From walking fast to slowing down
Travel journal week 3 05/10 – 12/10
Last week I felt like a young dog; getting the hang of walking, running and even pushing Martha with her walking stick. This week was a bit different. My walk from Tomar to Alvaiázere made me slow down, because of which I met a lot of new people and had another totally different experience. Before I will tell you what happened I have to say that from the moment that I was forced to slow down I directly accepted it because I knew that no matter what would happen, it would turn out to be good. Now I look back at this week and I can say that this trust was right.
Day 7 Tomar → Alvaiázere (~43 km)
The day that changed my caminho. You might have noticed the amount of kilometers in the heading already. Imagine you are walking this amount of kilometers ascending and descending by a temperature of 35 degrees. That was what my day ‘environmentally’ looked like. This day started with me realizing that I lost my sunglasses (óculos de sol) the day before, somewhere in town. Instead of starting my walk which was written to be about 34 km, I started to wander around in town to search for my sunglasses. I, in one way or the other, was sure that I would find them, and miraculously I did! As soon as I finally left the city my breath was taken away by the deliciously beautiful forest and little paths through there. The little child inside me started to run up and down, while trying to avoid the stones and branches that were sticking out. Not long thereafter this behaviour made me badly sprain my ankle, so I had to continue the rest of the walk on one and a half feet. The 30 km that I had left at that moment finally became 40 as I got lost. Despite these circumstances it was a great walk that I still enjoyed a lot. The sun was almost setting when I finally arrived in Alvaiázere. I stumbled to the fireman (bombeiros) and it was at that point that I realized I had asked way too much of my body.
Day 8 Alvaiázere
No arrow or distance in this heading… A stinging pain in my chin that I felt when I tried to walk made me decide to stay another day in Alvaiázere. As mentioned before, I did not regret this decision at all and could easily accept my situation. All downsides have bright sides,”elluk nadeel heb se voordeel”. For this day and the upcoming ones I will light out just the most memorable moments and lessons again, as this journal would otherwise turn out to be a book and I would not really be able to live the moment HERE anymore, because I would be busy with all that happened in the past.
Today I just slowly explored the town and spoiled myself with a haircut. During lunch time I ended up in a bakery (padaria) where I asked for a nice bun (pão) to eat with my avocado (avocato), and took my avocado out of my bag to show the lady behind the counter what I meant. Unexpectedly she started laughing like this was the strangest thing she had ever seen. She did not stop laughing until I, after a lot of messing around with the avocado, finally finished eating. While consuming she even hid in the kitchen of the bakery to make herself calm down. Apparently this was a very unusual thing. I am sure she had an amusing story to tell during dinner (jantar).
Day 9 Alvaiázere → Alvorge (~32 km)
Before I tell you a bit more about this day, some of you might have noticed that the names of both towns in the heading start with ‘Al-’. So just a historical fact in between for the ones that like these kind of facts. Lots of places and area’s (Algarve) in Portugal start with ‘Al-’ which has an Arabic origion. Al – originates from Allah, so I have been told by the very kind host of the albergue in Alvaiázere.
Today I started off slowly. I watched each step carefully while also paying attention to the emerging forest fires around me of which ash was flying around and smoke was penetrating my nose. These circumstances made me realize how much I love my friends and family. The possibility that the fire might eat me made me willing to share my appreciation for all of you around me being such amazing and lovely people! Thank you!
I asked all the Portuguese people I passed if the road to Santiago was free of fires (fogos) and luckily they responded positively. The fires here in Portugal are a big problem that not only kills and injures inhabitants but also the cork and eucalyptus economy, which is enormous in Portugal. While I am writing this I realize that I have to point out more than one thing of today… Namely, at a certain point, after I just had lunch I bumped into a pilgrim that walked the opposite direction of me. He walked all the way from Istanbul to Santiago, which took him about 17 months. The heat and time could not stop me from my curious drive to know more about him and his adventures, so I had another coffee and a great talk with him about his evolution in these 17 months.
When I continued my walk I was with my attention at the beautiful forest I walked through and only realized after (with still 3 km to go) that I again asked too much of my body and really could not put my one leg in front of the other anymore. Under these circumstances I was even more grateful to receive a ride from a kind man at the gas station and a healthy salad that was prepared for me by other pilgrims that I had been meeting over and over the past couple of days.
I bumped into a pilgrim that walked the opposite direction of me. He walked all the way from Istanbul to Santiago, which took him about 17 months
Day 10 Alvorge → Rabacal (~10 km)
I knew that I really really had to take caution now, and listen to my body even more carefully. Slowing down so much is not what I am used to, as during the caminho last year I was running around with tons of energy. Full of good mood and caution I started my walk this morning, which began with walking back and forth 6 times from the albergue to the bar where I had to leave the key, because I forgot my rings (and my sunglasses again, I realised the day after). The last 3 km took me 2 hours. I think I never walked this slow in my life, which made me aware of the most tiny things surrounding me. I finally entered Rabaçal stumbling again and it was a great delight to arrive at such a wonderful albergue, with such warm hearted people. After I cooled down in the swimming pool and massaged the smelly feet of an Italian guy I just met, I got told by an Australian woman that was a personal trainer that I probably got a chin splint. This basically means an inflammation between my chin bone and chin muscle. The beautiful thing about the caminho is that everyone wants to help each other and so I soon got tips on how to massage my chin, special oil to use for massaging and advices to pray to god. Moreover, the lady of the albergue gave me a ride back to Alvorge to take up my sunglasses!
Day 11 Rabacal
As this albergue was such a delightful place and my chin was indescribably painful, I decided to stay one more day. Today there are two things I want to light out.
At first I offered my help (Posso ajudar?) in the bar that was part of the albergue as I liked to help and this gave me the opportunity to learn some more Portuguese. As a result the lady insisted to give me a free fresh orange juice (sumo de laranja natural) and bread with jummy locally produced cheese (pão com queijo), combined with a lot of smiles.
Secondly, as I had a lot of time I decided to make a big salad which finally during the day gave me the opportunity to share it with two other pilgrims that arrived after a long walk and received it with gratitude. One of them was Paul, with who I am still walking with now, and will tell you more about later. At the end of the day I felt fulfilled. It is beautiful what happens if you just focus on giving, and how this turned out to be possible because of my injury.
Day 12 Rabaçal → Gernache (~11,5 km)
Today was the first day that I walked together for the entire distance, which was a beautiful walk accompanied by nice talks with Paul (an English guy living in Portugal).
Most memorable of today was the host of the albergue in Gernache that could not stop smiling and the beautiful conversation I had with Paul over dinner. I realized that in life I am now at a point where I, no matter the circumstances and no matter if being together or alone, feel happy and connected.
Day 13 Gernache → Coimbra (~13 km)
Today was the second day I walked with Paul. We walked in a slow pace and just for a short distance as his feet were covered with blisters. This was a great help for me to make sure I would not exceed my own borders again.
Most memorable of this day was the amazing dinner Paul cooked for me. He is a chef and that was definitely what I could taste by eating his self made wraps with fish and a great tasting mango, coriander salsa!
Day 14 Coimbra
Coimbra is a beautiful city and Mick sent me a letter that would arrive there today. This made me, on top of my painful chin, decide to enjoy Coimbra for one more day. This was a great decision because at the end of the day this made me experience the following…
‘‘A streek of moments that already makes life worth living’’
On the right spot at the right moment
There where magic arises
Right after sunset I entered this beautiful square where I sat down to read the most beautiful letter I have ever received, overlooking the river and the pink coloured sky.
While my surroundings cooled down and the sound of people in the background muted I felt warm and fulfilled. I realised what a beautiful world we live in.
I looked at my right and behind one of the little windows in an enormous building a man was smiling at me. I smiled back. The second time I looked that way he waved at me. I waved back smiling. Once more I looked to my right and the man gestured that I needed to come his way. I did. He opened the door and what I saw was unbelievable. He just invited me in the most beautiful library of the world, after closing time. He showed me around with indescribable amounts of passion. Pointing at the ceiling, showing me all the little storage rooms with books dating from 1523, took out the wooden stairs that were hidden between the sky-high book shelves all accompanied by him saying: ‘fantástico’! He gave me souvenirs to remember this mágico place and of course two kisses to say good bye. In line with these magical moments a young traveller was practicing parcours on the streets when I walked out of the square. He used a pole and a bench to perform the most amazing jumps, holds and salto’s in a sequence. After I thanked him we had a nice chat. While walking back to the youth hostel (pousadas de juventude) I realized that I had experienced all of this because I listened to a persuasive feeling from inside / intuition to leave the youth hostel and explore. Whereas I easily could have been dropped on my bed to take a rest or even make use of the wifi to explore the internet. I am grateful I listened to my heart and explored the beautiful world we live in instead.
It is always hard to say what would have happened if one thing in life happened differently. I believe that no matter what happens and if it seems to be a good or a bad thing, we all can trust that it is the way it is supposed to be and it is good. Over the last 6 years I have learned to slow down my thought and focus my attention on just one thing at the time, which made me able to truly experience my way. This week made me experience slowing down fiscally as well, which has been another great new experience. An experience that will last for probably a week more, as my chin splint needs time to recover.
If in one way or another life makes you slow down, please be grateful for it, it gives you the opportunity to experience all that you do even more!