I’m about to enter Stage Two – aka the soul crushing stage – of the Camino de Santiago.
Over the course of about 500 miles, the Camino is divided into three infamous stages: The Physical, The Self Reflection, and the Spiritual stage.
Stage Two is a tad shorter than One but boring as ass! It’s a walk through Spain’s farm fields – the boring fields… hay, wheat, and sunflowers. And now that we’re in mid September, the fields are harvested so it’s one big ass vast land of nada.
It’s like walking through fucking Kansas only there’s no Dorothy, Toto, or wicked witch.
Veterans of the slog say it’s mind numbing. Yeah, yeah there are those who just lovvvvvvvve it, but do they? I mean, do they really… I doubt it – just like I doubt anyone truly, and I mean truly, enjoys cleaning toilets.
Having just completed Stage One, I gotta tell you, I’m as shocked as you are that I’m still standing!
Stage One, the physical stage, is about 150 miles of fierce winds and endless mountains that no guide book can adequately prepare you. It’s a grueling grind for the average American – the Germans, Swedes and Dutch are athletic gods so they have no issues with this stage AT ALL!
It’s full of breath taking scenery (not really what you want when you’re struggling for every breath, but it all works out), rich food, fabulous wines, and pilgrims.
I’ve met some incredible people during the 11 days of my Spanish Schlep including Ron the spook.
Ron’s a retired CIA guy who worked in the back office coming up with “nasty tricks.” I said, “you mean you were the Agency’s ‘Q’?”
To which he said, “yeah, back when there was an Agency.”
I begged him not to kill me now that he had told me his secret, but there was no fear of that as Ron’s killings days were long gone – I killed him on those first climbs over the Pyrenees. I lost him in the fog and clouds that first day and haven’t seen him since which is a shame cause I wanted to find out more about his heydays and heyyyy, what really happened at Dealey Plaza????
I’ve found that you’re drawn to your own people here – I’ve met several women from my home state and Sergio.
I was basking in my accomplishments of having made it over the first day’s hurdle, and drinking a cold one when Serge sat down and we began talking. One thing led to the next and wouldn’t you know it – we’re both tv journalists – he’s a video photographer from Canada and I was a former producer for pick-a-network. We shared some laughs and realized we probably worked on some of the same stories – small, small world. He’s long passed me (Uhhh, he’s Canadian, they’re healthy- they walk) but I hope to see him again and hear his new stories.
John from Perth is a wee bit unusual. We shared a taxi from Biarritz to St Jean Pied de Port and we were both filled with nerves and anxiety as it was the night before we were to begin our Camino.
We were also shot!
He had just flown in from Down Under and I had just arrived from the US. John looks like a leprechaun-I kid you not. White hair, white pointed beard, and a hint of mischievousness. We wished each other well and went our separate ways that night, but I’ve met him several times along The Way and he’s now full of the spirit… praising the Lord for this and that and, it seems, mostly for running into me again.
Dorothy from Italy is fast becoming a Camino legend.
A young, beautiful Italian (aren’t they all beautiful?), she blew my socks off with her roadside mangia know-how.
As we walked, she grabbed figs and walnuts off trees, grapes off the vines, and pulled what I thought were weeds up from their roots. “This is going to make an excellent salad,” she told me as she offered me a sampling of her on the go salad bar. I bit into this wild plant and it tasted like salted licorice. “OMG, that’s insanely good…your mom must be so proud of how resourceful you are,” I told her. She said she grew up eating off the land, I told her I grew up going to grocery stores where everything is labeled.
Dorothy is a bit of a celebrity on the road – everyone marvels at her Peregrino culinary arts and we all want to be invited over to her place for dinner.
I’ve met too many people here who are suffering: deaths, divorces, cancer, or trying to make good on a promise made years ago.
There are a lot of 20-somethings on The Way looking for their way. They don’t know what to do with their lives and are hoping this road to Santiago de Compostela will provide them with life’s great road map. I bite my tongue so that I don’t tell them that there is no road map, it’s like this walk – one foot in front of the other every friggin single day. I figure they’ve got to realize that for themselves.
I’ve also kept my mouth shut when someone talks about their relationships – they’re so desperate, they’re asking a total stranger if they should stay with their man. Note to self, if you’re asking a total stranger on the fucking Camino if you should stay with a complete prick, ummm, NO, dump the dude.
The Camino is full of all kinds from all walks of life. Now that we’ve completed Stage One and are gearing up for Stage Two, the self reflection stage, I hope those who ask strangers for advice find the answers from within, I hope those who are grieving can find solace, and I hope I can find a path with fewer hills and more fabulous wine.
Here are my stats
0 Miles Marched Today – Rest Day
141.9 Miles Traveled So Far
363.9 Miles Left To Go
505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain
Tomorrow: Another Rest Day in Burgos!