Day 7: Distance travelled 18kms. Total ascent 71m, descent 85m (level!)
Weather: Cold morning, clear hot, hot afternoon. Temperature: 33+ degrees
It is day 7 on the Camino, and as a metaphor for life’s journey there are striking parallels. Our time on The Way has been short, but full of wide ranging situations, scenery and surprises. We have been showered with hospitality, engaged in various interesting conversations with a truly international range of pilgrims, and been enchanted with most of the small Spanish towns we have wandered through. We have had hard days, and we have had easy(ier) days, at times we have been sore, and at other times we have been full of energy. We have shivered with the cold, and we have also been wilting from the heat. We have laughed together, we have been frustrated with each other, and some little ones have had the odd meltdown! The full range of emotions and physical states – all in one week!
We started this seventh day in the semi-dark, having eaten our museli, yoghurt and fruit in the pre-dawn gloom at the albergue. Today we all wore fleece jackets, some had gloves on, others had trousers that had been dug out of the bottom of packs. Others just wished we had brought gloves to wear (at the time it sounded like a good idea to leave them at home to save weight!). Our breath punctuated the pre-dawn air like frosty white exclamation marks. The first two and a half hours we walked in the shadow of the valley, the path snaking its way beside a clear but cold-looking river, past the occasional well-tended garden. Jgirl17 was so tired she walked almost in a trance for most of the morning (check out the pic below!). The cold didn’t help either, and FadaBear spent much of the first two hours warming small gloved fingers in his only-slightly-warmer (ungloved) hands! Jackets stayed on until after 10am, but the going was relatively easy so we peeled off 12kms before a morning-tea break of magdalinas (muffin-like cup cakes that are sold everywhere).
Once the sun’s reach extended to the valley floor the temperature quickly rose, and with not a cloud to be seen we anticipated the temperature to easily reach the forecast 33 degrees. Which also meant we hoped to reach our destination of Valcarce before 2pm when temperatures would make walking just too uncomfortable. At the 12km stop we also stumbled upon a food shop so we bought four large baguettes – supposedly for lunch. However, by the 15 km mark there was no bread left – all this walking sure makes you hungry!
Today we also met several different people. Many groups passed us as they were obviously going all the way to the top of this uphill section, which is a 30km walk. We met people who recognise us from our questions and postings on the Camino forum, others who have stayed at Rabanal and heard about the crazy large family from New Zealand, and been told that they will soon overtake us. We met a South African lady who is on her sixth Camino. She has been tending to her sick husband and has “been through hell this year”, and is walking the Camino to refresh her spirit. She had already covered more than 2,000kms and knew the walk would revive her. We also met a loudly encouraging American man, who was very complimentary, and could not believe that GrandpaBear is 80! An Italian man, who had spent time in NZ years back, intending to return, but had since found a wife, is extremely friendly and interested in sharing stories about the Camino – we are sharing a dorm with him and his wife, as well as a young Canadian lady, an older lady from Denmark, and an older American lady who delights in engaging the little girls in conversation. This is what the Camino is all about… the people you meet. We are starting to understand what that means!
As we walked on, ERgirl6 started to wilt at the 15 km point, having walked strongly for the previous four hours. FadaBear was not feeling up to his piggy-back All-Black antics today, so it was with relief that we finally came upon Vega de Valcarce at just before the 18 km point. The municipal albergue is a simple and clean set up with friendly helpers. The village at Valcarce is small but pretty and has an ancient Saracin castle up on the overlooking hill. We engage in the normal routine of showers and washing – and gratefully receive the free load in the washing machine offered with instructions not to tell anyone else – later the volunteer helper also makes the children nutella sandwiches which are devoured. The supermarket is 30m down the road so lunch and dinner area easily fixed. The older children elect to cook up a huge vege and chorizo soup in a very large pot. We think we will have half a pot to give away to other hungry pilgrims, but by the end of the meal there is only one bowlful left (which does get given away!). It has been a simple, but memorable day on the Camino. What will our travels bring us tomorrow as we round the next corner? Without doubt, a different set of experiences to make our lives all the richer …. buen Camino!
Tags: 2012, postcard: Spain