Time walked – 6 hours including breaks for coffee, lunch and 2 for foot rests
Total distance walked – 11.85 miles
Miles to Date – 432.75 (Ray) and 422.95 (Wendy) + 5 miles each on horseback
Weather – Beautiful, cool morning, upper 60’s to mid 70’s
Terrain – rocky path and gravel trail
Ray and I left our albergue around 8:00 a.m., passing a church and a couple of barns that made up all of Liñares. We shared the Camino with the local cattle, and I remembered my mother telling me to breath through my mouth if I didn’t like the smell. Ray made a comment about the pungent odor making his eyes water. I rolled my eyes at him, appreciating his humor but not wanting to smile in encouragement.
We quickly reach the Monumento do Peregrino, a tall statue keeping watch over the valleys of Galicia, the northwest region of Spain known for frequent rain showers. I offered to take a photo for a couple with the monument, but declined the favor in return. Ray and I were within a week of finishing our Camino and I was entirely focused on moving forward.
Our Camino friends that were a day or two ahead of us had reported that Galicia was their favorite part of Spain. The temperatures were cooler again, but more humid. The land was lush and green, reminding me of Panamá. The familiarity made me miss my home in Boquete, motivating me to get to Santiago de Compostela.
We climbed a steep, challenging, but short hill that dumped us onto the patio of an albergue. The restaurant was crowded with pilgrims, but we went in to order coffee and use the facilities. Ray teased me again that he was going to remove the rim and lid from our toilet at home so that I would always remember our Camino. From our table I watched the breathless pilgrims appear from the steep climb, jealous of the young ones who showed no signs of effort.
After coffee, the path was mostly flat with some down hill sections. We passed a shaded staircase with a sign pointing toward an albergue. The rays of sunshine at the top of the stairs peaked my curiousity, but my forward focus kept me from exploring.
We were surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of farming. We could hear a tractor in the field before seeing the farmer mowing down a steep hillside.
Unlike the endless fields of wheat, the divided fields of Galicia formed a patchwork like quilt, reminding of a trip to Germany years ago.
It had been a few days since we had seen the yellow flowers and red poppies so common at the beginning of the Camino Francés. I tried to get a good picture of the wild purple and pink flowers that dotted along the trail, but lacked the patience that I needed to capture their beauty.
Ray and I walked in silence for most of the day. We had been walking for five weeks, and we were anxious to be finished. Ray had been asking from the beginning what it would be like once we were finished walking our Camino. He was curious as to how we would feel physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. He loved the walking, commenting that he could go much further each day if it weren’t for me holding him back. We discussed the possibility of becoming a Camino addict, yet laughing at the idea as well. We knew that a more difficult path would a challenge that Ray would love to do, but I would be fall back into a ground support role. We questioned why we would even consider another Camino, but acknowledged that the desire to use what we had learned from this journey might lead to another.
Ray and I were grateful to have a variety of scenery trekking through hills, pastures and tree-lined paths. We talked about the monotony of the meseta and what an important part of the Camino it had been. Although not or technically stimulating, the opportunities for personal reflection were greater on the endless flat of the plains.
Walking in Galicia required more of my concentration. I had learned from Yung Mi to carefully place my feet with each step, avoiding rocks or dips in the trail. The one-step-at-a-time mantra was unfamiliar to me. The Camino had given me opportunity to contemplate the relationship between my high physical and emotional tolerance to pain that allowed me to plow through difficult situations. I was aware that I found the most satisfaction in walking straight through the Camino, regardless of the condition of the trail, as fast and far as I possibly could. For me, the thrill of the Camino was about challenging myself to a daily goal and reaching it, with the ultimate prize reaching the cathedral in Santiago.
My style of walking paralleled the way I had lived much of my life. I knew that I was driven by the end goal and motivated by the finish. When eating I have to eat every morsel of food in front of me. My mother was not a member of the Clean Plate Club, encouraging us to try different foods but never requiring us to eat every bite. It was also hard for me to stop watching a television show or movie before the end, even if it wasn’t good. Once I made the decision to start the Camino Francés, I was confident that I would make it to the end, that I would be compelled to finish as the final reward.
Preparing myself for disappointment, I thought about the possibility of an injury halting my Camino. I was fearful that I might fall down or that my knees might give out. I had not anticipated that my feet would be covered in blisters. While painful for a few days, I did not think that blisters were a reason to stop walking. As badly as Ray wanted to fix my feet, getting them to heal faster and keeping new blisters from forming, I was struggling with the lack of control I had over the blisters. I had been joking for years that I did not have control issues as long as I was in charge. I fantasized briefly about the lessons I should be learning from the experience, but decided to leave them for the future and tried to be more mindful of the trail.
Our Camino family was communicating more and more through the group chat, recommending places to eat and stay. Jeanette had suggested an albergue in Triacastela, and I made a reservation for Ray and I in their private room. The two ladies that we had met the night before had reserved beds there as well, so we knew that we would see familiar faces. Our Camino family, however, was either in front of us or behind us. Since we were all getting closer to Santiago, we were sending several messages to see if any of us would be there at the same time. It looked like we were going to arrive in Santiago de Compostela on Friday or Saturday, and the rooms were becoming limited and expensive. My stress level over planning the upcoming days was getting better, but I wished I could let it go entirely.
Triacastela was a lively village when we arrived in the afternoon, easily finding our albergue by recognizing the photo that Jeanette had sent. The building had been recently remodeled integrating the old stone walls with the new modern decor very tastefully. After staying in a new place every night, Ray and I had learned that we could survive the unpleasant knowing that it was just for one night. The stress was in securing our beds, not in the quality of the conditions. Ray and I were shown to our room and immediately knew that this would be a hard place to leave. The ambiance was calm and comfortable with plenty of space and memory foam beds. At €40 for the night, I thought that I had won the jackpot. Ray could not stop talking about how much he loved it. The room was simple, but I felt as though I was in a castle. I sent a message to Jeanette thanking her for the recommendation, knowing that I could never express how truly wonderful it was.
After our showers, Ray and I had made a habit of laying on the bed or floor with our legs up in the air. The Camino was taking its toll on our feet and legs, although I was happy that I the swelling was slight and had held off until the final weeks. Ray was snoring in no time, while I grabbed my tablet to check on work. The wifi could not penetrate the rock walls, so I left our room to find a comfortable place to work.
Ray slept for about an hour and then we left to find something for dinner. The young family who owned the albergue quit serving food the day after Mike, Jeanette and Sue had stopped in for a meal. They had made the decision to concentrate only on renting the beds and rooms so that they could preserve some family life. I admired their decision to know their limits and what truly mattered.
We wandered down the central street, running into Chris and Bob sitting at an outdoor table of a large restaurant. They offered to let us join them although they were almost finished. Linda and Laura joined us as well, and they all teased Ray and I about how much we had eaten the night before in Liñares. Chris and Bob left to go to the pilgrim’s mass before our food arrived. I had anticipated attending far more of the evening masses than we had, noting that they were often at the same times as the meals. I was so caught up in the logistics of the Camino that I was missing out on the spirituality. My thoughts drifted to how I would do the Camino differently if I had a chance to do it again. I nervously laughed to myself as I tried to dismiss the thought, but I already knew the appeal of this Camino life was like a magnet pulling me to return.
Ray and I found the grocery store after dinner to buy some bananas to start the next day. We couldn’t resist buying a couple of ice cream bars as well, since they were so satisfying in the warm evenings. Even though I was walking Ray needed to check his emails and I wanted to enjoy every moment in our private room, so we headed back to the albergue. Before climbing the stairs to our room, I spent a few minutes getting on the wifi to plan our route for the next day. Laura and Linda joined me to do the same thing. They were planning to make it to Santiago on Friday and wanted to get past Sarria, a popular city for some people starting the Camino. I was impressed that they would go further than Sarria, as I had determined it to be my limit. Nervous that there would be limited beds, I had made a reservation for Ray and I in Sarria.
We had been hearing from the beginning of our Camino that the trail would be busy starting in Sarria. It had been a topic of discussion with our Camino friends for days as we prepared our attitudes for the new pilgrim’s with fresh bodies and clean clothes. Ray and I had tried to imagine what it would be like as well. Would the new pilgrim’s drive us crazy with their energy? Would they appreciate the miles we had already covered and give us the respect we thought we had deserved? I didn’t want to think about it any more, ready for this day to be over. I slipped between the sheets earlier than normal, feeling like royalty in my luxurious, cozy bed.