Water is important. According to the Bible, waters covered the earth and life came later. Modern scientific evolution confirms that the earliest forms of life began in water and only later emerged onto the land. Indeed, each of us grew in the waters of an amniotic sac inside our mother’s womb. So water is written into our being, comprising 50-75% of our bodies.
Anyone who has lived in a hot climate knows the importance of water for the body, for survival, for quenching the thirst, for refreshment, for cleansing, for relaxation, for irrigation. Water is also used for the spirit in symbolic rituals like baptism and blessing with holy water and ablutions. It is no surprise then, as I noted previously in the Alhambra (and in Pakistan) that water features prominently in the architecture of the Muslims as they spread out of the hot desert of the Arabian peninsula to countries around the world. Besides, they also used water for ritual purification before worshipping God, so water became part of their five-times daily ritual of preparation for prayer.
Water is important for the camino pilgrim too. Dehydration leads to disorientation and can in the extreme be fatal. So I am careful about water. I drink as much as I can first thing in the morning. Since drinkable water is not always readily available along the way, I have to take my own supply.
For this, I have a “CamelBak” hydration pack. It is basically a heavy plastic sac that contains two litres of water (and weighs two kilos!!!). I fill it from the tap every day. I fix it inside my backpack. A hose from the bottom of the sac comes out through a hole made for that purpose near the shoulder of the backpack. The hose is then fastened to the front of the shoulder strap and positioned such that the mouthpiece is readily accessible. The mouthpiece is very clever. It is a solid rubber piece with a slit in it. The natural shape of the rubber keeps the slit closed, so that the water doesn’t leak and drain out. When I need a drink, I simply put the mouthpiece in my mouth, bite on it, which opens the slit, and then suck in a gulp of water. I like the simplicity, effectiveness and cleverness of the design. It is a great way to keep drinking on the move.
I perspire heavily, so it is very important for me to have this good supply of water during the day’s walk to replace what is lost. In my office in Sydney, I use an air conditioner. But on the pilgrim path, I have to become my own air conditioner! On these hot days, my shirt is usually drenched with perspiration within an hour. From then on, the evaporation of the perspiration acts as a coolant. But I have to be able to replenish the water I lose (including from the brim of my hat, as i explained the other day), so the water supply is a very important part of the pilgrim’s equipment.
While water is crucially important to the pilgrim, to all of us, let us also remember the words of Jesus: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:13-14)