We picked up my mother-in-law, our family's zany and lovable adventurer, from the airport tonight. She travelled with us to camp on the Serengeti last year, she's roamed Scotland since then, the year before she was back-packing australia, and the winter before all that she was volunteering in Nepal. And now....
She is just back from completing the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. She walked 800 kilometres across northern Spain these last six weeks with a heavy backpack. She'd rise before dawn, walk a fearsome distance before the Spanish sun got too hot OR (on the flip side of that) walk all day in the lashing rain from the tail end of a tornado's storm. And then she'd fall asleep at a refugio , a waystop for Santiago pilgrims which sometimes housed more than a hundred people in co-ed dormitories. And after that relaxing vacation, she has to go off to work bright and early tomorrow morning: gahhhh!
Amazingly, she is still cheerful and not particularly footsore. Although the same can't be said for all of her travelling companions.
Me, my feet get sore just thinking about walking that much (up to 30 kilometres each day).
Early in her planning for this trip, she asked me if I wanted to be part of the group of friends going with her.
I thought about it. I did. I've read some really fascinating books about the pilgrimage route and the sense of physical accomplishment at the journey's end would be fantastic. But after some serious pondering (and some discussion with my friend Emily who also walked from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain a few years back), I decided it was not the journey for me.
Besides the potential for tender feet, I am not so sure that the trials of St. James in his quest to convert the Moors should be the inspiration for my own personal quasi-spiritual journey. By the way, St. James didn't have much luck. According to the folklore, he converted a whole eleven Moorish people. Medieval Christianity was obviously a tough sell.
And after hearing some of her tales of her friends' blisters, shin splints, tendonitis, and general exhaustion, I'm glad I've saved my money for tickets to Italy next May.
But it is still an amazing accomplishment and part of me is sad I wasn't with her. (The part of me that is not my feet.)
I'm hoping to post some of the photographs of her journey soon.