Summer Walk – day 12 > excerpt 6

Finally I left O’Cebreiro and after four hours and twenty-one kilometres, four churches and a late lunch, I reached Triacastela. That was fast going, given that the landscape was undulating and the path at times rough and strenuous. It felt as if O’Cebreiro had supercharged me and in hindsight I would have liked to have stayed in that village for longer. I had absorbed only part of the mysticism and there was much more where this came from. Should I ever walk this stretch again, I will make a point of staying overnight.

I really felt good; perhaps thinking of my past and the present and my experiences in the medieval church had something to do with this. My mind was full of joy and music, classical and otherwise, which helped me along for most of the way and aided my steps. My legs were absolutely fabulous today; I could stride out with vigour, passing most other pilgrims and hardly being passed by any. This was not a competition, but at my more advanced age I was as fast as the rest, even over a distance of many kilometres. Do you know why centipedes never fall over their many legs? I don’t have as many legs as they have but with the use of walking sticks I have 100% more than I had before I left. That should mean a 50% chance of getting the gait wrong – this never happens. The coordination between footsteps and walking sticks was always in tune – both the walker and the centipede do it without thinking.

This is a good tip for walking long distances: you spread your step fractionally outwards to both sides and with each step rotate your hips ever so slightly forward, at the same time rotating your shoulders in the opposite direction. Then you bend your knees fractionally more than usual to give the step additional spring. This is an invigorating, energetic walk; I call it the bold walk, only achievable when in highest spirit.

Later that afternoon I sat again in a church. This time it was in Triacastela where a wooden floor in this Romanesque building made it warmer underfoot than it had been in the church with stone floor in O’Cebreiro. The wooden floor was probably installed fairly recently, judging by its appearance.

Displays in the church in Triacastela illustrate ‘finding the capacity to express love’ and I have read this before along the way. I suppose the ability to express love is part of one’s nature but it is also learned from one’s parents and is passed onto one’s children in the best way possible. The capacity to express and receive love might mean different things to different people. For my part, whatever I gave to my wife and my children was probably the best I could do at the time.

Being able to appreciate genuine love can be likened to resting in a cosy armchair. It is relaxing and neutralizes any existing negative sentiments. Continually giving and receiving love, however, is not necessarily always straightforward. Unpleasantness and hurtful memories often get in the way

The landscape after O’Cebreiro was most beautiful, with green mountains as far as one could see and valleys often covered by forests. The few villages we passed again housed typical farming communities. Their stone structures – dark, dingy outbuildings – were full of centuries-old clutter. Other buildings housed cows, with only two or three cows closest to the entrance lucky enough to see the light of day and have some entertainment while looking out. The remaining cows rustled about in darkness. The living quarters for the family were usually located above the cowshed and I presume that only a wooden floor separated them. This meant that the family had an eco-friendly under-floor heating system.

The smell of straw, dung and animals reminded me of my early childhood in Germany, when after the war we collected fresh milk directly from the farmers in a little can with a wire handle. I also remembered my visits to Fritz Frieling’s farm; Rudolf Frieling, his son, was my school friend and during school holidays I often helped harvesting hay, potatoes, sugar beet and cabbages for pocket money

Their cows also rattled on their chains but thy had well-lit pens in the forequarters of the farm building and on arrival one walked past their rows on either side before entering the human living quarters further back. In comparison the cows in Spain had little luxury; they were cramped into hovels.

The albergue in Triacastela is located in a very old building, constructed from stone, with half-timber columns and beams as well as roughly hewn roof trusses and a slate roof. The dormitories were not too large and oddly shaped; none of the corners were 90 degrees.

For the last two nights I had been bedbug free, which was a great relief; however I still had to hide my inflamed bug bites from my fellow pilgrims, so I always wore a shirt and only stripped when under the bed linen. My swollen right leg was almost back to normal and caused no problems. The medical sock bought in Hospital de Orbigo five days previously had greatly helped.

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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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