Slip Sliding Away

Day 24

Today was probably the toughest since the first day over the Pyrenees.  I know there are a couple of strenuous days to go, but this was a tough one.

But first, we had a couple of glorious thunderstorms last night.  One before dinner and one as I was headed to bed. The rain was needed and it was timed just right to dampen the trail and make walking a bit easier – without raining on us as we walked.

Beautiful sunrise out my window this morning, and a rather chaotic breakfast as a few people didn’t understand the menu.  It was pretty clear, so go figure. So much for “stress is forbidden”. I ordered a hard boiled egg, toast, juice, and tea – and ate a banana before breakfast.  Meal was good and I was out by 8:15.

The place felt like it was a home, and the woman running the place last night was gracious and helpful.  I’d happily go back.  

The town, too, was nice – one of the other walkers (from Philly) said he’d live there.

Walking through the town this morning and the other towns today reminded me very much of alpine villages, from the location, the layout, the architecture and the cowbells clanging.  

After a stop at the next town, it was off to the top of the mountain where the famous cross (Cruz de Ferro) is located.  This is where pilgrims traditionally leave rocks to symbolize letting something go or to remember someone.  I didn’t expect it to be emotional, but it was.  

My new friend from Finland (the medic) said he wasn’t ready to let go yet and didn’t leave his sand, but he did have a solemn moment. We took photos of each other facing the cross. It was quite a moment.

The only negative is that the Cruz de Ferro has become a bit of a tourist attraction, complete with a tour bus parking lot.  I don’t know that the tourists understand the meaning or solemn presence of the site – or the significance to those who walked the Camino, and that’s really too bad.

I left the Cruz de Ferro walking with a woman from Mesa, Arizona  that’s much younger.  She’s transitioning to a job with an outdoor adventure company.  It was talking with her that I learned that I am known as “Bill from DC” to the pilgrims that are in walking in the same general time period.  I left her at the next coffee bar (but saw her later leaving lunch).  

As we crested the next peak the skies darkened and it smelled like rain.  It’s a wonderful smell that doesn’t seem to happen much in our city-driven lives. So the other pilgrims and I donned ponchos and started down the hill.

I’ve mentioned before that downhill can be as tough as uphill, and it was even more so today.  The rocks and shale become slippery, so one needs to watch their step.  And there weren’t a lot of folks around to help if one ran into trouble.  This is where having 2 walking sticks becomes even more critical – they help you in the climb, bur more importantly they help you “brake” in the descent and also help your balance when it’s slippery. I’m very glad to have had two sticks.

It was a very steep downhill, partly in the rain, and I had a pack that felt either unbalanced or mis-adjusted.  I stopped and made a few adjustments but still have some muscle pain in the shoulder blade. I took a long lunch at the first town, then continued downward trying not to fall.

It rained on and off, meaning poncho on and off.  I like the poncho but in a sun shower with exercise the perspiration builds up inside.  So I wear it as little as possible.

I finally arrived in Molinaseca about 5.  A long day, with 25+ kilometers of distance, 600 meters of climb, and 900 meters of descent.  And 4000 calories burned if Apple calculates it correctly.  I know there are a couple of other up-snd-down days ahead, but today just seemed rough.

Clothes washed, shower taken, and tapas & salad for dinner.  I will sleep well tonight.  And then a 30 km day tomorrow over flatter terrain.