Today we are leaving for Spain to walk 155km on the Camino Frances. We are starting in O’Cebreiro and are walking on an ages old pilgrimage route towards Santiago de Compostela.
Legend has it that the remains of the apostle James are buried there. It is called the “Jacob’s Weg” in Germany. Recently a movie, called “The Way” has made more people aware of it’s existence.
We are feeling soooo excited. After months of preparation and training we are as ready as we can possibly be.
Not in a million years did I ever think of going to Spain, but I had heard of the Camino and was secretly thinking that I would not mind doing that. However, when Tanja asked me whether I would like to come with her on this pilgrimage, I did not think that I would be able to walk at all. I had just been diagnosed with severe anemia (hemoglobin level 39 g/l ) due to iron shortage. I was coughing from lack of oxygen and could only walk a few steps before getting out if breath… I have never had these symptoms before and had no idea how severe my situation actually was. I had to get another blood transfusion after spring break and underwent some tests to see what the cause could possibly be…
Tanja believed that God pressed it on her heart to ask me to come. I also believed that it was the right thing to do, except that I could not see myself walking yet… Right from the start Tanja believed that I would be healed enough to walk. After a series of iron infusions I was able to move again without getting out of breath. I was also taking iron supplements and Vitamin C and figured I should train while I still can.
I started in April by going on a very slow 4 km hike at the nearby Crawford Lake Conservation Area. There is a nice boardwalk around a lake that makes for some very easy walking. I also used a DVD with some walking exercises when snow and ice made it too slippery to walk outside. As soon as the weather improved I used the hill behind my house since it is exactly 5 km up to the top and back to my house. On weekends Tanja and I would get together and with our walking buddies AJ (my son) and Mocha (her little dog), we would progressively walk longer distances. We started off with urban walks of less than 10km around our hometown and found some really nice trails in the neighbourhood that we did not even know about before. Soon we were doing “loops and lattes”😋 and met up with Laura, who is also going on the Camino with us.
Even though I was still having a lot of difficulty on the uphill sections, we added some walks on the Bruce Trail along the Niagara Escarpment. We met Magdalena of Toronto who helps train people for the Camino. Her advice was to aim for the longest distance you are planning to walk in a day. (25 km in our case.) AJ and I decided to register for the 50 km End-to-End of the Toronto section of the Bruce Trail planned for the Saturday and Sunday a month before my departure date. In order to achieve that we added 5km to our walks every 2nd weekend. So on 8 and 9 September we did it!!!
All that walking over the summer must have been good for my body too, since the hemoglobin levels are now back to normal and my iron levels are finally creeping up and staying at normal levels. My doctor friend says that my bone marrow must be kicking in because of all the exercise. I am really grateful to Tanja and AJ for getting me going and getting my health back. Without the Camino as a goal and the serious effort that went into the preparation, I do not think I would be on the mend. In my mind God used the opportunity and the people to save my life.
So our bodies (especially our feet) became used to walking longer distances. I found that my Solomon boots were actually too narrow as well as a size too small… I changed to Keen shoes with a wider toe box and eventually learned to love them too…
We also discovered that we do not walk at the same speed; so even though I am walking really slowly, it would give Tanja time to slow down, relax and take pictures. We had found a good rhythm and developed a good “walking” relationship.
I found a series of walks that would earn us a really pretty badge to celebrate the 150 years of Canada’s existence. The terrain was quite challenging but beautiful. We did the final one a week before we left and the badge came in the mail this morning!
Now we are officially done with the Camino preparations and ready for the adventure to begin.