tired pilgrim

Last month, I walked 335 kilometers in 16 days, covering a good chunk of the historic, pilgrims’ trail that winds through France and eventually all the way to Santiago de Compestella in Spain. Our party of four was booked into small hotels along the way. The deal also provided breakfast and dinner at these hotels, and transportation of our main luggage to the next day’s destination. Amazingly, I survived the marathon trek without blisters or serious aches and pains, beyond immense fatigue and extremely tired feet at the end of the day. Basically, I loved it. This coot is made for walking. For those thinking they might want to try something similar, I offer the following, aka “The Zen of Long-Distance Walking”:

  1. No gain without pain. No pain without gain.
  1. Always useful to remember: each step, no matter how painful, brings you one step closer to your destination, however distant. And a wonderful, hot shower.
  1. The ability of a wracked, tired body to heal overnight is a daily miracle.
  1. Make tracks in the fresh, glorious morning air, absolutely the best time to walk.
  1. Life on the road goes like this: 9 am to 1 pm, divine; 1 pm to 3 pm, tired but happy; 3 pm to 5 pm, who’s idea was this?
  1. The last few kilometres of any day’s walk are always toughest. Will we never get there?
  1. A path that goes down must eventually go up.
  1. Walking poles are recommended. They are certainly better than speeding Serbians.
  1. Bad jokes are not recommended.

10. Surface is everything. Pavement, rocks bad. Dirt, soft gravel good.

11. Short steps are better than long strides.

12. Whining, groaning, cursing availeth ye nought.

13. On a hot day, under a relentless sun, shade is priceless.

14. If the forest seems a little dark, it may mean you forgot to take off your sunglasses.

15. When going down a steep, treacherous slope, don’t look up.

16. Any glimpse of the charming, beautiful blue tit (chickadee) cheers the soul.

17. Walking reduces daily existence to its basics: rising at dawn, simple breakfast, walk, simple lunch, walk, shower, hot dinner, deep, blissful sleep.

18. Nunnery food is best avoided.

19. On the open road, being one with nature, one with the world, yields few deep thoughts. But small pleasures are myriad: the smell of a forest, the vivid greens of the rolling countryside, towering white clouds in a vast sky, sun-lit patches of moss covering ancient stone walls, the million-euro taste of local bread and cheese, and on and on.

20. When the walking is good, there’s no life like it. One is reminded of Scrooge on Christmas morning: “I don’t deserve to be so happy.”




  1. I love this post, Rod.The only thing missing for me would have been my dog (about which I’m sure we have disagreements). I’ll try to figure out how to comment openly as Bob Smith, instead of this rather failed website.

    A friend in Nelson has another for your list: “At our age, after two o’clock, no more UP”, but we did manage to make it to the glacier that day.

    And thirty years ago on Hollyburn Mountain with my four-year-old son we stopped just hear the silence. He said “You can hear the trees breathe.”

    After a light snowfall the night before, the branches were stretching as the snow melted in the shafts of sun breaking through the forest cover.

    And I could Google it, but do you know if any MacPaps walked before you?

    • thanks for you lovely note, Bob….there was a guy with a dog on the trail….both seemed happy….your friend’s comments are very apt…the two toughest days both involved late afternoon, uphill slogs…no fun….as for the Mac-Paps, this was north of Pyrenees country, where many crossed into Spain….but region we walked was a WW II stronghold of the Maquis…several Resistance museums and statues commemorating Resistance martyrs executed by the Nazis….wonderful part of France

      • I only just stumbled on your reply a few minutes ago. I don’t know enough about Facebook or blogging, but I do know a little about email, and my address is (that’s a zero). I “shared” your Greenglass post, and so did Dara Culhane. Could you email me so I know to whom I’m talking (and to whom I am not)? And if you haven’t walked out here in PoCo before, we’ve got three rivers, 28k of dykes, and much more. Among other things, I’m interested in talking about Burton and Cameron.

  2. was your aim here to inspire? if so, mission accomplished.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s