My challenge sheet as a modern day pilgrim

by | Nov 24, 2019 | The expansion | 6 comments

Le Puy en Velay, France
My challenge sheet as a modern day pilgrim

Context: I am on a 4.5 months pilgrimage in Europe to and from Santiago de Compostela. Thus far I have walked over 2,000 km. 

Now that I have arrived in Le Puy en Velay, France, which is one of the major junctions in my journey, I deem it interesting to take an account of the challenges I have endured  during my over 2,000 km walk thus far.

Before reading on, pause for a moment. Ask yourself: what you would expect your three major challenges to be if you were to walk 2,000 km?



Here are mine.

Body challenges

  • Blisters: a handful, nothing too painful, only in week 2-3, tried blister tape which sucked completely; used the needle and thread method instead… painless and effective.
  • Painful shins: don’t ask me what that was; hurt quite bad. Went away after first two weeks.
  • Four toe nails: gone and regrowing  as I type.
  • Bed bugs: most terrible, mega itchy, super uncomfortable for two weeks, lavender essential was my best friend against itching but had to be applied every hour, had allergic reaction and bites grew to grape size, had at least 50 bites but maybe 100, was too busy applying anti-itch strategies to count.
  • Twisted ankle: hurt like hell for the first five minutes; got nauseous. Could have screamed. Then both hurt and nausea went away as quickly as it came. Foot swell to tree trunk size. Could walk but much slower. Resting made it worse so I kept going significant distances. (20-25km). Had to concentrate on foot for 5 days. Nothing more powerful to put you in the present than pain. Great teacher.

Material casualties

  • Four pairs of socks: all worn through, holes patched several times before sending them to grave.
  • Backpack rain covers: both taken by strong winds. Annoying. Grrr
  • Phone cords: went through four, each lasted about 500km; they get a major beating hanging on the backpack.
  • Comb: disappeared, happened on same day that I took ( stole ?) a 1/4 of a TP role from a hostel; Instant karma?
  • Hiking shirts and rain jacket: stained black from backpack; non usable after trip for the fashionably inclined;
  • Shoes: had to be resoled after 1,500 km, will be shot by the time I get back home.

Could be challenges

  • Man on lonely beach: masturbating; obviously welcoming my presence; gross, I know…..a perfectly good swimming opportunity lost; disgusting; quickly abandoned site.
  • ATM card: broke; luckily had packed two others. Pat on back.

Random challenges

  • Language barrier: in France only, had to device a system of booking hostels effectively using the help of locals and tourist office. Manageable. Moved from French resistance to French lover.
  • Weather: encountered major heat wave, torrential rains, strong winds and snow. Alivening, refreshing and uncomfortable 😬😁

All in all a pretty meager list if you ask me. What do you think?

Notice the absence of muggings or death by bandits which was common in medieval times. I also wasn’t hit or killed by trees or branches falling over by torrential winds. I also wasn’t eaten by wolves (yes!!! A major threat in the Aubrac area, France back in the day) and didn’t have to hibernate for winter when torrential rains and snow hit.

I had a shower every night, food in plenty and welcoming hosts. All in all a luxury trip if you ask me.