" Comparison is the thief of joy".
While this old adage about comparison robbing us of joy may well be true, I was also thinking that comparison could be an opportunity to become even more aware of how fortunate some of us truly are. Yesterday, coming into the city of Tomar, we walked passed by what could euphemistically be called really rough living conditions. For a couple of blocks there was a makeshift 'campo' of corrugated sheets of metal propped together to form living quarters. I will not demean the residents living there by suggesting squalor but, from our home life terms of reference, it is hard to describe it otherwise. Blankets of strips of cloth were haphazardly draped between connecting 'walls' to serve as doorways. Ironically, in the parking lots were a couple of trucks, cars and even a Mercedes Benz. Immediately I was reminded of how lucky we are to have decent homes and have our worries be about renovating, redoing a bathroom, updating the kitchen cabinets and planning our summer flower gardens and pots.
As we were having our first pit stop this morning, I was watching on the cafe TV news clips of the throngs of pilgrims streaming into Fatima for the 100th anniversary of the Miracle at Fatima and I was hit again with how small and inconsequential our troubles really are. So many of the pilgrims were obviously and severely physically handicapped, walking in on crutches or with the needed aid of others, that it made our ongoing saga of the 'agony of the heat and the feet' insignificant in comparison. In fact, all our physical ailments at this point could almost be considered 'self-inflicted wounds'. Good thoughts to keep in mind as we went through another 33km, 33C day. We chose this!
This morning we tried to beat the heat by starting out in the almost still dark chilly 6:00am morning and fortunately we met up with the two gentlemen from Malta right at the start. Fortunately, because we needed Eman's early morning eagle eyes to find the markers that were still a blurry smudge to the rest of us. With Eman's trail blazing and the crisp morning air we made great time for the first couple of hours. After that we got slower and slower. The route was decently well marked travelling uphill and downhill all day along country roads and forest paths but there were pitifully few cafes for refreshment stops and it was hot, super hot. Whenever we had the opportunity, we bought and guzzled down bottles of lemonade and Seven Up and all our water and ate any and every snack we had in our packs.
Dayton and I are now in a little residenciale hotel called O Bras in the town of Alvaiázere. Showers are done, laundry on the line, blisters popped and bandaged and then we enjoyed a glass of wine in the restaurant chatting with a couple from Bremen in Germany who are on their first Portuguese Camino but who have been walking various routes of the Camino Santiago for the last twenty years - true camino veterans.
Too weary to wander around town, we decided to have dinner at the restaurant that is part of this residenciale hotel and it turned out to be a great evening. John and Eman were dining at the same place and we met a few other pilgrims, three ladies from Chicago and a Spaniard from Barcelona ..so our camino group grows. I was able to have a conversation in Spanish with Francisco from Barcelona because he was very understanding and kind enough to speak very slowly. The family who own and run this hotel became increasing relaxed, friendly and generous as the evening went on. I had the typical Portuguese vegetarian meal of salad and chips and Dayton had a delicious sopa and then an entree of rice, pork and salad. Of course, wine and bread accompanied the meal. We also sprang for a huge bottle of water which probably was the most expensive item on the tab. The owners even made us sandwiches to take on on way tomorrow morning as we will leave hours before the scheduled breakfast. It is another 33 or 34 km and another 33C day tomorrow. My plan is to put on my big girl underpants, suck it up and not whine. Ha, you might find out different when I blog tomorrow night.
John and Eman at dinner tonight. We will meet them at 6:00am tomorrow to find our way out of town.
Here's a few shots of Karen's day:
A eucalyptus forest.
Walking through cork trees.
Finishing up on "The yellow brick road."