Neither of us slept well last night. 6:30 came early and we had our last 30K day ahead of us. We were out of our Pension by 7:30 and found a place for coffee on the way out of town. This time we both had fresh orange juice as well. I had toast too but it wasn’t much sustenance as it was sliced white bread, a shame and anomaly in this country where such wonderful breads are available.
The morning was misting and we started off with our ponchos which we soon shed. We saw fewer pilgrims leaving town and saw fewer still as the day progressed. It was as if we had lost about 1/2 – 2/3 of the crowd we had the two days prior. We speculated that some may have been tired, not used to the walking and stopped for a day, or that some may have been weekend walkers and would come back to finish the second two days to Santiago on a following weekend. Regardless of the reason it made a difference in the solitude factor and I had much more alone time today than I’d had for a while.
The walk took us through forests and wooded paths lined with Eucalyptus trees that fragrented the air with their sweet fresh scent. The path crossed and re-crossed a small river as we followed it west. The weather was ideal for walking, cool and dry with a light breeze. We had a long day ahead of us and yet the Way was smooth and the time flew by. We stopped about 11:00 for a brunch egg and cheese sandwich on which we put tuna for extra protein. This with a second cup of coffee gave us the fuel we needed to push on for the rest of the day.
As I walked I thought about the lessons of this journey and how grateful I am to have been able to complete this adventure so well and with relatively little pain or suffering. I was also aware that at the end of the week I would be saying goodbye to my dear Lilly-Barb, companion and friend of the last 40 days. And it was important to acknowledge the transition and completion of our time together before we moved on in other directions. The I-Ching or Book of Changes speaks of the most critical points of any journey are at the beginning and at the end: most attention must be paid at these times. The beginning of our adventure went very well and now we wish to close it with a sense of similar grace.
We stopped again for a break around 2:00 for a tea and hot chocolate. Sadly again the hot chocolate was a mix and though tasty was not anything as we’d had before. This refreshment helped us with the last two hour slog to our destination. We had already had a number of hills today and thought we were through the worst. However, nature saves the best for last and we had a series of hills each bigger than the previous before we finally arrived in Azura a bit after 4:00.
Sadly with the exception of O’Cebreiro which was a classic example of old Gallacian building, none of the towns in which we’ve stayed have been at all architecturally interesting. A real contrast to some of the towns and villages we saw earlier in the trip. Azura being no different we felt no interest in exploring further than finding a restaurant.
The Pension was a delight though and right on the Camino. Hot showers with plenty of water and even heat in the room without having to ask. After our usual routine we went looking for a grocery and place to eat. We found the nicest supermarket to date and stocked up on fruit and nuts, things we still want to eat even though we are done with tuna and cheese.
The restaurant was a gem of a find. We had a wonderful mixed salad with delicious lettuce greens and then a vegetarian lasagna that was fabulous. For dessert we had waffles with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Lilly had been saying this morning she was longing for waffles and once again the object of her desire manifested, though in a different form than she imagined.
At dinner we talked about the important lessons that we learned on this Camino, knowing too that as time passes further lessons will surface. For Lilly a big one was letting go of expectations and outcomes, also of having deeper compassion for herself and others, as well as being more flexible, spontaneous and allowing. Being present to herself and her body in the moment was also an important learning. For me an extension of a lesson from my first pilgrimage was that in order to be a happy walker on the Way I need to be completely present to my body, mind and spirit at any moment. I can’t use the joy of physical movement as an escape for my mind. I have to be conscious and present for each step. The second was that by thoroughly preparing for this journey I had a much better experience. Though I couldn’t anticipate all challenges, being ready for what I could, made a big difference. And third, my sense of trust in myself and life has deepened. As I learned on the first journey, the Camino, like life, will bring all that I need, maybe not what I want, but all that I need.
One of the best things about this trip for us both has been all the laughing that we have done together. Not a day has passed that we have not had many wonderful and deep belly laughs. We have found much to laugh at about ourselves; pointing our foibles through humor has been a great part of our learning together. Furthermore we have been great companions. Living and walking with someone in such intimate and at times intense situations for 40 days can be trying. Yet, we have enjoyed each others: company, humor, interests, both shared and individual, encouragement, and appreciation. It has been easy to be together and we are already looking forward to our next adventure. How blessed we have been indeed!
Well friends, tomorrow is our penultimate day on the Camino as Wednesday we arrive. For Lilly-Barb it will be the culmination of a 14 year dream. For us both it will be the completion of a journey that began in Geneva and completes in Santiago 1300 miles later. It is an amazing experience to know that the journey of 1300 miles begins with a single step and is a series of single steps thereafter until the destination is reached. It was also a pleasure to walk in the footsteps of the ancient pilgrims who suffered deprivations and hardships much more challenging than we and yet felt their sense of joy and accomplishment, as they long ago, like we now, came closer to reaching their goal.
With that I will bid you all good night and say:
Hasta Manana Amigos!
Camino tour bus. Fountain of youth.
Pilgrim wave. Pointing the Way to Santiago. Wishing Well./i>
View of village. View of countryside in Gallacia. View from ourView from our window in Azura.