No, indeed it is not. It is filled with beautiful moments, beautiful people, and beautiful memories. As I wrote my last blog post I was nearly finishing up at the Abbey. My last day was a spectacularly beautiful day with bright blue skies, and everything sparkled. As Neill and I arrived at The Abbey we saw a pilgrim struggling down the road. He was quite clearly in a lot of pain and when he came past we started chatting to him. Turns out he had massive blisters on his feet and was having a hard time with his hiking boots (déjà vu, much?). My heart immediately went out to this man who was quite clearly in a lot of pain, but was also no doubt battling other thoughts like “will I have to end my Camino?”, “did I not train enough?”, “how will I get through today?” etc. I related to what he was going through so much. I asked Neill whether we could suggest that he stays with us at The Abbey for the day and then get a lift into town with us later in the afternoon to save him walking 20km with his infected blisters, and he agreed. Later on when we were sitting enjoying lunch in the sun, Max and I got talking and he asked about my story. I explained how I was stuck in a career where I didn’t feel as though I made the world a better place. To that he looked me straight in the eye and said “you made my world a better place today”. A simple offer of a lift into town led this man to say something so kind. And I guess that there is exactly the point I had to get: sometimes we completely disregard the significance and importance of our actions and words, even the tiniest ones which we think have no meaning, but by saying and doing them anyway someone else might have a profound experience.
This was a beautiful day for me, and a complete full circle moment: I arrived at The Abbey in exactly the same way a few months ago, and on my last day there I got to pay forward the kindness that was shown to me. I have since caught up with Max and he is doing well and keeping on keeping on.
Then as promised in my last update, I was on a mission to find out the deal with the Walking Man. Well (disappointment alert), I am sorry to report that I do not have an update. Not for lack of me trying. I was very determined on this last day to be bold and chat to him to find out the deal, but lo and behold, this was the ONE day since the dawn of time that he did not walk past. I actually couldn’t believe it. But, you know what, maybe he just didn’t want his story to be known and that is ok.
After leaving the Abbey I spent the weekend in Pamplona with Spanish Springbok friend. On Saturday afternoon we took bicycles and cycled about 15km out of Pamplona all along the river to a little village restaurant on the river. The autumn colours were beautiful and the lazy late afternoon sun was warm on my face. We had a scrumptious lunch and headed back just in time before dark. The weather has been somewhat of a miracle. Even as I wrote this it was a lovely sunny 22 degrees. Newspapers report it the warmest November since 1985. It is pretty much summer and amazingly bizarre.
The following week I walked the stretch of the Camino from Pamplona to Logroño, just shy of 100km. It only made sense to end my stay in Spain in a similar way to how the journey began. I wasn’t sure what to expect though as there are so few pilgrims on the road at this time of year, and this would no doubt change the vibe of the walk. I also didn’t expect to connect with other pilgrims so much, since I was only doing a short part of the walk. On my first day of walking I got caught on top of a mountain in a ridiculous downpour. It was raining quite severely and I wasn’t overly prepared for it given the amazing weather that we have had and also the fact that I was only walking for four days. A lovely and kind Irish man gave me his poncho against my objections and without ever knowing whether he will see me again to be able to get it back. Said Irish man has since become a very good friend, like so many others I have met on this mystical path back in June.
After the week’s walking I headed back to Pamplona where I had a lovely few days taking in more of this fabulous place. I also joined Spanish Springbok friend and some of his friends on Saturday to go to a farm in the Basque village of Lesaka, where we spent the day picking kiwi’s, sightseeing, getting an impromptu tour of a cyder house, and having some typical Basque food.
I spent my last few days in Spain in Madrid. I loved the city, the food, the colours, the people, the food, the buildings, the weather, the food, the food, the food… did I mention the food? I have to admit though that I did experience the big city a little bit full on and intense after my two wholesome months of fresh air in Navarra.
I am now back in not-so-sunny England for a short while before heading off to South Africa for a couple of months. It is lovely to see my sister and her little family and also hang out with my friends, but I will be lying if I say that I don’t miss Spain daily. And somehow saying goodbye just didn’t feel so very permanent – I WILL be back.
I am grateful for the last two months and for the incredible people I met along the way, the kindness I experienced, the sun and fresh air, and then also for the luxury of time to think. Sounds funny, but quite a lot of thinking can be done while mowing a lawn or yanking out floorboards you know. Some of my random thoughts and revelations include the following:
- I believe the world would be a better place for all of us if we can learn to just be. To stop analysing other people’s actions all the time, constantly looking for their motives and second guessing it.
- There is very rarely, if ever, a valid excuse to withhold kindness from others.
- Nobody deserves to be lonely.
- Soul mates are found in unexpected places.
- We spend so much time planning and deliberating and doubting our next moves. The best advice for that I have ever heard is probably in the ever so clever words of Nike: “just do it”.
I hope to be a little more prompt in posting a next update of my musings – until then, “Hasta Luego”!