This morning I wake up in the beautiful City of Leon, I am four hundred and sixty kilometres into my journey, more than half way, I have climbed a few mountains, then raced down the same number, crossed wide plains, gone through vineyards and olive groves, through villages and Cities.
My Camino De Santiago began as one of those slightly crazy, impulsive decisions, a what the fuck, why not do it. I bought a plane ticket, flew to France, bought a bike and started cycling.
Somewhat unkindly the Camino De Santiago has been called the worlds longest Psychiatric Highway, there is a good deal of truth in this, but equally it is much else bedsides. I am just one person on the road, one example of the tens of thousands who come this way each year, for me it is a journey across a country and a journey into my own mind.
I came here for a variety of reasons, looking to find something in myself, to lose some of my thoughts, to stretch myself physically and to see a little more of the world. I have had no great light bulb moments, no lightening bolts of clarity thus far, perhaps this is what I had secretly wanted, but instead I find quiet moments when things make sense, when my thoughts, the jumbled and dark ones have shards of light focussed on them and are dissolved for a while.
So here on the Camino I am still looking for purpose and reason, each day I wake up and I get on my bike and I cycle and for now that is enough. The things that have struck me most are two fold, the country and the people one meets.
People on this road have stories to tell, you meet them along the way, from all over the world, each evening you sit and eat a pilgrim meal in an Auberge and talk to strangers, like Heike, a young german girl, she is twenty five, just completing a masters degree in Social care, she tells me she is on the Camino for a holiday and some time for herself. Last year she says was a difficult one for her. My mother she says was my best friend, my closest friend, last year she had an aneurism, she nearly died, but thank goodness she got over it, but it did something to her brain, now she is a different person, we can’t talk to each other any more, it changed her, she talks but she is not the same person, I miss my mum very much. Then my boyfriend who I lived with for six years, I found out he wasn’t the person I thought he was. Now I am on the Camino, life now is better, I am celebrating by walking the Camino. Alesandro from Mexico, Mexico City is a a crazy place you know, so busy, 22 million people, I am here for a little peace and quiet, simply to walk. Agnes, 82, from Morecambe, well, I could be at home walking down my garden path, I have a beautiful garden you know, but you only live once so I decided to do this. Young, old, black, white, asian, all on the road to Santiago.
I find the landscapes utterly beautiful, mountains, forests, plains, tracks, fields, travelling off road and seeing these places really strikes something deep inside, the natural world is astonishing, the ability of life to create profoundly powerful. Up on top of a dusty boulder strewn mountain pink flowers were errupting from gravel and rock, in a place one would think any life was impossible, but even here nature finds a way. Those flowers growing there made me think what an incredible all pervasive energy that nature has, an unconscious will to create life wherever and whenever it can. Nature wants life to thrive, to take every possibility and grow life in it. And with this I began to realise that I simply needed to recognise life for what it is, a positive, churning force that has no other purpose or desire than to create wherever it can, that my own thoughts too often lost in what was, or might have been or should have been, that none of this was important, that nature breathes life into everything, that all that we need to do is to open our lungs and suck it all in and keep moving and creating.