Over the last year, I have been training to walk the Camino.
At my age, balance and muscle resilience are key to a successful walk. That, and endurance.
I’m now in week eleven of twelve for training. By the end of this week, I need to be able to hike five hours in hilly terrain along with being able to do Bulgarian squats, flutters, and single hip hinges. I’ve focused intensely on balance and stability. A sprained ankle can end a Camino.
The first three week of my sabbatical have been spent in western Crete, which abounds in a number of beautiful and challenging hikes. Last week, I hiked in the White Mountains of Crete for six hours and this week, I completed a two-day hike through the Samariá Gorge and along the southern coast of Crete, walking more than six to seven hours each day in very challenging terrain. Check out my Instagram account (@RobRadtke) for photos. Although my aching muscles and blistered feet may dissent from this view, I feel cautiously optimistic that I am prepared to walk the Camino.
The other advantage to these practice hikes is that I get to test my equipment. I’m breaking in my hiking boots, my daypack, and walking poles. I will confess to being a bit of a skeptic about the walking poles. However, having used them on the practice hike last week, I’m sold. It’s the difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive in a car. A dear friend has lent me her poles, and it feels as if she’s walking with me.
All of the hikes have been challenging and none more so than the Samariá Gorge. In fact, while hiking the Samariá Gorge I encountered no less than two injured people (one broken wrist and one badly hurt ankle). And then, on the ferry ride from the end of the Samariá Gorge hike to where one gets the bus back to Chania, the main city in the region, the body of a man who had collapsed and died upon completing the hike was being removed in the back of a pick-up truck. It was a sad and sobering sight. My silent prayer for the repose of the man’s soul and for strength and comfort for his family felt totally inadequate to the moment. The Greek guides and emergency personnel were acting with uncommon compassion towards the surviving family members.
After our time in Crete, we return to the States for three weeks. I need to find a way to keep my conditioning strong. Somehow, five-hour workouts on the elliptical at my gym don’t seem quite as appealing as hiking in the mountains of Crete.
Thank you to everyone who has generously supported my walk with a gift to Episcopal Relief & Development. If you haven’t yet done so and would like to make a donation, you can do so by clicking “Support my Journey!”