GONZAR to PALAS de REI — 11 Miles
The cute Donkey and his cart were gone this morning as I began my walk from the village of Gonzar. It was another overcast morning and the air was saturated with moisture.
The dirt path started next to the highway but after a block it turned inland and started going uphill. I was all alone except for the chirping birds that surrounded me. Then I saw him, a lone Japanese Trekker not too far ahead of me. How did I know he was Japanese when all I could see was his huge backpack from behind? Because he was talking to himself and even though I couldn’t understand him, his voice was loud and expressive. Boy did he ever seem embarrassed when I passed him and he realized I was there!
“The Way” was not well marked but I saw a road that veered off to the left and there was a cement marker that I had to circle around in order to see which way it was pointing. I followed in the direction of the marker but felt I shouldn’t have. I was on what seemed like an old dirt logging road that kept going uphill. And Mr. Japan Man was no longer behind me. As the road continued to go up and up and up I kept having to stop to rest and catch my breath. Then I felt like talking to myself and spitting out a few choice words of dislike for this uphill climb. I didn’t think it was raining but there was so much moisture in the air that little droplets of water were rolling off my hair and down onto my face.
After about 2 miles of uphill, the dirt road merged with a blacktop road and I started seeing markers for the Camino and eventually I saw a few other trekkers.
I felt the walk was so difficult this morning and that the constant uphill would never end. It wasn’t a pretty walk like yesterday morning and by the time I’d walked 3 miles I was ready for a break. Inside the little Bar where I stopped, the TV was blaring away in Spanish about the elections between Hilary, Bernie and Trump — even here in Spain! After Cafe con Leche and a banana I hit the road again.
The path continued along the blacktop road through a couple of little villages and seemed to be going forever uphill. There were a couple of pretty sights but otherwise I found the walk to be tedious and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t appreciate it more.
Unlike yesterday morning I wasn’t stopping every 5 minutes to snap photos of sights that I thought were incredibly beautiful. As I walked along today, hating the uphill climbs, I had time to contemplate the Camino and what it meant to me. “The Way” seemed to represent life in general, with uphill struggles that I didn’t think I could get through and rocky areas where I had to proceed with caution.
But eventually they would evolve into easy paths where no problems seemed to present themselves.
I thought back to my conversation with the girl from Denmark who did not like yesterday mornings walk at all. She said there was so much uphill and she couldn’t wait for the walk to end. But I, on the other hand, loved the walk and other than the brief uphill at the start of the walk, I found it to be one of the prettiest walks yet. We had both walked the same path on the same day but with such incredibly different views of the experience. It wasn’t really the Camino itself that was beautiful or difficult or challenging, it was simply our interpretation of it that made it what it was. Had I walked in her shoes I would have seen things in a totally different light. This was so true of how we interpret life in general and the ups and downs that come with it.
When I wasn’t going uphill I was walking pretty fast until I came to a little church.
By this time I’d walked about 7 miles so I sat down outside the church on a slab of cold stone and still couldn’t get this whole experience out of my mind. Every day on the Camino had been different, just like every day of life was different. Today was different from yesterday and tomorrow would be different from both. And everything revolved around our view of the present and what we would make of it. There were never any guarantees that things would work out as planned but we had to roll with the punches and deal with whatever the future held. And for now I hoped I could make it through this day and that my foot would behave and let me walk into Santiago in a few days. But this was life — with no guarantees. After I left the church I slowed my walk down to a snails pace.
And for the time being I needed to appreciate the beauty —
And the mud —
And my favorite flowers —
And Dick waiting for me at the end of my walk (beard and all)!