First, thank you for inviting me to share this Camino journey with you. It was a journey of revelations.
When you read memismsblogs.com, the insights it provides are subtle persuasions that to all who desire to undertake a Camino, go prepared. On the physical aspect of preparation, I urge you abide by it. There are all the beautiful sceneries and awesome escarpments that they describe so well and more. I shall not attempt a rendition in my log. But there are segments though, that will challenge you physically and psychologically.
My log is about my impressions and rewards if you can call it that.
So, why did I do it? I am a septuagenarian anyway. Some say, I have five lovely grand children to distract me. Was it the challenge? Was it a journey of discovery? Or was it that quintessential sales person, Melanie that hooked me?
They say, seek and you will find. I did not set out with any clear objective. I had time. It was going to be a new experience. I have hiked in my youth. But that was a half century ago and nothing like a Camino. I was nursing a bad hip and had no delusions about the challenges.
I shall begin where I end my Camino. At the Basilica St Sernin in Toulouse, where I placed my stone, and lit candles for all, in a darkened corner of this cavernous church, I came across a saying by St Augustine, in French of course. Using a Google translation app that Melanie taught me, I can best paraphrase as follows: to those who walk this path, and do not hesitate, nor look back, HE will be there to assist you in your journey. Strange that a trivia tool, an app, taught to me in jest because of my lack of proficiency in a language, ends up summing up my journey.
Of my two intrepid travel companions I have this to say:
Michael is the consummate, detailed planner. He knows most of it but says little. Because around every bend there is a surprise, after every ascent, another. After every dry river bed, a wet one. This is what you prepare for mentally. Michael leads for, and not from the rear. As I stagger up to him he impassively says, “Water?” And hands me my flask. Those words are music to the ear. It means I’ve closed a distance he considers significant but will never articulate it. Then he storms up to the front with his GPS. Here we go again.
I had 3 Guardian angels:
1. Melanie, the consummate cheerleader who silently paced me. Once, early on, when I was really struggling in pain, she left me with MARANATHA, a meditation mantra that with controlled breathing saw me through a difficult passage.
2. Doc Guillaume Cabanes, a Kinetic Osteopath (never heard of it before) who despite a full clinic made time for me late evening in Lodève where I took time out to rest my hip. With his deft touch and his mechanised table he quickly ascertained sensitive points from my lower back to upper thighs. I felt no pain and only his very deep breathing as he addressed each point. “No walking” he said. I tried it out the next day on hills around Lodève. The tension and pain was down significantly. I’ve up graded him from a Doctor to a Saint. Before that I’d survived on Advil.
3. People of Lodève: Back in the village at 2pm I chanced upon a quaint cafe, Minuscule, run by a Dutch chef, Jurgen and his charming wife, Beate. Although closed for the afternoon they generously whipped up the best trout I’ve had. Then they invited me to a Greek concert after closing hours that evening at their restaurant, performed by a trio of talented young musicians on tablas, cello and mandolins. The cellist enthralled all with her beautiful voice.
The place was packed to the rafters with locals, Europeans and North Africans. (I learnt there are two hundred Germans living here). Of course I represented Singapore.
I was invited by an English couple to share their table only if I spoke English. I said I did not in English. Touché! Rachel said I’m now Phil’s new best friend. He imbibes too. They’ve called Lodève home for 15 years. He’s a glass blower of some repute and talent. (He had done the glass for the movie Gladiator). She gave me a book she wrote and published on its history. If I had to find a Shangrila this would be mine. It’s a 13th century village and some of it still shows. It’s been overrun, conquered several times over. I took two dozen pictures of doors. All of different cultures. Take it apart and there’s really nothing outstanding. Put it back together with its varied congenial nationalities and for me and the hundreds of foreigners who’ve lived there for 15 to 20 years, it comes to life. It gives. It does not take. I was fortunate to have spent two days here. Memorable.
This was my gem in my journey. I did not seek. It found me. It has a zen like quality not without reason. Even the Dalai Lama took time to visit a Buddhist temple outside the town.
Don’t let his genial manner deceive you. Michael loves a competition. Remember Daniel and his wife who overtook me saying “Physique”? On that day, my last trek, he overtook us saying “If you are faster by all means please…”. Michael and Melanie paced them well but I continued to bring up the derrière. But my hip had improved. The second half of this leg was essentially a steep downhill trudge and I knew that if I kept up the pace, I was better downhill. At their next rest point we overtook them. And we never gave up pole position. I quite enjoyed that. Michael too. Oh! But I’m sure he’ll say no.
Melanie, Michael thanks for having me along this journey. It was a blast. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Have a safe journey to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Lourdes.