Sticks and stones – Cirauqui to Estella

Warning! This is NOT a funny post, repeat, this is NOT a funny post. Turn back now lest you be incredibly interested in religion and my mortal soul. Ok. Then…

After another boozy evening, this time replacing beer with the local Navarre red, I woke up at 7.00am to an abandoned albergue. All my fellow pilgrims had left around an hour before and one of them had taken one of my walking poles! What the deuce? (I told you they’d get better at leaving quietly!)

Over dinner last night I had told all my fellow pilgrims the weather forecast for tomorrow and advised, if we plan to get to Villamajor, which we all did, we need to be out the door by 6am as tomorrow’s highs were 36 degrees. They all heeded my warning while I slept on until 7am.

I got up, dressed, washed and ran out the door in record time. The stick thief had left behind a similar (much older and worn) stick and I had to make do with my unexpected replacement. Not only was it old and worn, it was fastened so tightly that I was unable to adjust it to my walking height and thus had a lopsided and short 15k day ending in the quaint town on Estella.

Everything has been lopsided today, my walk, the signs, random shoes and pants left all over the camino, even the hay bales were mocking me, it was a disjointed and peculiar day and I could not understand why I’d slept in so late or what the lesson behind the stick loss was.

I was annoyed with this inferior stick for a good hour before I realised that despite its imperfections, this old worn out stick had far more give in it than my new poles and therefore helped me over rough ground in a much smoother manner. Maybe this was my lesson, becoming attached to my sticks when a better stick was just around the corner?

Nope! No sooner had I become happy with the swap and put my superstitions to one side (I haven’t changed socks all Camino – yes I’ve washed them – so losing MY stick, that was a big deal) than a friend from yesterday’s albergue spotted me from across the river and calls out for me to come over. She has my stick, and the guy who stole my stick, who managed to walk for 8k before he realised he was even walking with someone else’s gear. I got my crappy old new stick back. Rats!
Despite the short and imperfect day, I had, with the left side a little lower than the right, made it to Estella bang on one week to the day after starting the camino. Later that day, thumbing through my Brierley book, which I’ve had for two years, I noticed I had penned in all the walking days and towns I wanted to reach by the end of the day over a year ago, and, sure as Sherlock, despite the short, lumpy, grumpy day, ‘end of day 6 – Estella’. Clearly, I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. The lesson? I’m not sure, it’s trickier than the yelping injured water bottle lesson from yesterday.

Anyhoooo, some gossip from the camino!

Yesterday evening, conversation turned, as it always does, to Santiago and I learned that, when asked to give my reason for the walk at the pilgrims office in Santiago, if I do not claim religious reasons, I get a substandard certificate and no mention at the pilgrims mass. Everyone around the table (bar me – who stayed silent on the subject) agreed they would tell the official ‘religious reasons’ even though they were walking for fitness & cultural reasons.

I was taken aback at how everyone was happy to do a 5 week, 500 mile hike and then tell a porker at the end just for a bit of paper. Isn’t the experience of the camino more important to them than that? Wouldn’t lying sully their camino? Obviously not:
The camino means different things to different people, that my immediate thoughts were ‘what blasphemy’ and somewhat judgemental may indicate that perhaps my reasons actually ARE religious.
Why am I walking? Is it for religious reasons? Do I believe in God?

I’ve never read the scriptures and rarely attend church for anything other than births, deaths and marriages. Ive always eyed those who do attend with suspicion, believing that they’ve made God a separate entity from them and their lives. There’s them, then there’s God, then the church, I have not seen a side to Christianity that I could identify with. My relationship with God has been entirely unspoken AS a relationship, but I realised I speak to God all the time, mostly about total bobbins, like who nicked my stick and what lesson am I supposed to learn from being lopsided.

The second topic of conversation on the camino is Cruz de Ferro, the mountain upon which, tradition dictates, you should throw a stone which you’ve been carrying this entire journey to release yourself of some burden.

I have no stone. Well, no physical stone, to throw at the stone pile atop Cruz de Ferro. There’s a few stones I wouldn’t mind leaving at the top of that mountain, naturally the one from my butt I’d happily leave behind, but the stone I’d like most to leave behind is the one stuck in my throat. The stone that keeps me small before other people and especially before God. One of the lessons I truly love from a Course in Miracles talks about how we are the representation of God in our lives and that when we mistreat ourselves or undernourish, either mentally, physically or emotionally, ourselves then that is disrespectful to God. You’ve got to come with your cup full in order for it to runneth over and give to other people. Worse still, if you give and give to the point of resentment, a very female pathology, you make the other person a thief and they don’t even know it.

This stone, the stone that restricts my ability to express my needs and understand my own worth, in order to serve myself, others and God, is the stone I’m planning to lose on my pilgrimage, whether at Cruz de Ferro or Santiago or Finisterre!

Now, here’s a picture of the bunk beds in tonight’s albergue!

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