Camino journal: truckin’ on

IMG_7160I am now past Mérida, which was a resistance point for me. I had planned to celebrate Semana Santa there. I’d even reserved a hotel for four days.

Then I realized that I had given myself far too much time to get to Mérida and far too little for the rest of the camino. I actually panicked (so uncharacteristic!) when I wrote down the number of stages I’d have left to go after Mérida. Had I continued on that course, I’d dawdle along for days until I got to Mérida, and then have barely enough time at the end to see Santiago, Fatíma, and Lisbon after walking the 35 remaining stages.

So, in a nocturnal burst of activity aided by a good internet connection, I was able to cancel my hotel in Mérida  and book one in the much larger town of Cáceres, several days farther north.

So now-no more rest days. I’m walking at least 14 miles every day (!). My pack is still heavy, but I’m hating it less. I still have to walk out the kinks every morning; I still have to talk to myself sternly at midday (doesn’t do any good), but that annoying muscle in my shoulder has stopped complaining, and I sometimes get myself to the albergue with energy to spare. I’m cautiously optimistic and slightly amazed.

What I’m finding–and this is a good thing–the Camino is an excellent pilgrim experience in the traditional sense of the word. It’s long and hard. They aren’t a lot of creature comforts along the way. (Except vino tinto and café con leche) I am often alone. I take up my pack every day for a reason–I carry intentions and my own need. I’m heading to a holy destination that has been blessed by the feet of millions before me, and that I hope will bless me and those I pray for.

Along the way I experience a modern Canterbury Tales. People come and go. Some are kind and funny and lovely; others not so much. The Camino lends itself to both solitude and any level of interaction one seeks.

But I’ll tell you–without a reason to walk every day and without that destination, I wouldn’t have the stamina or motivation to complete this endeavor. I’ve walked in greater comfort and beauty at home. Here, I’ve met folks who “do” the Camino every year. They bust out 25 miles before dinner. That won’t ever be me.

Lo mas importante es los kilometros en tu alma, no es los kilometros en tus pieds,  said Izarra, a Basque woman who is a force of nature on the Camino. (The most important thing are the kilometers in your soul. Not the kilometers on your feet.)



At this point I’m losing track of the villages I’ve passed through. Mérida was memorable, however. It was built during the reign of Ceasar Augustus, who reigned during the lifetime of a certain Jewish carpenter. The city was originally named Emerita Augusta. It has the most extensive and impressive Roman ruins outside Italy. The entire city is built over Roman grandeur, which pops its head out of the rubble at odd places on random city corners.

Like this temple to the goddess Diana. Just on a random corner

Like this temple to the goddess Diana. Just on a random corner

The Roman Theater in Mérida. A graceful temple to the finer arts

The Roman Theater in Mérida. A graceful temple to the finer arts


This, on the other hand, was the amphitheater, where gladiators battled wild animals and each other

This, on the other hand, was the amphitheater, where gladiators battled wild animals and each other

Enormous Roman aqueduct system to supply water to Mérida

Enormous Roman aqueduct system to supply water to Mérida

Other than that, here are some random but positive observations that I have accumulated to change the negative chatter in my head (Not in order of importance):

I can eat all the chocolate I want because I’m burning so many calories. However, it melts in your pack now that afternoons reach 90 degrees.

Red wine here is always good, and it’s $2.50/glass.

The weather’s been fabulous, except it’s getting too hot in the afternoon (There’s a reason for the Spanish siesta. It’s a great idea.)

No blisters. Not one.

Coffee is always good, too. Just your basic, good not-too-frothy latte.

Haven’t had any intestinal disturbances since I stopped drinking the water.

Cities and villages smell like orange blossoms because the trees are planted everywhere.

And because I promised I’d tell you:

Request #2: I was walking through the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. It was jammed with tourists and buskers and people selling stuff and general lightheartedness. I had my purse across my body and my favorite Patagonia fleece, which I expected to keep me warm in the weeks ahead, draped over my purse.

Suddenly, thwip, it was gone. I felt the slight brush on my arm. I spun around, confused. Although the plaza was crowded, no one was close by. Especially with a nice Patagonia fleece stuffed in his/her shirt. It was like some ghost hand had invisibly messed with me.

When this happens it is hard to:

  1. Believe it.
  2. Get over the emotional upset and the feeling of violation.
  3. Figure out what to do without the item.

For me. #3 was the big deal. I’m not traveling with anything superfluous. I really needed that jacket, and it wasn’t going to be easy to replace. It had to be light and warm. Durable. Comfortable. And I didn’t want to break the bank on a new one, although at the point. I probably would have. This wasn’t an optional item.

As I wandered around in a daze I asked God to help me find another, since the original obviously wasn’t coming back. I reached for equanimity. I tried to be peaceful. Can’t say I succeeded. At that point, I was strolling down a fancy pedestrian street in the center of Madrid. I wandered into a couple of shops. Nothing.

I needed a more specialized sporting goods store. Then, right there on my left was a Decathlon store. The window display looked promising. I walked in and beelined to a rack of down jackets on sale.

You know how this ends. I found a down jacket in my size on sale for $30. With a stuff sack. Even though I miss the comfort of my fleece, the down number probably is performing better because it has some windbreaking ability. It’s light as, um, a feather and has been great for the breezy cold mornings in southern Spain.

Decathlon has now moved on to its spring line; I caught the tail end of the winter sale.


PS: For some reason I haven’t been getting email notifications when you post comments, so I just assumed I wasn’t getting any. WELL. I just discovered all your lovely sentiments. It was like Christmas in April. I think I’ve answered everyone. Thank you so much.

Rest break. Midmorning

Rest break. Midmorning

, , , ,

14 Responses to Camino journal: truckin’ on

  1. Veronica Jabrocki 17 April, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    Hi Kate, After reading this chapter in your “Camino Journal”, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is the crowning trip of your travels, that perhaps you will be retiring. Don’t get me wrong, I am not wishing this by any means since I greatly enjoy following you around the world through your posts, but this journey appears to be the one that has garnered the most serious thought and planning, much more than any of your past adventures. I truly appreciate that you have shared this spiritual (and physical :-) quest with your audience. In this world of war and chaos, it must be a great blessing to have this opportunity to escape, talk with God, and meditate on the things which really matter in life. I fondly remember our conversation many years past when you invited me to share my experiences living in Mexico trying to share the Bible’s message with those who cared to listen. I hope one day to have a latte with you and hear your tale. Keep on truckin’, Kate! . . . Veronica

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

      How very insightful, Veronica! In some ways this was the easiest trip to plan because it isn’t a 3rd world country. But it’s been hard in unique ways–more physically demanding, obviously, but also emotionally so.

      But, yes, I think the travel will be different and that realization is part of the fruit of this Camino, which I’ll share soon.

      It HAS been a gift to step away from the immediacy of the chaos at home and also some of my own perplexities. Not sure yet what will stick, but the distance and time to reflect is good.

      And, yes, we need a good sit-down. I may be coming through Scottville shortly after I get back. I’ll let you in know…

  2. Julie DeVoe 16 April, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    Blessed Easter day Kate. Most days you join me on my daily walk. Just for a moment. Some days my dad joins me too. Walking, moving forward mindfully or mindlessly :) Its all good. You are so brave. Love and peace to you.

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

      How awesome to hear from you, Julie! Thank you for taking me with you, mindfully or not ( it IS all good). Mostly not brave, but carrying on.

      Besos. We’re overdue for a chat, too. On my next swing through Lowell, I’ll give you a call.

  3. Shawn 16 April, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

    So good to hear from you, Kate. We love you! Keep us walking with you. I loved the ruins.

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

      So did I! Next up, the big Easter processions!

  4. Joe Todd 16 April, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    Happy Easter Kate and thanks for a great post/photos

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

      Awww, Joe. I love that we connected over our blogs and ended up having a lot more in common.

      Thank you for your faithful following.

  5. Jenny 16 April, 2017 at 1:12 am #

    It just warmed my heart to see you looking so peaceful and relaxed in that last photo! Happy Easter, Kate! We love, support and miss you ❤️✌️

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      Hahaha. I usually look fairly relaxed at that time of day, then, after a long, hot approach to whatever village, I’m a frazzled mess. (And so is everyone else)
      Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler. Please God.

  6. hoz 15 April, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    I look forward to your updates. Thank you for keeping us posted. All the best on your journey.

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      Thanks, Hoz. See above comment to Joe. Same sentiment. Much gratitude.

  7. Maggie Nelson 15 April, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    I’ve been wondering how your trek was going. So happy to hear that all is well & that you’re making good progress. I’m thinking that it helps to have such beautiful scenery along the way. You’re an inspiration, Kate! I look forward to your next post.

    • Kate Convissor 18 April, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

      I’m progressing, dang it. I’m progressing.

      Honestly, while the scenery is lovely, especially in the early morning, you really can’t beat Minnesota for natural beauty. I’m looking forward to hikes in my own backyard this summer.