Last night we stayed in a pilgrim hostel in the basement of a small hotel in Punte le Reina. The hostel consisted of ten two-tiered bunk beds but also had facilities for cooking and showering, and the dinner was a huge buffet provided by the hotel, unusual for pilgrims.
The next morning we left later than usual but still chose again to walk 20 km to the town of Estella, arriving there at around 6:30 after walking for nine hours. The walk this time was mostly under overcast skies, and it briefly rained a couple of times, once with enough intensity that we put on rain gear. The air was also cold, especially when the wind picked up. In some of the small towns along the way, such as Maneru, Chiriquí, and Lorca. Around us were rich fields of green crops and some vineyards, and each town seemed to grow out of the hill it was inevitably built on.
One of the highlights was walking on a road built by the ancient Romans and over a bridge it led to that was also built by them.
- The Roman bridge we crossed
When we finally made it to Estella and settled in, we were able to have a nice, modest dinner and watch Barcelona play Real Madrid in the finals of the Cope del Rey, which Real won in overtime, 1-0, on a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo. The minute the game ended (at midnight) we could hear shouting and cheering from other parts of the city, the voices of Real fans celebrating. If there were any Barcelona fans nearby, we had no way to know because they were silenced by the unfortunate defeat.
We had done our best to stick to our system of walking for 47 minutes and resting for 10. During the 10, we always took our shoes and socks of to examine our feet for damage. The foot inspections made me start to think more about my feet. I felt strong appreciation for my feet and realized that we usually just take them for granted, yet look how much they can do for us, in this case taking me hundreds of miles through experiences that expand the mind and the heart. All this is possible only because of these simple feet. Not only that, but the walking the feet did were an end in themselves, not a means, which made it much more possible to be aware of what the feet were doing and to appreciate it. Normally, besides just taking feet for granted, we think of the walking we do with our feet only as a means, and thus we do not appreciate each step, just as we don’t appreciate the feet that make the steps happen. When we walk–and this is a point Thich Nat Hahn makes–to us it is usually just a means of transportation, and because the end is most important to us, we don’t notice each step as a moment and an action to experience fully, enjoy, and learn from. But when each step takes an unusual amount of effort, we notice it, and we have a chance to contemplate our feet, we are much more able to see each step as an end in itself, a moment in life’s seemingly endless succession of infinitely brief present moments, and live fully in it. It is hard to avoid the increase in richness this realization can bring to us.