The Physical and Emotional Push To Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
I realize I have written with mixed levels of enthusiasm in the last few days. Enthusiasm about my expectations of how far Shannon and I will make it on our overall goal of hiking from Lourdes, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. If we even make it all the way.
We have invested so much, both emotionally and financially, in this endeavor. It would be a shame for the physical challenges to impede so drastically, on everything else we have sacrificed in the process. But that is what happens when you set out to accomplish a task that is influenced by many factors, but that can ultimately only be decided by the levels one can, in the end, push themselves.
I consider myself to be an eternal optimist, constantly seeking adventure, but plagued with a powerful sense of pragmatism, which has been spiced-up with a healthy amount of sarcasm. But I have never before taken on this kind of challenge. The physical strains alone are well beyond the norm for me, but when you add in the emotional and psychological stress involved, it sometimes seems we have gotten ourselves in well over our heads.
Add to that, the fact that I don’t simply have to muster my own strength, but I have to remain diligently strong for Shannon, and I have often felt, at the end of each day over the last two weeks, that we may be destined for failure.
Regardless, all I can do is keep on keepin’ on, and I have to ensure that I keep Shannon’s eye steadily on the ultimate prize as well. Whatever it takes, I suppose. Whatever it takes.
Today was an amazing day! From an outside perspective, things looked much the same as they have on each of our hiking days. Yes, Shannon threatened once again to quit our pilgrimage and return to Louisiana. Indeed, she also suffered from pains in her feet so much, that she dramatically proclaimed she wanted to die and be left on the trail for dead.
And yes, once again, we had to hitchhike. So far we have only (ONLY??) hitchhiked about 55 kilometers, but when you consider we have only gone about 130 kilometers (from Lourdes to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port), I am growing increasingly concerned about the idea that we are supposed to successfully hike over 1000 kilometers, not successfully hitchhike over 1000 kilometers.
BUT…. it was still an amazing day, because in spite of all of that, from an insider’s perspective, I can report, that Shannon showed signs, for the first time, that no matter how difficult this pilgrimage will be, that she has the emotional strength to elevate her physical levels to whatever it takes to get this done.
In the end, as can be seen in the video below, we hiked today to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Finally! Our last stop before we make our ascent into the Pyrenees Mountains. We had about 31 kilometers to hike today, and yes, we only made it about halfway before Shannon could no longer hike due to foot pains akin to tendonitis.
But today’s hike included some extreme assents into some winding mountain roads fraught with painful concrete. A couple hours before beginning the final assent that would ultimately leave Shannon practically immobile, we stopped at a random home to ask a woman for water. Wouldn’t you know it, after not seeing any cars for a long period of time, when we finally needed to hitch the final way to Saint-Jean, the first car that passed us, and stopped to generously offer a ride, was that same woman, from 2 hours earlier, that had kindly refilled our water bottles. She said she randomly decided to drive into the “big city” from her country village, in order to go to the bank. And she decided to take the steep mountain road we happened to be on, versus the more commonly used (for cars) road that is longer, but flatter, as it winds around the base of the mountain. That seemed strange and synchronistic, but there she was, saving us once again, in the blistering heat.
We somehow continue to be touched by angels on our pilgrimage.
And yes, Shannon cried, once again, and as she has every single day so far that we have hiked. But today, I felt for the first time, that through those tears (that always break my heart!), that she has convinced herself (finally!) that she can actually do this.
So we do this thing. This journey. This special pilgrimage. Because we are now officially pilgrims, darn it! And recognizing that this cannot or should not be easy, is the first step in making each of those steps easier to take.
Distance: 18,564 Steps/ 9 Miles/ 14.48 Kilometers
Location: Musculdy, France to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
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