Sea Soaks, River Crossings and Lake Plunges:
How Always Stop For A Swim Became My New Walking Motto
We had been walking all day along the water, staring out at the crystal blue sky and sea on our left as we headed north.
For most of the bright blue June day, we were fully in the sun, but a consistent breeze had lessoned its heat.
Still, the more we walked, the hotter we became.
Making frequent stops is a theme of my time on the Camino and this day was no exception. You can only pass so many inviting seaside cafes with beach umbrellas before you have to stop at one. We stopped at three.
You could say we were having a leisurely first day on the trail, which is always a good way to begin.
But even with the stopping, by the end, we were all hot and tired, so we kicked off our shoes on the beach and ran out into the water.
And wow! There is just nothing more refreshing than cold water on tired legs.
Afterwards, we all spread out on rocks by the sea and nodded off like seals in the sunshine. It was perfect.
A couple of days later, after we had left the seaside, and we had been walking for a much longer stretch without the benefit of the sea breeze, we crossed over a small river on an old medieval bridge. On the other side of the bridge, we were able to access the river. Again, we jumped in the water and rinsed off the heat and sweat of the day before drying off on the grass by the river, taking a quick nap before wandering on into the town where we were staying.
This became a habit on this trip: jumping into water at or near the end of the day. I started keeping an eye out for places to stop for a swim on my map. It was unseasonably hot in Europe this past summer, so we found that even if you only soaked your feet and splashed your face, it made a huge difference to how you felt for those last few steps of the day.
When the rest of our group joined us halfway through our time on the Portuguese Camino, we immediately introduced them to the delight of jumping into water on a hot day. And if you crossed over some refreshing water earlier in the day, you could still soak a bandana or a buff to wipe your face.
Towards the end of the day, sometimes folks were in a hurry to just get on to the hotel or hostel, but often the last mile or so when you are entering a town is the hottest, because you’re walking on the pavement. A cold soak can be that little extra boost you need for turning the final leg from a slog into a victory stroll.
And so I would always stop for a swim when I saw a perfect spot. A cold, flowing river made my ankles and knees happy with me again, at least for a little while.
Four of the places we stayed on the Portuguese Camino had swimming pools, which was an equally delightful way to finish the day with a swim.
And one day, an especially lovely hostel host arranged for us to all be carried off in cars to the beach to splash in the water and quickly forget how hot we were.
Of course you must go to the beach! he said to me.
Yes, absolutely we must! I replied involuntarily.
And it was the most refreshing plunge of all the refreshing plunges. It had been such a hot day, and the sea immediately turned angst into laughter.
Though none of my other trips this year were as hot as the Camino in June, I still kept jumping into water.
I jumped into several lakes in Switzerland on hot days and soaked my weary bones in some Swiss streams. Pure bliss after all the ups and downs!
Then, in the Lake District, though it was quite cold and even rainy, there were two occasions where a few brave souls and I ended the day’s walk by jumping into a lake. I cannot even explain the urge to do this. Maybe it is the incredible relief that the freezing cold water provides for my joints. Or maybe I am just wildly curious about the spike in popularity of cold water swimming. But I think there must be at least some motivation having to do with my muscle memory around how delightful it was to end the summer walks in the water that produced my desire to jump in a cold lake after the Lake District rambles.
And so it came to pass that both my first walk of the summer in June and my last walk of the season in September ended with splashes in the water. Two very different days, but they both involved a good walk with friends with a swim at the end.
Last week I went for a swim in a nearby pool that has a sauna for your post-swim warm up (yes, please!), and while I was doing frosty laps in the pool, I was gratefully remembering of all my summer dips. I was filled-to-the-brim thankful for everyone who was willing to pause and hop in the water along with me!
Sometimes the only thing keeping you from a good swim is a fellow adventurer. The folks I most often hike with (Chino boys) are hard pressed to stop at all on a hike, much less for something as lengthy as a swim.
Unlace boots? Change clothes? Dig out a towel?
Taido Chino cannot be having that kind of delay in the schedule.
So I consider it a great accomplishment that this past summer I managed to coax him into a lake, not once, but twice!
Like I said, it was an unusually hot summer in Europe.