The patterns formed quickly. For the first week, when I arrived at my accommodation from walking the best part of the day, I would have a thumping migraine headache.
I would close the curtains, peel everything off, shower and hop into bed with what I needed pulled around me to arms reach. My day bag, my notes to prep for tomorrow, my journal, pen and my book. But for at least an hour I couldn’t read so just closed my eyes and dozed.
When I was able to I would pull the days walking notes, maps and accommodation details out and decide what I wanted to keep and what to bin. I would carefully sort through my paperwork and take out everything I needed for tomorrow, notes, maps and accommodation details. I would write about where I walked and what I saw in my journal and if I was up to it, read a little.
After dragging myself out of bed due to hunger I would go and eat at the earliest meal time, 7ish, then return to my bed and sleep till morning.
This was my first experiences of walking on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
One night in utter frustration and self pity I lay in bed and cried. I wanted to feel great, be able to cruise the town I was in, enjoy the sights and smells, eat the local food. But all I could participate in was the walk itself.
By morning my headache would be gone and I would set off, so happy to be in Spain and the region of Galicia and be enjoying the scenes of predominantly small family farms, forest paths, and villages.
The headache would sneak back in while I wasn’t looking, drilling into my temple and by lunchtime making its full presence felt. I had to give up walking and take up a slow amble. The pace I use when walking briskly at home, around 6 km’s an hour, abandoned. I was actually quite astonished that I could get anywhere at the pace I got down to.
I walked solo; truly alone for long stretches. Even when people were around, apart from brief ‘buon caminos’ and ‘holas’, I kept my distance.
On day 6 I tentatively set out on my amble. The forecast was for rain so I had set off earlier than most days hoping to beat it. Around late afternoon I ended up in conversation with a young woman from the UK also walking alone. It was nice to really chat for the first time in nearly a week. We ended up stopping for a lunch in a beautiful village by a river and it was just delightful even when the skies opened and torrential rain drove us all indoors.
No headache came that afternoon.
Nor again for the rest of my Camino. I was released.
The following days even in the continuing torrential rain and bigger and bigger mileages I was able to walk pain-free. In fact, it became easier and easier. I had been stopping to have lunch 6 or 8 km’s into a day initially. Now I was stopping for a hot cup of tea, and not wanting food, even after 14 or more km’s. My body was feeling amazing. So strong and fit and the weight was beginning to drop off. The nuts and fruit in my pockets which had started as stopgaps had now become my days’ food.
I started to feel carried and joyous.
On my final day I got to Monte do Gozo or mount of joy (Wiki: “…by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path”…) again in the pouring rain and my heart swelled with happiness. I sang all the last hours walk to Santiago de Compostela.
Camino walkers often walk for long distances, much longer than I did, such as 600-1600kms. They carry all their gear which I didn’t. I have the utmost respect for them and admiration. I have now had a taste of what they might experience. Ultreia my fellow walkers.