When I arrived at the Denver airport to fly off for my Spanish Schlep, there was my brother, sister, and niece waiting to surprise me with a lovely send off.
I was overwhelmed by their generosity, thoughtfulness, and their love.
My little bro bought me a gift and I was so touched. He’s not a religious man and neither am I. I’ve put him through hell (typical bossy pants older sister) and yet he always has my back and my love.
He handed me something wrapped in tissues and said not to look at it until I was on the plane.
It was a St Christopher charm. Now my brother is no patron of the saints but I was touched because I knew the lengths my sibling sinner went to to find this symbolic gift.
Little did he – or I – know just how much his gift would save me as I try to walk some 500 miles across Spain on the Camino.
Today is Day 4 of my trek and here are my stats:
Miles Marched Today: 14.8
Total Miles Marched: 51.27
Miles To Go: 409.83
I knew today was going to test my physical abilities – a long slog up yet another Spanish mountain in the rain from Pamplona to Puente la Reina – a destination for pilgrims since the 11th century.
I have three huge fears of this trip: flashers, not finishing, and “having to go” like, out in the open on the holiest of holy trails.
So I’ve been careful – no coffee, no fatty foods, no bathroom on “The Way” left unused.
13.5 kilometers into my journey I lined up with my fellow pilgrims at a local hostel to use the facilities. We stood in line for 45 minutes but to me, it was better safe than sorry.
Once it was my turn though, nothing! A major case of performance anxiety. I begged and pleaded and even offered a small prayer for something. Nothing. I began to panic, I knew the line was long and getting longer – and I had just had a cappuccino.
Finally nature answered the call- a little widdle, but it was enough to get me back on the road.
Once finished I looked for some TP- none could be found. No problem I have my emergency “go bag” in my backpack – shit, I had a cab take my backpack on to my next hotel. Ok don’t panic there are some Kleenex in my fanny pack. Nope! Double shit! Rifling through my fanny pack for something for my fanny – there he was, my St Christopher still wrapped tightly in tissue paper. Thank God my brother hadn’t used lime green tissue.
Duty done, I turned and there on top of the bowl – a new package of toilet paper – where’s the fucking patron saint for idiots?
Flushed and furious I took off to conquer this latest mountain where, there among the windmills atop Alto de Perdon, is one of the highlights of the Camino Frances – a group of pilgrim statues erected by the local power company to, I guess, take our minds off the 40 massive whirling windmills.
I made the summit and did my silly poses, took my selfies all while basking in glorious self confidence.
I then had to make the descent- a descent so treacherous they have three ambulance crews assigned to this stage.
Deep breath, one step at a time, use your fucking poles, and go!
Within 30 seconds of my descent a woman fell. Then another, then another. This trail is not a trail its some sadistic test for us sinners. The “path” is made up completely of river rocks. It’s slippery, it’s dangerous (OSHA would have a field day) and it’s scary as hell.
Just ahead another women had fallen – and she had broken her ankle. She was part of an Irish tour group and her guide had her covered in an emergency blanket, was on the phone getting an ambulance, and all those around were praying for her – and – thanking God it wasn’t them who had fallen.
I instinctively felt for my St Christopher and sidestepped the growing crowd.
Isn’t that just like life – you think you’ve made it and then bam! you fall on your ass.
I don’t know why my super talented friend can’t find a job, or why my friend’s baby died, or why our friends are getting a divorce, or why Trump is the president or why this fucking gnat won’t leave me alone – but shit happens. One day you’re on top of the mountain – the next, you’re trying to claw your way back up.
But – if you’re lucky, you’ll have your own “St. Christopher” in that your friends will have your back, and your family will have your backside – and love you until the end of days.