How do I put into words the beauty and majesty of all I saw yesterday? Even the most eloquent descriptions could not do it justice.
The morning was fresh, but it was a welcome coolness. We started out with a fine mist, and ascended the Pyrenees walking through thick clouds. Yesterday’s leg was supposedly the hardest we’ll have to endure – 25km winding up up up through roads and forests to reach Ronceveaux with an elevation of 1600m. I thought I might find it hard going (which of course it was), but the landscape surrounding us and people we met along the way lifted my spirits so high I almost didn’t notice the exertion. Almost 😉
Walking the Kokoda track in 2013 taught me, “Don’t look up”. Don’t let yourself fear the climb ahead; don’t be overwhelmed at what lies in front you before you’re even there. Focus on each step, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will conquer the mountains.
Walking the Camino is already teaching me new things. The Way beckons, “Look up indeed!” Take in the sheer magnitude of what you’re going to overcome. Soak in the awe and the splendour and the challenge of the hard climb ahead, and know exactly what you’re facing. The celebration once you have won the climb is so much more sweet, and understanding of the accomplishment sinks in deeper. Plus, you get to see so many priceless, fleeting moments. Eagles and eagles soaring, sunlight catching on the dew of a spider’s web, leaves cascading down like big lazy orange snowflakes…
It was because of looking up that I saw an old man and his sheepdog walking the opposite way to the steady line of pilgrims heading up. He wasn’t paying any of them much attention (I get it – living in Byron Bay, tourists are an annoyance more often than not), but I caught his eye and offered a warm smile and nod anyway. To my surprise – and delight! – he stopped to talk to me for a bit. He couldn’t speak a word of english, and my french is generally limited to “baguette, bonjour, and croissant”, but somehow we spoke the language of the world and conversed anyway. He showed me all the herds of sheep dotting the mountains around us were his, and would occasionally whistle at the dog to round them back up. He tugged on my hat in approval and we laughed at my wobbly legs; he assuring me they’d get stronger by the end. My moments with him were brief and I will never know his name, but that shepherd man touched my heart.
My footsteps were lighter and spirit refreshed as I kept walking, and another half hour up the road I found another delight.
There were three bikers on the side of the path, one of them with a bottle of wine and corkscrew. I called out the standard “Buen Camino!” and we all laughed together – and then they gestured for me to come over and join them! It was a very brief inner conversation and I went right over and joined them. What a great idea; wine at 10am overlooking mountains and valleys and clouds tumbling down hillsides. Again, I only spent a few minutes with them, but they brought so much joy and laughter.