Today was another scorching hot day. It was already in the low 70’s when we stepped onto the trail in Melide, and only got hotter with each mile. Combined with 10 miles of continuous steep hills it made Jon and I question whether we have it in us to walk the final 25 miles. At one point in the day, Jon channeled his inner superhero, Thor, and began chanting, “The path is long, but I am mighty!” and got a few laughs from surrounding pilgrims who were feeling the same weariness we were.
When I felt tears prick at the back of my eyes because I was so tired and I never thought I would be cool again, we heard melancholy music winding its way through a grove of trees. I couldn’t tell if it was instruments, or singing. The last few kilometers of the trail had been in an exposed area with little shade and I wondered if I might be losing my marbles just a little bit.
As we walked towards the trees it became apparent that it was bagpipes. And within minutes, we walked into a scene straight out of a Hobbit shire. A man was playing bagpipes, and a woman was sitting on a large drum, her hands beating to the rhythm of our footsteps while singing a pilgrim song, wishing us Godspeed along our journey. That’s when the tears came.
As quickly as the musicians appeared, the final notes were cut off as we rounded another corner and went down yet another steep hill to Ribadiso da Baixo where we refueled with another fantastic picnic lunch.
The last part of our day we met a pilgrim from Tennessee named Gary, who had been walking for 57 consecutive days.
“I am doing penance,” he told me when I asked why he was on the Camino. “I have six children and a wife of 35 years and I want to figure out how to be a better man.”
“Have you come up with any answers yet?” I asked.
He smiled at me. “Not yet. But I still have three days until Santiago.”
We left Gary and started the last steep climb of the day. Ahead was a young couple pushing a baby buggy fitted with wide mountain bike wheels. I smelled another story.
“How old is your baby?” I asked.
“Six months,” replied a proud a mama in a heavy German accent. “He has his own Camino credentials and will receive his own pilgrim’s certificate at the church in Santiago.”
We talked with the couple for a while and learned that they were walking 200 kilometers to Santiago…WITH A BABY! That was the final mind-blower of the day.
Again, my emotions overflowed as I thought about all the choices I’ve made in my life that led me here. Would I, at 25-years-old, have dared to walk 200 kilometers pushing my 6-month old son? Or, like Gary, would I someday leave my spouse of nearly 40 years to travel halfway across the world to try to make things right? I wonder if I am strong enough to finish this journey when all I want to do after 10, 12, or 13 miles of walking is to lay my face down in the dirt and sleep forever. These are questions I ask myself each day as I listen to fellow pilgrims’ stories.
Kristin Jarvis Adams is a public speaker and advocate for children with special needs, helping to bridge the gap between the outside world and the inner world of autism. Her speaking engagements have included: Seattle Festival of Trees Gala, a benefit for Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Seattle Children’s Autism Clinic. Learn More>>