From Maine to Spain (and back)

Foncebadon to Ponferrada (34km/21mile/42,405steps) – the day started off with a quick 20 minute climb to the Cruz Ferro or Iron Cross which is the highest point on the Camino and where pilgrims for decades have placed a stone at the foot of the cross, symbolically relieving themselves of their sins and burdens. Tradition dictates that the stone is to brought from home and carried all this way. Hence I brought a small stone. The stone that I placed at the cross was one I had taken off the beach on Peaks Island, Maine, nowhere creates perfectly round stones like the Maine coast. Don’t worry though I picked a small granite stone up off the trail a few days ago to put on the beach on Peaks at the end of the summer. Seemed like a fair trade. And yes I am obsessed with the weight of my pack but I am carrying stone with me – oh tradition.

The day continued with what I believe may be the prettiest day of walking I have ever had. While the trail was quite challenging and we did get a few sprinkles the last few miles Mother Nature was really showing off her stuff today. I walked for 6ish hours through the mountains dropping into small valley hamlets and back up again. It was not only beautiful it was really fun.

One sad point was that I did obverse many folks walking in sandals because of hurting feet and I came across a young women who had tripped, fallen and cut her head open on the rock – she seemed in amazingly good spirits despite all the blood but her companions were taking good care of her and an ambulance was called.

As you walk the Camino not a day goes by that you do not see at least one memorial to either a person who died walking the Camino or a person for whom this trail meant a lot. Today I saw one with a saying I have never heard before but really like. I’ll end with the quote and some picks from what was a really good walk today.

Peace

The boat is safer anchored in the port; but that is not the point of boats

Actual Knights Templar Castle

Tough Day

After a full week on the Camino de Santiago I had my hardest day yet today, both physically and mentally.
We started as usual, up at 6 out by 6:15-30. Three of of us started out strong. The two young women I was walking with today are both very fast (fastest I have met yet) walkers. Heather is a resent grad from law school in Perth, Australia taking time off before her job starts (she also did the Inca trail before coming to Spain – what can I say the kid likes to walk) and the other, Katie, is from East London and is a parametric moving to the US to begin a job on a cruise ship out of California. Before we knew it we had lost the trail. That’s the problem with starting in the dark (although I have most days), first out and knowing it is a long day ahead. After figuring out what we had done and getting back on track we had “only” lost about 30mins. They were a little frustrated, I thought is was a little funny (“So what did you do for your sabbatical?” “Oh, I got lost walking in Spain”).
The day was the first really hot one and a constant up and down. While my legs and rest of my body feel great and are serving me well – my feet have decided to object to the walking with three large blisters. I had to stop a couple of times to deal with my foot issues and as you can imagine, I don’t like to stop other than to take pictures – but, quite frankly they hurt.
This was our second 30+ Km (~20 miles) day in a row, my feet hurt, it was hot……… But we made it into Viana (Spain, we didn’t get that lost) around 2:30. By 4:45 I was not feeling very good and realized I had not eaten all day other than some trail mix, water and some very strong coffee.
I ate and felt better. At the time I thought it might be the best meal I have ever had, but in retrospect and the clarity of being able to think straight again, I can say with out a doubt it is the best meal I have had since I have been in Spain – beautifully executed green beans and local ham and roasted chicken with perfectly fried potatoes and caramelized onions.
A long hard day, spent in good and interesting company and ending with a great meal – I am not complaining. Now just to deal with these damn blisters.

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