like I have a blemish on me that I would like to remove, but I cannot.  Nothing can be done about it now.  And so begins another stream of philosophical thinking for the day which I will share with you.  The idea of being a good person which I like to think I am.  In fact, my personal motto in life is ¨do good for goodness sake alone¨.  Yes I know, this is a far cry from my thieving ways on day 1.  Still I think I am a good person.  Doesn´t everybody want to think of themselves as a good person?  But aren´t we all equally capable to doing bad things?  All of a sudden the whole notion of being a good person seems ridiculous.  Are we not all simply human, struggling each day to do good but sometimes we end up doing bad things too.  Perhaps this is the definition of being human.  Anyways, that´s as far as I got on that thinking.  But at least I got that off my chest. I hope you don´t hold it against me.

I saw lots of windmills today perched in elegant rows
on top of the hills.

I think windmills are beautiful in their simple,
streamlined design.  I love what they represent too:
creating energy from a renewable resource. 

During this time of deep thought, I was aware of the changing landscape.  The Pyrennees (I don´t know how to spell this correctly and it is bugging me!) foothills are giving way to gentler hills and the grazing livestock are being replaced by cultivated fields.  Fields of poppies remind me of Tuscany.  A windmill farm graces the distant horizon. I see an autoroute in the distance and I hear the sound of traffic, something new on the Camino. I observe how the people on the autoroute may be going to the same place as me but they are missing out on so much along the way – the smells, the sounds, the landscape.  Time even moves more slowly on the Camino.  I keep saying in my life:  time keeps marching on and I want it to stop or just slow down for a while.  Perhaps I have stumbled upon the secret to receive my wish.  Should I pattern my life after the Camino, to slow down, give myself more time to think, more time to socially interact with others, to be more in tune with myself?  Maybe then time will slow down to a more acceptable pace.  I don´t know but this is what I am thinking on the Camino this morning.

Fields of poppies rival the Tuscan countryside!

Taking a break along the way.

Another Camino marker embedded in the sidewalk
in a town so we don’t lose our way. 

On the way to Puente la Reina; there is a church in every town.

It’s hard to get lost if you pay attention.
Can you see which way I should go?

By lunch time, I arrive in Puente la Reine feeling really good.  No pain in my hips today and my legs feel really strong.  My feet are still a little tender but nothing I can´t ignore. I rest inside an empty church to escape the searing midday heat and sun.  It´s so stinking hot outside, it is almost unbearable.  A little old lady comes into the church and says her prayers.  She gets up to leave as I am heading to the door.  She insists on opening the door for me and as I pass her, she grabs my arm with purpose and wishes me a ´Buen Camino´.  I am touched.

Making my way through Puente la Reina towards the church.

I seek refuge from the heat in the cool, peaceful church and
meet the old lady on my way out. 

I love the neat and tidy gardens along the way.

This is the first time I have seen artichoke growing in a garden
I see a lot more throughout the day.

Leaving Puente la Reina.  After I took this photo, I realize
I have left my walking sticks at the fountain on
the other side of the bridge.  I run back and am relieved
they are still there. 

The Camino is desserted as I continue to walk in the afternoon.  I guess everyone has stopped early because of the heat.  But I am feeling good and think I can keep going. There is no one in sight ahead of me or behind me for many kilometres.  I am completely alone.  I hope to reach Lorca today but it is a long way off.  There is no shade, no wind, no relief.  But I continue, my spirits high.  I am enjoying my solitude today.

And then I reach a hill that just about does me in.  I call it the killer hill.  It seems to go on forever and ever.  It is so steep in places.  I am feeling light headed and I don´t think I can take another step.  But I have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other.  I feel desperate.  I start to count my steps and allow myself a rest after 100 steps.  I stop, lean my head on my walking sticks and catch my breath.  Then I begin again, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.  Out of nowhere, three people approach and then they pass me.  How can this be?  I am ready to pass out and they are walking by like this is nothing to them.  I realize I must be dehydrated but there is still nothing I can do but put one foot in front of the other.  At the top of the hill, there is a large flat stone under a single tree offering some shade and a little breeze too.  I drop my pack to the ground and collapse on the rock, and lie there for quite some time.  Finally I get up and continue on to the next village, now just a kilometre or so away, but I do not know this.  When I arrive in Cirauqui, I must climb up a hill to the middle of the village to find the only Albergue in town.  Thankfully, they have a bed for me.

Just after the killer hill, I see this town in the distance.
I zoom in for a closer look….. 

…bit the town is still a long way off.  I decide this is where I will stay tonight.
Why is the Albergue at the top of the hill in the middle of town?

After a shower, and doing my laundry by hand (the usual routine now), I actually lie down to rest.  I even fall asleep for awhile. Later I get some groceries to replenish my provisions and then eat the Pilgrim´s menu at the Albergue.  I share my table with an Irish couple and a woman from Switzerland.  She has been walking from Geneva since early April and is going all the way to Santiago when she will meet her daughter and continue to Finisterre at the coast.  I begin to tell them my story about dinner the night before and she stops me.  She has already heard the story.  She met Daniel at lunch time who told her the story about meeting four women in a grocery story and lucking out on the best dinner he has had in a long time (and the cheapest too).  It is a small world on the Camino.  I talk about the killer hill coming into town and I am met with blank stares.  No one but me found it so difficult.  So strange.  I also see my Hungarian friend, Agnes at this Albergue.  She has met up with another Hungarian girl, Zsuzsa (Susan in Hungarian).  I talk with them for a while before going to bed.  They tell me their stories and I share a little bit of mine.  Such is the Camino way.

Home for the night.  You can see my laundry in front of my green towel.

Lots of bunks – mine is the lower bunk on the left.

Our pilgrim’s dinner was served in what was once a wine cellar.
Elizabeth is to my right, and the Irish lady is across from me. 

It has been a challenging day – emotionally and physically and I crawl into my bed still feeling gratitude for being on this journey.

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7 Responses
  1. sonja says:

    Chris…..we are all human and we screw up from time to time. In my opinion what would make us:-)abad person is if we felt no remorse. Did i ever tell you what i did at the rock n roll marathon in san diego? There were posters advertising the race. They were every where yet not for sale. At the end of the race i saw one and took it. Well when i got home i felt really guilt and remorseful even thoug i figured they probably were going in the garbage. I send a cheque to the charity for that race along with anexplanation. So at the end of this send a note expressing regret and it will make you feel better.

    You are not a bad person!!

    • christina says:

      Hey Son

      Does thievery run in the family???? Seriously, thanks for sharing your remorseful tale! I don´t know if I need to do anything more about the knife….the damn thing sits in my bag and stares at me every day reminding me of the thief that I was (am?). But I need it so I can´t let it go….I think I´m suffering enough….not to mention my feet which I will get to when I finally get caught up on the blog.

  2. Angus says:

    Hi Christina, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I suspect the emotional and contemplative journey can be as demanding as the physical one but the fruits will last much longer. We all do good and bad, that is the nature of being human as you mention, but a good person recognizes when they’ve done bad and tries to do better. Life, like the Camino, is a journey that tests our most basic beliefs and values and in the end we will reap what we sow.

    Having worked with you for quite a few years, including turning to you for advice on how to handle young daughters, I know that you are a really good person with great values and are full of love and compassion for others. The time and care you spent with Tim touched me very deeply and showed me the kind of person I should be.

    But is being good, good enough? Is there a higher purpose? There are lots of really good people in the world doing great things but if this is all there is then so what? If we’re only a bunch of pilgrims whose journey comes to an end with nothing after then does it really matter how we finish? You know I have a strong belief in God, and even though religion often confuses and confounds me it is the belief that there is a reason for us being here and that there is a better place after this that makes all the difference to me and gives meaning to a crazy world. It also gives me a sense of peace to believe that there is a bigger plan and I don’t have to know all the answers. Instead I can trust in something bigger than me and enjoy the world one day at a time.

    Remember you’re not alone on this journey.


    • christina says:

      Hi Angus
      Thanks for sharing your views on this. I have known you now for what, 10 years, and have watched your faith grow over the years. I appreciate your honesty and candor, and I can also attest to how your faith has made you a better husband, father, and friend. So many things to think about on this Camino.

  3. Marc says:

    Hi Christina,

    Think of taking the knife as doing it a favor: Now that it’s with you, it helps you and serve your purpose. Who knows, maybe if it had been left behind, it could have cut or hurt someone seriously eventually… nothing happens without some kind of reason… 🙂

    As you described it today, your pilgremage took on an almost biblical sense, as if your suffering on the journey up the killer hill was a way to absloution, because taking the knife was really eating at you… not sure if this makes sense?

    If I may ask, what is your dream? The one you referred to in the previous post?

    Take care and Buon Camino

    • christina says:

      Hi Marc
      Thanks for being so understanding and for the interesting perspective you´ve offered. But honestly, don´t you think I´ve paid enough penance by now for that lousy knife!
      Hmmmm… dream. I would like to go back to school, to major in psychology, with a view to pursuing the area of organizational psychology. It would take many years to become a psychologist. But after working in the corporate world for so many years, and seeing how detrimental it is to the humans who toil their lives away for the corporate bottom line, I think there must be a better way for companies, large and small, to engage their employees so that it can be a win win for everybody – companies make money and employees feel recognized, appreciated, rewarded etc. etc. I think some fundamental changes are needed and I would like to be part of the solution that could bring innovative change to the way companies do their business from a human resource perspective. Many companies are already spear heading such change, but I think much more is needed. I think in some ways this would be a natural evolution of my career so far….rather than continuing up the corporate ladder, step off it, to the side, and take a more mentoring or coaching role to help companies improve the way they run their business from the human perspective.
      I am still wondering if I´m too old for such a grandiose dream.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Marc.

  4. 105.2KM! Thats amazing mom. Keep it up! I find it so funny how many people you are meeting and everyone seems to know each other. Sounds like there is real comradery on the Camino.
    Lots of love from rainy Ottawa,