Time walked – 7 hours, including a lunch stop and 3 stops for foot care
Total distance walked – 13.8 miles
Miles to date – 464.35 (Ray) and 454.55 (Wendy) + 5 miles each on horseback
Weather – Beautiful, sunny, perfect for hiking low 60’s to 72 degrees F at the hottest part of the day.
Terrain – pavement and rocky trail
Ray and I slept soundly at Casa Morgade, feeling spoiled after having our two best nights of the Camino back-to-back. Because we had walked until late, our clothes did not have time to dry in the cool and humid atmosphere of Galicia. I put on two layers of dry shirts, but decided to wear my damp, nylon shorts, knowing that they would dry from my body heat or be wet with sweat before long. I pulled my shorts on slowly, grimacing as I fastened the cold band around my waist. I attached the wet socks to my backpack and told Ray that we needed to find laundry service at our next accommodation.
We descended the stairs to a café full of pilgrims having breakfast. Paco was busy filling orders, but Ray did not want to leave without thanking him and telling him how much we loved his family place. The coffee smelled good so we decided to grab a cup and a pastry before getting started. Ray and I were taking our first steps on the road when it hit me that these pilgrims had come from Sarria, seven miles away, stopping for coffee, breakfast and a rest. Suddenly I felt like we were losing ground and needed to get going, fast. Ray knew what was happening as soon as he saw the pilgrims arriving. He teased me that I had been so slow to catch on, but encouraged me to keep my pace at the top of my ability. I teased him back and told him that I was going to act like a new pilgrim just starting in Sarria, commenting as if I was walking on day one. “Look at the clouds and the rows of grass!” I exclaimed in the most annoying tone I could voice. “This is soooo fun and awesome,” I said, making Ray laugh while he gritted his teeth.
Once we stopped teasing each other Ray commented on how much he had learned to love the walking. With each day covering new ground, the Camino continued to provide excitement and stimulate our curiosity. I knew that my experience would have been much different without the painful blisters on my feet. While I didn’t mind the walking, I did not love it like a Ray did. For me it was about completing the task, the joy of accomplishment.
We passed a chapel surrounded by a local cemetery. We had not seen the above-ground mausoleum until crossing into Galicia. I reached in my pocket for my phone to snap a quick photo, recognizing that I was more interested in recording the memory than trying to frame a beautiful photo like I had at the beginning of our Camino.
The sky was cloudy, threatening to sprinkle as we walked along the trail, and I was thinking about finding a restroom. I couldn’t remember from the guidebook how far between villages, but told Ray I thought a stop would be coming up soon. We walked behind two ladies for awhile and I wondered if they had started the Camino this morning. Their clothes and shoes looked clean and they were walking at a good pace, not like they were tired from the journey. I followed Ray as he started to pass them, wishing them the standard “Buen Camino.” As I approached, one of the women remarked smiled and asked if we had just started in Sarria, saying that we looked awfully fresh. I answered that we had started in Saint Jean Pied de Port, and she said that they had as well. We both laughed as we introduced ourselves, confessing that we were guarded against pilgrims just joining the journey. Judy and Lynn had met on the Camino, starting ten days after Ray and I. I guessed Lynn to be a little younger than us, but Judy was older, nearing retirement. They were both fit and had not experienced any physical problems. Judy told us that she walked an average of ten miles a day in the States, splitting the distance before and after her work day. We talked a little longer when they stopped for coffee, and I used the facilities. I was impressed with them both and wished we had more time to spend together.
Before long Ray and I reached another Camino landmark. The names and grafitti caught my eye, otherwise we may have passed it. It was the 100 kilometer marker. From this point, we had 100 kilometers left with 700 kilometers behind us. I stood for a moment trying to grasp an understanding of what that meant, but I was fully focused on the goal for the day. Ray and I smiled at each other, but I couldn’t comprehend what we had already done.
From Morgade the trail had been downhill into Portomarín. I thought we would be spending the night in this river village, but was pleased we would be able to get past it. We followed the road to the river, crossed the long bridge, and climbed a steep flight of stairs into town. If it weren’t for wanting to have lunch in Portomarín, we could have avoided the steep stairs, part of a medieval bridge, and continued around the town. The views from the top were grand and worth the effort before stopping for lunch.
We spotted a restaurant facing the street but backed to the reservoir. We recognized Peter and Linda from the albergue in Ponferrada and visited with them until they finished their meals. I found a seat with a view of the water, while Ray wanted to watch the pilgrims, hoping to see someone we knew. He was disappointed that not many pilgrims walked by, either passing the town or stopping for food further into town.
After lunch we had another 13 kilometer uphill hike to finish our day. Ray and I were pleasantly surprised that the trail was less crowded than we had anticipated. From the beginning of our Camino, we had been warned about the pilgrims starting in Sarria. We were told to expect hundreds of newbies joining the trail, loud, energetic and fresh. I remembered specific conversations with T.I. and Carmen about how hard it might be to have grace for the throngs of pilgrims starting just before the 100 kilometer point, and that we might think we deserved some form of respect. The sentiment spoken most often was how unfair of them to receive the same Compostela as us. Ray had been unaware of the requirements when we began our journey, and he also thought it was unfair.
Ray and I were aware of how the Camino wrapped a lifetime of learning into a single journey, but the lesson of earning the Compostela was taken straight from the Bible. The parable of the workers in the vineyard was recorded in Matthew 20:1-16. My version of the parable explained that a landowner went out early one morning to hire workers to pick the fruit in his fields. He offered to pay them a fair wage and the workers happily agreed. A few hours later, the owner went out and gathered more workers to pick for the remainder of the day, offering to pay them the same wage. A few hours later, he repeated the process again, and then again.
At the end of the work day, the landowner ordered the workers hired last to be paid first. The workers hired earlier in the day became angry when they saw that they were all paid the same, thinking they deserved more. The landowner explained that he was not unjust, but rather merciful to all those who had labored.
In the parable, the landowner represented God and the mercy shown to all who accept his invitation, regardless of how late in life, receiving the same reward as those who have followed the longest. Nothing had forced us to start our Camino in France, we chose the point from which we wanted to begin. Ray and I had met pilgrims who had started in Germany and Le Puy, France, walking much farther than from Saint Jean. I prayed that I would have the grace to accept those who chose differently than I had, whether by distance or by bicycle, horse or donkey.
Ray and I were consistently walking further distances. I had rubbed a raw spot on another toe and had developed a small, flat blister on the inside of my left heel. The toe did not hurt, but the blister stung on occasion. Toward the end of the day, however, the bones in my feet felt like they were bruised. Ray insisted that I take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever with my dinner.
We walked toward Hospital de la Cruz, where we had the option of finding an albergue. Passing some buildings, Ray and I proceeded on looking for the village. The hamlets of Galicia were not like the ones we had become used to, and we didn’t realized we missed Hospital de la Cruz until we entered Ventas de Narón. There was a waiting line to check into the albergue, but I was able to sit down while I waited. I had time to check the guidebook and learn that the albergue had private rooms as well.
Ray and I settled into a small private room with a shared bath, but ours was the only room occupied. Ray took our clothes to be laundered while I took a shower. He was excited to tell me that he had run into Jeri, and that she was staying at the same albergue. She was equally excited to see us, and we made plans to eat dinner together. I had gotten behind on my posts with the combination of poor internet service and walking longer hours. I had planned to get some work done, but spending time with Jeri seemed much more important.
The three of us sat and shared stories of the past few weeks. We laughed until our eyes watered, and we pumped Jeri with questions just like we had when we met her in Orisson. We were in awe on that first day when we learned that this was her second Camino, and knowing what we had learned from our own experience, we had even more respect for her.
We ordered burgers for dinner and continued to laugh about things that had happened along the way. Ray announced that he wanted to go to bed early, not a surprise to me as he preferred to be asleep before dark. Jeri thought retiring before dark was an amazing idea. We hugged good night, not sure when we would see each other again.Although we intended to make it to the same place the next night, I wasn’t sure if it would be farther than I could go.