Since arriving in Moamba, I'd heard a lot about this thing called peregrinacao (pilgrimage) and decided that I should participate since everyone seemed so into it. All I really knew was that people walked from Boane to Namaacha (where I lived during training) and that it was around 50km. This distance meant nothing to me since I had no idea how many miles 50km was. The reason for the pilgrimage was unclear to me-although I found out after the fact that it is a yearly pilgrimage to the Church of Fatima in Namaacha in remembrance of when Mary appeared in Fatima. This year there were 3,000 participants!! But back to the beginning…I gathered with a bunch of students, the irmaos and priests and piled into the back of a flatbed truck that the school uses to work in the machambas (fields). Let me just emphasis that the truck looked like it could fall apart at any moment. We took a back road (to save time) which no one uses anymore, probably because they don't want to die. haha! I was holding on for dear life and hoping that I would make it to Boane alive while the students were laughing, singing and dancing. We arrived in Boane and broke into smaller groups to start the trek. At first it was great. We were snacking on bananas, chatting, and I thought to myself, "This might not be so hard after all"… Big mistake in my thought process.
I was wearing flip flops for the journey (because everyone told me that wearing sneakers was the worst thing that I could do-something about hurting my toes??!) which shows how unprepared I was. We started the walk pretty late (5pm) and it immediately turned dark. After about 3 hours I was really starting to feel the pain and didn't think that the walk was so much fun anymore. I asked how much further we had and someone guessed "10km." Once again I thought to myself, "Okay, you can do this. Just 10km more". Another big mistake.
We had 27km to go. I thought I was going to die. haha! Throughout the walk, I experienced feelings of physical pain that I never knew were possible. I was literally forcing my body forward. Every part of my body hurt, I had huge blisters on the bottoms of both feet (which popped halfway along-thank goodness- it actually felt better afterwards), and was just plain exhausted. The road to Namaacha is completely uphill (with two downhill exceptions) and is known throughout Moz. for its "mountainous" terrain. By the end of our 7hour walk the people in my group were literally pulling each other along. It was actually really amazing to witness the way that everyone came together. Instead of complaining, everyone encouraged one another the entire time. Literally no one complained. At all. Even though everyone was limping…The walk was also filled with singing, which really helped :)
Another thing that kept me motivated was the stories everyone told me about "Adams” the previous volunteer from 5 yrs ago. Apparently he had a lot of struggles! A lot of people here have the unfortunate misconception that Americans are unable to complete hard physical challenges so it was nice to show everyone (all the people that had acted shocked that I was going) that I could actually do it. We then spent the entire weekend at church activities-which were all jam packed. During the services it started raining and was pretty cold but everyone kept singing and dancing :) To end the weekend, we had a candlelight processional throughout Namaacha. Unfortunately, I could still barely walk so I went home early and passed out. haha! I got to stay with my host family, which was so wonderful!
Random story concerning my host family…The day after I arrived, I was scolded for not using the Vaseline that they had left out for me. I had no idea what they were talking about but obeyed when they told me to lather my entire body in Vaseline in order to make the aches go away. haha. I have no idea why-but it actually worked! I felt a lot better afterwards! So bizarre.
Lastly, I would just like to express my admiration for people that run marathons. Like I seriously don't understand how it's possible!? Oh and ps. 50km converts to 31miles J