The lessons of the camino I – Healing and avoiding tendinitis 

Walking on the camino, I learned many things about life and I would like to share with you the key lessons I came across.   

Healing and avoiding tendinitis
. I never had any before walking on the camino. And I discovered that simply with stretching and drinking lot of water I could avoid it. I bought on the way a camel bag and took good care to drink at least 3L of water per day (below this threshold the pain was coming back). 

A Feel Good moment 

It is my second day in Galicia. This morning I started early and I am now running out of water. As I arrive in a small village, in the courtyard of a farm there is a colourful table full of fruits, biscuits and juices. It is a donativo for the pilgrims. 

  
I enter, take my water bag out of my bag and go to the tap. At this moment, one of the owner appears and comes to help me. He is warm and welcoming, his name is Simon and after introducing each other we have a nice conversation about the French part of the camino, his cats and his donativo project. He offers me some banana bread, which I happily taste. 
I start to feel cold, and tell him that it is time for me to walk again. He opens his arms to hug me and tells me: « Have a good life, give lot of love on the camino and after ». I smile in his arms and answer « Thank you, I will, I will ». And then, to my surprise he continues to hug me. My inner voice goes  » Hey you! We are not friends, what are you doing ?! » and 2 seconds later « Hum that feels very good, actually I could stay there! ». Finally this hug ends. I leave with a big smile on my face, I pass the door and laugh. I laugh at myself, and I laugh at this funny episode. For the next hour, I keep smiling and smilling. Inside, I fell invaded by the urge of hugging all the ones I love. 
Live, Love and Laugh! 

  

My biggest challenge on the camino

    
 My biggest challenge on the way has been my fragile back. I have a scoliosis (my back is as sinuous as the tree above), I even wore a corset days and nights during my teenager years, and of course I knew before going that it would represent a challenge. I made sure I would carry only the strict necessary in my bag. I built my back muscles before starting and every day on the camino I practised yoga.  
BUT what had been a real challenge was to acknowledge my pain and its negative impact on my life. I had to be really kind and patient with myself in order to take in account this pain and do all I could do to stop it: ask another pilgrim to mass me, to go for one hour of professional massage or osteopathy session, change my bag half-way, look for albergues with yoga classes, not carrying my bag for a day and sending it by taxi, do as much breaks and stretching as needed (even if it is every 20 minutes!). And also forgive myself for sometimes not anticipating the pain. As for example after the osteopathy season, when I didn’t even think of sending my bag to the next Albergue by taxi so I could leave my back settling and relaxing after being manipulated.
Yes, all of that can appear pretty simple and obvious. However, after so many years spent ignoring my back tensions and contractions, I can tell you it is a real effort to get out this bad habit! 
What helped me the most? First of all the patience and the words of my travel companions in order to make me recognise my need for a rest. Thank you Lolita and Jimmy! My different reads also encouraged me to listen always more to my body and of course my daily yoga sessions.
I have certainly not finished to learn about this facet of me but I progressed a lot and I fell very happy and very, very proud of it.

Namaste! 

  
  *special thank you to Finja, Sarah, Dalila and Roberto for making this picture possible. 

Almost there!

   I am now few days away from Santiago, and as I am walking on this nice mountain trail I find myself reviewing my camino.
First of all, I feel ready to arrive. It seems to me that after 2 months of walking I really found what I was looking for and even more! 

Therefore, it is important to write it down do I can come back to it later, in the infinite race of life. As there is a lot to write, I will publish few articles. Articles to follow very soon! 

The house of silence 

 » On the way there is all I need, when I need it ».  

 
This morning, I wake up feeling tired. Despite the short walking day yesterday, the evening has been tiring: the Albergue was full, the kitchen very small and the people rather noisy. I even decline the invitation of my companions for breakfast: the TV background noise irritates me. Instead I prefer to have my breakfast in the peaceful dinning room, sitting by myself. Today, it is decided I walk alone! 

Once on the way, my mood improves considerably. Today the wind is blowing strongly, it is chasing the rain from the day before and above all drying the muddy soil. In my head the ideas of articles are flourishing and I can’t wait to reach the next village, stop in a coffee and write.

At the entrance of Castrojeriz, I meet Finja with who I walked yesterday. We enter the village together, while sharing our impressions of the last evening and our plans for the day. After few meters, a house catches my attention. On the door it is written « House of silence, for pilgrims. Open ». I show it to Finja and share my intention to enter. We say good bye to each other and I open the door.
I enter, close the door behind me and a sentence I am saying and sharing often since I started to walk comes to my mind:  » On the way there is all I need, when I need it ». Today again this sentence proves to be true.  
The place I entered is magical: inside the first room there is a picture exhibition with an inspirational quotes or a philosophical sentences under each of them. I carry on my visit and discover a kitchen, facing a living room and a conservatory with a wood burner. The house is decorated with taste, everything is in monastic simplicity and evokes a sense of journeys to fare away lands. The background music is relaxing and invites to contemplate and meditate. There are little places to sit, in every corners. It feels good to be there and I can see by the window  a nice garden with the floor covered by autumn leaves.    
I go through the rest of the house more quickly. A nice staircase covered with floor-tile leads to the first floor. A well of light brings some natural light inside. It is painted in yellow and I can see some bird shadows soaring up to the sky. Upstairs, there is a little chapel, very simple: a cross on the wall, a carpet and a cushion to sit on it. Opposite to it, a meditation room with Spanish texts written by hand in colourful sheets of paper left to the eyes of the visitor on the little carpet. In between theses 2 rooms, the bathroom in which big bouquets of rosmary and lavender are drying. I give a glance to the last room: a multilingual library with great books, chosen with taste.   

  

I go back downstairs, it is decided I am spending the rest of the morning here! I remove my shoes, my rain trousers and jacket. And I adventure again in this quiet and comfortable space. This time, I take my time to decide where to sit.  
On the table of the first living room there is a table with tea, biscuits and dark chocolate on it. On a little piece of paper it says « Help yourself ». The cups are in Chinese porcelain and I even find a Genmaïcha tea bag, one of my favourite with green tea and roasted rice. I help myself, take out my phone and sit comfortably in the conservatory to write. 

  
Half an hour later an Asian girl entre from the garden and joins to sit right in opposite to me. We sight to greet each other. She observes me during few minutes, and to my surprise breaks the silence to tell me that the phones are strictly forbidden in that house. And that the creator of this place is positive: he doesn’t want to see it. Stopped in my momentum, I leave my writing project to later.

I stand up to clean my cup, I climb upstairs and try to read a bit in the library. Then, I make an attempt of meditation in the chapel. I hear the wind blowing outside, I feel my energy bubbling inside me and my mind getting agitated. It is the call of the camino! It is time to leave the silence to return in the autumn wind. I can’t wait to share my discovery with my travel companions !

Gratitude

There are places and key moments for each of us on the way. Personally, the halt in the small village of Zabaltica will remain in my memory.

  

I decided to stop there because I knew I would find there a donativo. A donativo is a non profitable pilgrim hostel which is based on volounteer work and donations from pilgrims.  

I arrived there after a day walking through amazing autumn landscapes, the weather was nice and warm. The donativo is sitting on the top of Zabaltica village, in a nice and bright house next to the church.

I am welcomed with my two hiking companions by a tall Irish man: Michael. He explains us that he is volunteer host with his wife Kathleen in this house for 2 weeks. The house can host 19 pilgrims, it belongs to the Catholic Church and there is a small community of 4 sisters who live there.  
Mickeal offers us to leave our bags in the dormitory, to get a shower and invite us to rest a bit or to go to the mass before diner. He also tell us that there is a time of sharing experiences with the sisters and the pilgrims after diner.

  
The place is beautiful and peaceful. After my shower I go down to the garden, some delicious smells of food are escaping from the kitchen where Kathleen is working. I seat for a while on the grass facing the view. I can see Pamplona in the horizon and I suddenly and surprisingly feel like crying. It is an indescribable mixed feeling of tiredness and joy which are inhabiting me at this moment. I think again of a text I received few minutes ago from a friend who is telling me how lucky I am to be walking through Spain, and right at this moment I can fully realise it. I feel blessed and immensely grateful for all the kilometres already walked, this great day, the encounters and the lessons learned on the way; and above all for having the time and the possibility to choose where and when I will end my travel: Santiago? Finisterre?  

  
The diner is delicious, we are many around the table. Then, comes time to share our experiences, whatever our belief and religions we are welcomed in the church by sister Marie Ascu. She speaks Spanish, English as well as French and Swedish. She leads this time which is all about gratitude. The exchange is rich and beautiful, each person explains a bit why she/he is on the way and what she/he is grateful for. We speak about the Autumn of life, about going away from the life motorway to find our own path and about Love. Then, the sisters and the Irish host give us them benediction, it feel great to hear theses people wishing for us to find what we came for! Finally, it is Michael who is closing this time by a song in Gaelic. His strong voice resonate in the church, the pilgrims are sitting comfortably on the pillows. I can see stars in their eyes and a smile on their faces. Here in Zabaldica they experienced a time in the true spirit of the camino. And me, I realised I already found a bit of what I came for. 

T-H-A-N-K    Y-O-U

Lovely France!

As I am about to pass the Pyrenees and continue my way in Spain, I have at heart to share with you theses little thoughts from the experienced traveller I am. 
From the mountains of Le Puy to l’Aubrac; until Conques and even further: Figeac, the Célè valley, the beautiful arrival over Cahors, the villages of Lot and Gers until the French Basque Country, I have been in marvel. What a beautiful countryside, mountains, vineyards, cows, gardens, fig trees, old historic buildings ! Walking through all of that, is for me, a great way to come back in the country of my childhood. 

   

  

    

  

 
It taste so good! In a figurative way as much as in the proper way. I rediscovered and discovered our terroir products: a new cheese every 50km from the local producer and a glass of wine. In the halts, I enjoyed the fresh fruits and veggies from the garden, the homemade juices and jams…Hummm…such a tasty way!
Talking about the way, do you know how lucky we are to live in a country which maintains so many trails ? Yes, I can tell you : I visited beautiful countries with splendid landscapes where there are very few possibilities to hike .

Therefore today I share with you all my love of the good sides of France 😉 

Sweet France, dear country of my childhood! 

See you soon, after Roncevau pass!