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Friday, 21 September 2012

Benifaió to Algemesí and an intention...

Having decided to walk El Camino Levante as a meditation, I knew that I would learn a lot about myself and because it is a more solitary route it is a good one for learning to be alone and to face ones demons, because they do appear on such a long journey.  However, something else has been nagging at me, a thought that has been returning to me over some time:  that this is an opportunity to walk for others and to put a dedication and an intent into each step.  That intention is as follows:  

To dedicate each step to all those who have been victims of genocide through the ages and to bring a mala, with one bead representing each of the 56 known genocides, along with those thought to have occurred in history (plus one additional bead to represent all the unknown) to Santiago de Compostela by way of El Camino Levante - Valencia to Santiago.  To carry with me the words Kwan Seum Bosal - the bodhisattva of compassion, one who perceives the cries of the world and responds with compassionate aid.  To offer the intention with each step that these things should never happen again.

In view of this, I asked my teachers at the Dharma Centre in Robertson, RSA, if they would be happy to create the mala that I will take with me.  They are holding a Zen retreat this weekend and they will ask all those joining them if they will be a part of this.  It will mean a great deal to me and all of those who take part will be joining me on this journey having put their love and compassion into the mala and in turn their love and compassion will go out into the world.  Once it is created I hope they will all allow me to publish a group picture of them here along with the mala I will carry.  They will be with with me every step of the way and will carry me in those times when my feet are tired!

For more information on the Robertson Zen Centre go to

And so to today's walk.  An easy one I have to say, certainly in terms of navigation!  The road was directly up from the station, about 4 streets and then straight, straight and more straight!  The markers were excellent and easy to find and the roads well marked.  Basically, we walked straight until we got to the station in Algemesí.  Sadly it was all tar again but then I am not expecting much other than tar until we start the walks the other side of Canals.  It is intensively agricultural and so there are many connecting roads for vehicles in and out of the orchards.  Harvest seems to be in full swing for some crops and we met many tractors taking products out of the fields.  

In other areas new fields were being prepared for planting.  It was a humid morning but with lovely cloud cover, so it was quite pleasant walking.  I also had the chance to give my new walking shoes a good outing - 12km - and they and my feet did well!  My big old walking boots are overkill for a route like El Camino Levante and are much too big and heavy.  In addition to this, the mice had visited them while they were still in RSA and so they are no longer waterproof!  With the weather changing I need something other than trainers for the walks and today was the first time I carried my waterproof jacket with me.  I also had the chance to try out the new CamelBak bags that I bought especially for the Camino walks - well, the hip bag anyway.  

The canals in the orchards - on a beautiful
morning for walking
One pack is an attachment that will go onto the outside of the rucksack and is designed to attach onto "other" things such as bicycles or saddlebags or pretty much anywhere you want.  This will carry an additional 3 litres of water and this will help with the extra water I need to carry for the dogs.  The hip bag straps tight so it doesn't bounce around and carries a litre.  This is nice for general dog walking too when you don't need to carry so much and it leaves your hands free.  It is so much harder walking when you are carrying something in your hands.  This has made me reassess carrying a stick with me - unless I feel I need to have one handy for adding energy around me if we meet strange dogs.  So far, I haven't really needed one but it will be something I leave at the back up vehicle "just in case".  It is also a perfect piece of equipment as it allows me to have my guidebook and route map, phone with GPS and camera, lip-salve, tissues, pen, cash and keys, all right where they are easy to access in front of me.  Trying to negotiate towns with phone and map in hand - always when you don't need them, and in the rucksack inconveniently when you do need them - is a pain, but having them at the waist is perfect because it means you can still be hands free, yet have quick and easy "sneak a peek" access when you need it.  These day walks are excellent for giving me an idea of what I need and don't need and how to organise my equipment.  

The Camel Baks... and one of the grand houses

Yes, that's a Camino arrow peaking out from the irrigation

Although not an historical route today, we passed many, what were once, grand houses.  One could easily imagine horses making their way into the courtyards and ladies with fans in the windows.  Once we were in Algemesí we met our first dog where a stick would have been handy - although he was small and fluffy and exuberant, but he launched across the road to Akina leaping and barking.  She was great and although barked in defense, soon realised he was all noise and she ignored him while his owner called and called, desperately trying to persuade the furry energy ball to return.  I thanked him and he smiled and also apologised, but there was not serious issue.  It just goes to show how it is the energy that provokes because only a few metres on we met another dog (on leash) and they virtually walked past each other side by side without batting an eyelid.  Just before the station we saw a German Shepherd lying relaxed, tied to a bicycle, while his owner had a beer at the little bar.  The owner was delighted to see another dog out - doing things - and waved and called "Hola!" enthusiastically.  We responded likewise.  

All too suddenly today's journey was over!  Only 2 1/2 hours to do the 12km and that included a half hour stop for breakfast!  We weren't rushing, just going along at a nice rhythm.  At Algemesí station we met a lovely man who came out to tell Akina how beautiful she was and me that he had spent time in Newcastle and so we chatted in English and Spanish.  Several people on the platform smiled at Akina and one young girl kindly took a picture of us together.  For the first time on the train a number of people came up and gently stroked Akina as they got ready to get off at their stop and she sat proudly as though her sole purpose in life was to travel on trains to be admired.  

This should give you a bit of a feel for "The Road" and our walking experience so far - you'll catch a quick glimpse of the new shoes in action, as well as Akina walking with me!  

Akina on the train - announcements, noises, doors opening and passengers pushing past... she's a star!

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