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Make or Break Day on the Camino

May 29th, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

I fear today’s walk.

I have from the start. Back before I knew I could make it through the first three days. It fills me with dread.

It is not particularly famous for being difficult.

But this is the day, most likely, that will determine if we get through the final few days of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

It is not a long walk, but 15 or so kilometers is not to be shrugged at by civilians such as ourselves. People whose physical peak was not just years ago, but decades ago.

The rubber will meet the road in the final 6k — when we hit the infamous hills that conclude the walk to Arzua.

We have been there. We have no illusions. We are not green walkers who have no idea of what is ahead. We know it will be hard and long and uncomfortable, verging on painful.

It probably was just as well, a year ago, that we did not fully appreciate what this stage is about.

We are blessed to have approached this with proper trepidation. After Leah recounted her near collapse on this stage, in June of 2017, to our friends … the wife of the couple we are walking with decided to split the walk into two days. This stage is long even by Camino standards — something over 30k and something like 50,000 steps. So we had a fairly easy day of it yesterday, in the first half of the reduced walk — only about 26,000 steps and four solid hours on the trail.

Which allows us to be semi-fresh — as far as it can for one senior citizen and three others who qualify for AARP membership.

Today, however, even at 15-16k or so, will not allow us to jump out, in a few minutes from now, with a light heart.

Because this stage ends with a punishing streak of four or five or six (it seems like more) long, steep climbs, followed promptly by knee-jarring descents.

What it is … is a series of walks into deceptively beautiful Galician river valleys … the cross of the river … and then the crushing climb up and up and out of that valley … to the top of the hill … and back down into the next river valley.

A year ago, Leah basically just broke, 2.5 kilometers from the finish. A long talk and some tears, a Snickers bar and some plain ol’ grit finally got her going again, near the river town of Ribadiso. Then the two of us stumbled to the finish, in Arzua.

The hotel we have been in overnight is managed by a young Spanish man with a curious accent in his England-learned speech. He is a cheerful soul and helpful — he arranged for the cake we presented to our friends, who celebrated their 30th anniversary.

And he has been on this bit of the walk, perhaps more than our once. “It is the hardest,” he said. “Those hills …” And then he went quiet.

It is fine to climb those hills. It is not to be looked forward to, unless you are in elite condition and cruised over the Pyrenees four weeks ago … or you like to suffer.

It also finally is raining on us. It should not be a heavy rain, but the ponchos may finally come out of their wrappers. The temperature probably will not get out of the 50s.

And we will see if we can get to Arzua on our own feet, and not roll in, defeated, in a taxi or a bus, by Mother Nature.

This will not be easy. I fear it.


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