REGINA — It took about a year of preparation for Archbishop Donald Bolen to prepare for his 875-kilometre 39-day trek of the Camino de Santiago Compostela pilgrimage route. It started about a year ago with a visit to a physiotherapist to get his bad knees into shape, said the archbishop in an interview with the PM.
He wrote an almost poetic description of his travels along the route in the Prairie Messenger’s Oct.5 special edition but it didn’t include a description of what it takes to prepare for such a journey.
He began walking when his knees were strong enough. “When the weather turned nice in the spring, I started walking and then I got the knapsack out, started putting five pounds in the knapsack then 10 pounds in the knapsack and eventually before leaving for the Camino I was walking with 15 pounds in the knapsack about 15 kilometres, three times a week, but it’s still a far cry from 20 pounds in the knapsack walking 20-25 kilometres a day with no days for a break, or very few.”
It carried rain gear, a change of clothes, water, snacks and a computer. He was between postings from Saskatoon to Regina and had to work three to four hours a day to keep up with what was happening at home. They walked an average of five to seven hours a day beginning before daybreak when it was hot and reached their destination around noon or early afternoon.
The trip was in two stages; in the first 250-300 kilometres, they looked for accommodations, usually a bed and breakfast type but accommodations had been arranged for the remainder of the trip when his sister Judy and her husband joined them.
As with most people, he said, the first couple of weeks on the Camino had some real rough moments. There were at least three occasions when they arrived at their day’s destination that he told his group he had to take the next day off. “But you take the evening off, you have a good rest and the next morning every time I thought ‘OK I’ll give it a try’ and that’s what we did and eventually of course you get really strong.”
There is a bigger challenge after you return from such a wonderful experience, said Bolen. “You get back and you return to a busy life and it’s how do you keep any of that up and so already in the last three weeks I’ve lost most of what I’d gained in terms of conditioning.” He doesn’t follow a conditioning regime but he does have an exercise bike and a treadmill that he hasn’t yet set them up in his home. He does go for walks, his favourite activity, but not so much in winter.