Mt. Misery – so happy to be back…

It’s been twelve months since I was last on Mt. Misery.

Just to explain – Mt. Misery is an aptly named mountain that rises sharply at the back of Mudgee, which is where I live. From my door it’s 4kms to the base of Mt. Misery – then it’s 4kms to the summit. So round trip, it’s 16kms.

The elevation from door to summit is about 650ms. And there are some sections which are damn steep. So it’s a great training hike for the Camino.

Last year, in preparation for the Camino Frances, in the 6 wks prior to departure I did Mt. Misery about 3 times a week. It stood me in good stead when I had to climb the Pyrenees.

Today was my first day back there since those training days twelve months ago. It was good to be back. And a lot has changed in those twelve months.

Firstly, I’m now wearing a complicated and very impressive looking knee brace, because I shot my knee to pieces on the Camino last year. The orthopaedic surgeon, after looking at my MRI, said it was a “miracle” I walked the Camino on that knee.

I’m also now using walking poles.

Last year I resolutely refused to use walking poles, until my knee gave out – and then I finally succumbed. I had to. I wouldn’t have finished my Camino if I hadn’t used those poles.

Today I climbed Mt. Misery and it seemed so much easier than last year. Because of the poles? Yes, I think they certainly helped.

But twelve months on, I’m a different person. I’m not necessarily fitter than I was a year ago. But my head is different. I think differently.

Last year I felt I had to push myself up that mountain, I had to do it fast and I had to keep my heart rate in it’s 75%-80% zone, to get my aerobic fitness up.

This year I don’t give a damn.

I now see walking as fun, not a goal which needs to be achieved.

I walked with my wife, Jennifer this morning.

That’s a first.

Jen walking Mt. Misery

Usually we don’t train together. She heads off in one direction, I head off in the other. She likes to go a different way every day – I like to go the same way every day, so that I can judge how I’m feeling by certain milestones.

And I like that I don’t have to think about where I’m going. I just walk on automatic pilot, so that my mind can wander into other more interesting areas –

But it was fun walking with Jennifer this morning. And when we came to the really step sections. I surged on ahead and she went up them at her own pace.

What training up Mt. Misery gives you is confidence. It’s a gnarly climb, there’s no doubt, but it gives you confidence during the Camino. You know you can handle whatever The Way throws at you.

Last year I found Mt. Misery miserable. This year, I’m finding it a joy.

That’s what’s changed in twelve months…

Bill Mt. Misery

Post Camino #13 – The Times they are a Changing…

There’s an interesting debate going on at the moment on one of the Camino forums –

An experienced pilgrim, who’s walked the Camino several times, has had some recent bad experiences, and she voiced these in a post. She complained that the Camino was different this year – there were many more people, and some were rude, thoughtless, and aggressive.

In the thread that followed, some blamed this on the popularity of the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, which has helped increase numbers. (I know from my experience that many people are walking the Camino because they’ve seen that film.)

Others have lamented the use of wifi, tablets and smartphones as being contributive to a breakdown of the “Camino spirit.” Some have suggested not walking the Camino Frances at all, and choosing another pilgrimage route.

They’ve disparaged what they call “tourigrinos” who see the Camino as nothing more than a cheap vacation. They walk short distances then take buses and taxis, they ship their backpack on ahead to the hotel that they’ve pre-booked, and they use iPads.

Folks, the times they are a changing…

What’s wrong with a popular film encouraging more people to walk the Camino? If the Camino is a transformative spiritual experience, why should it be restricted to just those select few “in the know?” Why shouldn’t as many people as possible experience the wonder of the Camino?

Okay, the infrastructure might have to play catch-up, but that pours more money into the Spanish economy that right now desperately needs it. And it supports the smaller towns and villages along The Way, those that aren’t on the routine stage stop-overs.

And what’s the problem with using wifi, iPads and smartphones? Hundreds of years ago before this technology, church leaders, heads of state, and merchants used pen and paper, riders and messengers to communicate. I’d hazard a guess that if they were walking the Camino today, they’d be using iPhones or Galaxies. And if they needed to catch a taxi or a train for a stretch, that’s what they’d do.

Cutting yourself off from communications doesn’t make you more of a “true” pilgrim. Not everyone is retired. Not everyone can go five weeks without staying in touch, whether it’s family, their business, or whether it’s simply to post a blog each day.

I have a friend, his name is Steve, and he’s walking the Camino at the moment. At the outset, he said he had no commitment to walk the Camino. Those were his words. I gave him encouragement, by posting on his blog. So did others. Today he posted a blog which was titled: I WALKED WITH GOD TODAY. 

Bloody hell. What a switch-around! This is the guy who wanted to give up after the first week. This is the guy who said he had no commitment to the pilgrimage.

This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been blogging. If he hadn’t had his iPad and wifi.

Of course the Camino is going to get more crowded, as more people discover that it can change your life. Should we be trying to restrict this to just “true” pilgrims?

I don’t think so.

Here is the Camino Forum thread –

Here is Steve’s blog –

Rosa by Canal 6