PC #74 – Passing ships…

There are some people I met only once on the Camino, and yet they had a profound affect on me. I wished I’d spent more time with them.

Some were literally ships passing on a sea channel that has always existed, and will always exist.

Like the bloke I met when I was about 5kms outside of Ponferrada. It was blazing hot that day, I’d got lost, it was after 2pm so there was no one else on the track, and then I heard this tap tap tap behind me.

I looked around and it was this bloke, and as he came alongside me we chatted. We only chatted for about 5 minutes, but I discovered that he had left St.Jean about 10 days after me – and he was averaging about 35km-40kms a day.

What impressed me was his calm. His sense of ease. His complete sense of self. He was dressed very plainly – nothing to indicate that he was athletic, or that his walk was ego based.

He just was. 

I said goodbye to him and he increased his pace back to what it had been before he slowed down to talk to me – and as he tap tap tapped his way off, I marvelled at the effortlessness of his gait, and his serenity.

I put my head down to concentrate on my footfall, and when I looked up again he was gone. He was like an apparition that had appeared to tell me that the walk could be easy. That life could be easy. If I let it. If I relaxed.

Then there was Ben, in the small restaurant / bar deep into the Meseta. Ben was an old bloke (and by that, I mean he was over 60… 🙂 ) and I had my sights set on walking 41kms that day, through to Sahagun.

I’d stopped at the bar for my two Coke Zeros, and something to eat, and I got talking to Ben. Immediately I sensed he was an old wise soul. He was a retired mechanical engineer, and we quickly began talking about the nature of the Universe.

If I have one great regret from my Camino, it’s that I didn’t stop at that village and spend the night there, and talk more to Ben. I could have learnt a lot. But my ego, and my drive, had me walk out and go through to Sahagun, where I had one of the worst and most uncomfortable nights of the entire walk.

My PGS had told me, urged me, to stay and talk more to Ben, but my willforce over-rode it.

These are just two of the amazing people I met briefly on my pilgrimage – and of course there were others too – people I wished I’d slowed down for, so I could learn from them.

Did any of you have similar experiences?

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46 thoughts on “PC #74 – Passing ships…

  1. Oh Bill,

    On my Camino last year, I met so many wonderful, interesting people. But I was so intent to make it to my next stop, I never got contact information from any of them.

    This year, I had simple business cards made up with my name, telephone number, address, email and of course Old Pueblo Chapter information. I figure this will be a catalyst for me to get their contact info and stay in touch. (I’ll be carrying these cards with me on the PGS Tour also.)

    I too, met some incredibly interesting people, for instance one lady, my age, who had hiked the Appalachian Trail all by herself the previous year. I was so impressed by Laurie, but neglected to get contact info.

    Arlene

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    • Hi Arlene –

      did she do the whole trail? Or just a section of it?

      And I’m always curious about people who do a previous long walk then the Camino – as to whether they regard the Camino as just yet another thing to tick off their to-do list of long walks, or whether they truly regard the Camino as a pilgrimage, and a spiritual journey?

      did you get any sense of that, either way, from this woman?

      Bill

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      • Bill,

        Laurie did the entire AT as she tells it. I think she said it took her 3 months.

        And yes, I did get the feeling that the Camino for her, was another check mark on her list of hiking accomplishments. She did say she was looking for an answer to her unfulfilled long term relationship but I don’t think it was a pilgrimage or spiritual journey for her.

        As I said, I was impressed by her stamina and ability at our age, but then again I don’t know why because I was walking the exact same Camino de Santiago she was walking.

        Perspective before, during and after the Camino is so varied for me – that is another big change the Camino has brought about in me.

        Arlene

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        • Hi Arlene –

          how do you mean “perspective?”

          Your perspective on this lady? Or your perspective on your accomplishment?

          (and three months for 2000ml seems pretty remarkable!)

          Bill

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          • Bill,

            Come to think of it, yes 3 months was a bit aggressive, wasn’t it?

            By perspective, I mean the way I look at and am seeing things now since I have walked the Camino.

            In the past I was quick to judge and pretty stiff-necked in my opinions, a true taurus. Now it seems I am more open to suggestions and seem to be able to analyze better the suggestions and/or actions of others.

            I don’t know if I am correct or not in my conclusions now, but there is a distinct difference in me since the Camino. This change has been noted by many of my friends and both of my sons.

            I am no longer as stubborn as I was pre-Camino. I believe the Camino has made me a kinder, gentler person. And for that I am grateful!!!

            Arlene

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          • Well that’s fantastic.

            To make those kind of fundamental personality changes, late in life (if I can use that term 🙂 ) is truly remarkable. And by that, I mean really after you hit 30 or so, you become fairly set in your ways, and by 40 you are encased in cement!

            So now the question is: what else is going to change when you come back from your second one!!

            Bill

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          • Bill,

            Now that is a good question.

            I think the changes the Camino makes in us cannot be predicted.

            The one thing that I know for sure is the Camino makes changes in us and what they will be remains yet to be seen. I guess we just have to wait and those changes will manifest themselves sooner or later.

            Yet, I do wonder!

            Arlene

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          • The amazing thing though is that the Camino makes changes for the better.

            I don’t know of anyone who has come back who is angrier, or more intolerant, or more impatient.

            > It seems that all the changes are improvements!”

            Bill

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          • That is an astute observation! And couldn’t be truer!

            Yes, the Camino seems to only make changes that make us better people.

            How cool is that?

            I’m glad I am heading back very soon!

            Arlene

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    • What I’m curious to see in you,Arlene, is when you are beginning this Camino with such self-knowledge, what more amazing things will you become by the end of it!?

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      • Sister,
        I also wonder what the Camino will teach me this time around.

        I am very changed since last year’s Camino – this will be amazing to watch.

        You can follow my blog if you would like – http://arlenemourier.wordpress.com/ I am updating it with training info now, but am hoping to post daily while on Camino.

        Blessings,
        Arlene

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        • Thank you Arlene! I think you are terrific now – so when you get back this time, you’ll be phenomenal!

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          • Thanks Sister,

            And you do know I am signed up for the PGS Camino!

            Oh my, I hope the changes don’t start reversing themselves with numerous Caminos.

            My desire now is to keep doing Caminos as long as I am able to keep doing Caminos. I am fearful of becoming older and inactive. So my thoughts are, if I am not walking a Camino, I’m training to walk a Camino. (Said like a true Caminophile, yikes)

            Arlene

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          • Sister,

            I will certainly give that a good try. I believe in order to keep going, you have to keep moving!

            Arlene

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  2. Although I wasn’t on the Camino long, I met many wonderful people. I continue to be in contact via e-mail with two couples I met, a woman I stayed with, and a single young man who I journeyed with from Paris to SJPP. I stayed in a very small village for six days, and considered myself blessed to be afforded the opportunity to meet and live with locals. My Spanish is bare bones, and hardly any of the locals spoke English, but we managed to communicate and share our lives for almost a week with a few words, lots of smiles and a ton of multi-lingual charades! It was one of the highlights of my trip.

    I carried address labels that have my name, address, and e-mail address. The self-stick labels bore a saguaro cactus to remind folks that I was the slightly crazed walker from Arizona. The labels didn’t weigh much. Plus, the labels were easy to stick on a notepad or other surface decreasing the chance of loss along the Way. I recommend investing in self-stick labels! Julie

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  3. Like the bloke I met when I was about 5kms outside of Ponferrada. It was blazing hot that day, I’d got lost, it was after 2pm so there was no one else on the track, and then I heard this tap tap tap behind me.

    I looked around and it was this bloke, and as he came alongside me we chatted. We only chatted for about 5 minutes, but I discovered that he had left St.Jean about 10 days after me – and he was averaging about 35km-40kms a day.

    What impressed me was his calm. His sense of ease. His complete sense of self. He was dressed very plainly – nothing to indicate that he was athletic, or that his walk was ego based.

    He just was.

    I said goodbye to him and he increased his pace back to what it had been before he slowed down to talk to me – and as he tap tap tapped his way off, I marvelled at the effortlessness of his gait, and his serenity.

    I put my head down to concentrate on my footfall, and when I looked up again he was gone. He was like an apparition that had appeared to tell me that the walk could be easy. That life could be easy. If I let it. If I relaxed.

    Sounds a lot like me in ’94 …

    When you walk that fast, nearly everyone else on the Camino is a passing ship.

    But … no, it’s not effortless ; the pain is constant, including in your sleep, and you wake up each morning with severe aching throughout your body.

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    • Julian –

      this guy was an alien, I swear it.

      He was ethereal. He was there and then he wan’t there.

      There were a couple of other people met him, and spoke in awe.

      He was a legend, but no-one was really sure he existed.

      he was a state of perfection which none of us could ever reach, or touch.

      Bill

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      • Not an alien, Bill. An angel. The one you prophesied everyone would meet. He’s always there.

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      • I’ve been in that place, Bill ;o)

        (I only WISH I could STILL walk like that …)

        It happens when you can reach a speed of about 8 Km/H and maintain it for a few hours — it **feels** ethereal when you’re doing it, too.

        It’s only happened to me once the other way ’round, one guy in 1994 just cruised past me one day when I was walking pretty fast myself, and my impression was that he only slowed down for a quick 2 minute chat simply because it took him longer to overtake me than a “normal” pilgrim, and he wanted to honour that. IIRC that’s the ONLY time I’ve ever not been able to prevent someone overtaking me, apart from 2 of the friends we were walking with in the 2005 Camino, and they don’t count because they were friends (though their “sprinting” speed wasn’t as good as mine).

        Man !!! that guy was FAST !!! Pretty much resembles your description too …

        The absolute top olympic-level equivalent of long-range hiking though is people who can average about 200 KM per day. Carrying their own backpack and everything. They sleep about one or two hours and spend the 22-23 other hours doing nothing other than speed hiking. There are VERY few such people in the world … They compete with each other in crazy transcontinental hikes that no ordinary hiker could even dream of.

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        • I can’t imagine that Julian. 200kms a day.

          That means they’d do the Camino from SJPP to SdC in FOUR DAYS.

          That’s nuts!

          I know what you mean when you get into a zone when you’re walking fast. The fastest I went during training, admittedly without a backpack, was 14kms in 1hr56 mins. And I was rocketing. It felt great. But I could not have sustained that for much longer than 14kms.

          Bill

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  4. Bill, maybe he was an angel, sent to touch your life. It seems he has, and others’ too 🙂

    I married and moved to Switzerland in my late 20’s and lived there for 10 years, had my children, got involved in local life, etc etc. then I moved back to Canada and started again. Two different worlds, with two different sets of friends. There was a lot of pain from loss, for me and for my girls.

    What I found was that it is so difficult to keep up with a lots of people, especially in the busy years of raising children, being involved in local affairs, working etc. I found that the deeper friendships continued, in spite of the lack of constant upkeep-we knew and cherished each other enough to know that even if we don’t hear from one another for a year, say, it wouldn’t damage the relationship-but it is just not possible to keep in touch with everyone we meet, passing ships and all, and that is a loss that we often keenly feel.

    So I came to understand that there is no real separation between friends, that we are all connected on a level where we remain bound to each other through space and time. In addition I learned to appreciate and cherish the people I meet along the way for who they are to me at the time, and then let them go, knowing I may never see them again, but that it’s OK. Because they have left a piece of themselves with me, and I perhaps with them, that I will carry along forever. Having that outlook means that I encounter people differently, with more of a sense of focus and appreciation of their uniqueness and value.

    So now dear PGS family, I am heading out in 4 days towards my Camino. We leave on Thursday to drive to my family reunion, then on Sunday, a week from today I fly to Switzerland where I will spend a few days visiting old and dear friends, and my daughter, and then down to St. Jean Pied-de-Port to begin walking, two weeks from tomorrow.

    I will take along with me the connection with all of you. I have really enjoyed the discussions, the comments and insights (I bought a knee brace!) and have profited greatly from your experiences.

    Bill thank you again for your blog, for its integrity and thoughtfulness, and for the laughs and chuckles too! I may be able to continue following, we shall see how it goes.

    In friendship,
    Debra

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    • Dear Debra – 2 weeks before you start – fabulous!!

      Are you going to be keeping a blog? If not, can you check in here and let us know how you’re going?

      Early September should be wonderful for walking. And you might also meet up with some others from the blog here who’ll be walking the same time!

      I hope your travels go well – thank you too for the very sweet things you said about the blog – and please do keep in touch with us.

      Bill

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    • Buen Camino Debra,

      Enjoy every step of the way – take your time.

      I’ll be on Camino starting from Logrono on September 17th – maybe we will meet somewhere along the way!

      Arlene

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      • Dear Bill, thank you for the invitation, I would like that. I am not making a decision about doing a blog until I see how things are. One of the reasons I am doing the Camino is to take a break from commitments for a while, so I want to not stress myself by making more 🙂 at this time.

        I am taking a mini iPad, so can use it for various things, including purchasing books…;) I have pre-ordered the newest book by one of my favourite authors, Louise Penny, whose last book was about Gregorian chant, inspired by the monks of the monastery at Santo Domingo de Silas. I am looking forward to a little side-trip there, south of Burgos.
        Bill if your hard-won tale is ready for purchase, it will be fun to read it en route.

        Arlene, who knows? I would love to meet you, what a treat that would be!

        Thank you all for the good wishes

        Debra

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        • Dear Debra –

          I’m actually going to make the book free for the PGS community.

          Wasn’t going to announce that just yet, but that’s my plan.

          You all have been so incredibly supportive of me, that’s the least I can do.

          Bill

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    • Dear Debra, a very dear friend ‘gave’ me this saying:
      ‘People are in your life for a REASON, SEASON or FOREVER’.
      I treasure that, as, like you, my life and friends and family span countries and continents. I’m (told I am) very good at staying in touch across all those boundaries of time and space, but some of the time you just have to let go of someone, but then often, you find another wonderful person to fill that void!
      I hope your stay with family and friends in Switzerland is a wonderful as I’m sure your Camino journey will be. We will certainly all be there in spirit with you and I, at least, hope we, the PGS family, might be of the ‘forever’ category 🙂

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  5. Bill, I love your plan…lol and Buen Camino Debra… I too had started a blog last year and about 3 days in, decided to dis-engage. You will know what to do. Ingrid

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    • Ingrid, I hear you. I know I will want to keep in touch with family for sure, and a blog is a good medium for that, but…look where it got Bill! 😀
      Debra

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      • Debra –

        A blog is a fabulous way to let others know of your personal experiences – and it’s a good way to upload photos too.

        I think it’s better than Facebook in that regard.

        But, it CAN consume your life if you’re not careful!

        🙂

        Bill

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  6. Well, Bill … as far as I can tell, your life is pretty much tied up in Camino projects for a number of years. What with the (your) book; the 2014 walk; the (potential, but let’s be realistic, you ARE a film-maker, right?) film and my further suggestion of a PGS Camino publishing house … and those project would certainly push you past the SEASON and into A LONG TIME INTO THE FUTURE territory; so I guess that gives you the picture!! 🙂

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    • You’re way too sensible Britta!!

      😀

      I also have my Indian honour killing film in the works too – and I’m hoping that will get financed next month. But we’ll see.

      That’s a film based on a true story, of a young couple who eloped – the girl from a high caste family, the boy from the village. Both families got together a hunting mob to chase them down and kill them. I read that in the Times of India nearly 6 years ago now, and ever since I’ve been determined to make a film about it.

      Bill

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    • You’re way too sensible Britta!!

      😀

      I also have my Indian honour killing film in the works too – and I’m hoping that will get financed next month. But we’ll see.

      That’s a film based on a true story, of a young couple who eloped – the girl from a high caste family, the boy from the village. Both families got together a hunting mob to chase them down and kill them. I read that in the Times of India nearly 6 years ago now, and ever since I’ve been determined to make a film about it.

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      • WOW, that sounds amazing and I X-fingers you get the finances and can fit it in with all your Camino happenings!! 🙂

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      • Bill this sounds very like what happened in a town just a short distance away from where we live. The girl went to India and met and fell in love with a local boy, and they married. She came home again to Canada but kept the marriage secret. When the family found out about it, she had to have police protection and then went back to India, where she and her husband were hunted down and she was killed. The mother and uncle were eventually charged with her murder. So, so tragic.
        Debra

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