Summer Camino – day 11 > excerpt 3

Everyday communication with its emotional and egoistic facets is another topic. If we are greedy, resentful, arrogant, dominating and blaming, or easily intimidated, shy and fearful, for example, we will not be efficient. We will certainly not have a smooth and cushioned ride on magnetism like some trains in China.

Not many of us can improve the circumstances we find ourselves in; we are even unable to change our partners to any extent. However, irrespective of our intellect, our social standing, our physical wellbeing or any other conditions, we are able to change our own behaviour and move forward more smoothly. We might then develop greater compassion, which may have beneficial influence on others. With tolerance and love we become better communicators. If every human can create less friction and aggravation, positive change will invariably follow and humanity will advance.  Life’s path will be less steep and interactions with ‘pilgrims’ on the way will have added clarity.

Some may see no reason to improve and change their mode of being. They may believe that they are on the right path, and that change is not necessary, however, before the invention of the wheel, everyone was content to walk, yet the wheel changed the world.

For me the steep way down to the Valcarce valley was more difficult and strenuous than going uphill. It did not help that the paths veering off were often not marked and left me repeatedly guessing for directions. Despite this, the walk was beautiful and for a long stretch I passed through a chestnut forest. The huge trees, with their widespread horizontal branches fairly high off the ground and lightly touching one another with sunlight filtering through the leafy canopies looked very majestic, not dissimilar to a gigantic gothic hall.

Once I reached the tar road again I was in great need of something to drink and passing pilgrims recommended a bar they had noticed a little further down the valley. I walked back instead of forward in the direction of my next albergue – with anticipation and more  anticipation and more anticipation, leading to frustration – until I finally found the bar in Trabadelo, about 1½ km further away from my next night’s stop and Santiago de Compostela.

I had a tortilla and a Fanta Orange in this tiny place which was run by a Dutch couple and, making use of my best Afrikaans, we chatted a little. Going forward again from Trabadelo, I had to retrace the one and a half kilometres and came upon another bar half a kilometre further on. I had walked three kilometres unnecessarily – which took almost an hour – but such is life.

On my way further I trudged along the busy tarred road for a while but then turned off onto a narrow secondary one that passed through small villages. Finally I arrived in Ruitelán and booked into a private hostel. My afternoon rest and night’s sleep took place under a most unique roof with thick, roughly hewn and extremely crooked and warped wooden support beams and columns, as if trees in this region only grow in a twisted way. The church I visited later could probably seat only twenty five people, which demonstrates how small the village is.

Most pilgrims in this albergue were French, – followed by Spaniards, Germans, Belgians, a Canadian couple, a hefty male from Poland and one South African. While I was enjoying the last rays of the sun in the courtyard, I heard a guitar accompanying someone singing chansons. This promised an entertaining evening. At 19:00 a bell called us to dinner served to about twenty pilgrims sitting around one long table. The menu offered vegetable soup, salad and spaghetti with beans and cheese – well seasoned and tasty. The dessert was a caramel pudding. Several bottles of wine were available to liven us up.

On my right sat the pilgrim from Poland and on the left an extrovert Frenchman. A Canadian couple and another Frenchman were seated opposite me. The extrovert on my left, who was about sixty years old, was the centre of attention for the evening. He was singing, reciting poems and stories in French and was quite full of himself. When I asked the French-speaking lady from Canada sitting opposite me whether he, the extrovert, was what one in French calls a charmeur, he replied instead ‘I am afraid one could say so.’ The Canadian woman could not speak English at all, but when her husband translated my question, she confirmed my description – long after my French neighbour had made his remark.

Have I mentioned how cold it is in the mountains? It was freezing when we left Rabanal a few nights previously and I felt sorry for some pilgrims who were misinformed about walking conditions and were not at all prepared for what we had to endure. A Canadian woman, Cynthia, wore shorts and no gloves when we climbed up to Cruz de Ferro – it must have been torture for her. I was wearing long pants, with three layers of clothes under my waterproof jacket. Its hood was up and tightened around the face, my hat was strapped on top of the hood and I had gloves to warm my fingers. I offered the Canadian woman some clothes but she politely declined. She did, however, heed my recommendation to wear a pair of socks as gloves. Every morning and from about 6 pm in the evening it now became excruciatingly cold, even with the sun still visible. Day temperatures were comfortable and ideal for walking, so I think that, providing warm clothes are packed, the month of September is perfect for this venture.

Today’s walk from Cacabelos to Ruitelán was about 30 km long, of which twelve kilometres were spent up and down the ‘sin’ mountain and an additional three kilometres when searching for the bar in Trabadelo. It had been a long day but my legs and feet felt fine, they just kept moving with very little complaining. My arms had become one with the walking sticks and my body had no problem carrying the backpack. Nevertheless, after twenty five kilometres on the go I was looking forward to a well-deserved rest.

Posted in Blog, Summer Walk permalink

About Dieter Daehnke

Born in 1941 in Gdansk, Poland. In March 1945 the family fled the Russian army. Met my wife Uta in Hamburg and as she is South African, I followed her home. We live in Cape Town, have 3 children, and 2 wonderful grandchildren. I established an Engineering company and since its sale, I enjoy walking Caminos. I have recently completed my book 'Journey of a Stickman'.

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