In the time I’ve been away from the blog, I’ve confronted an expensive feline medical emergency, watched a gig that was going to pay the rent disappear, attended an arbitration hearing about a big wad of fraudulent phone charges that I’ve been fighting for almost two years, and dealt with all manner of minor to not-so-minor annoyances. In other words, I’ve been living, albeit a bit more grumpily than usual.

ultreyaI also spent a few days out on the Camino de Santiago with a friend who walked 242 kilometers of it in celebration of a milestone birthday — I caught up with her for the last 35 km, which she graciously divided up into smaller chunks than she’d been doing. Even though I’d been walking as much as I could around Madrid in the run-up, I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been — I hadn’t been out in my boots or with a loaded pack, which makes a big difference in the training process. But the goal was modest, about 12 km a day, so I figured what the heck, at least I’d see what the fuss was about. The important thing was sharing the experience with her, being part of her celebration.

The first day out, we walked from Villafranca Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega. It’s just a hair over 12 km between the two villages. But the hike out of Villafranca is seriously uphill — you gain a lot of altitude in a fairly short stretch, so I was huffing and puffing like the Little Engine that Could. Once you’re up there, it’s walk, walk, and walk some more (it’s more common along the Camino to come to a village about every three km or so, where you can have a rest/snack/drink/pee). You see a bend in the trail ahead and think there’s going to be a view, only to find there are more trees and another hill. My friend said, “Here’s your trial by fire, kiddo.”

And it was — in good way. Because even though my feet were about ready to roll up into little balls by the end of the day, I was reminded of something important as I trudged along. Just like in life, once you set out on the Camino, the only way to go is onward. Past the annoyances, past the disappointments, and past the doubts. Even when you think you can’t take another step, you do, because you know that eventually you’ll get to where you set off to.

Something else happened on the Camino. I got hooked. I’ve decided that next spring I’m going to do the Burgos to León stretch. They tell me it’s flatter.