18 Meditation on the Road

I was a bit late getting out of Catrojirez this morning. The Albergue provided eggs, toast, muffins, and a variety of juices and jams so I decided to cook some eggs and give myself a bit of a boost on the day.

For the most part there is nothing on the road today. You can count on long stretches of harvested agricultural flat lands….once you actually get 5 kms away from Castrojeriz that is.

Here’s the thing to remember. Once leaving town you will need to climb out of quite a severe valley. This is first thing in the morning and we are given another blanket of fog today. You will not be able to see the top when climbing, and once at the top you can’t see the valley bellow. This is actually an amazing experience as there is no appreciable end in sight, and you can’t look back on your accomplishment. You find yourself in a state of being….a climbing being.

The path is steep and demanding. My aclimatization over the past 2 1/2 weeks prepared me physically for this challenge, so now it is simply a mental barrier I must conquer. The mist deadens all sounds of other pilgrims climbing around you. The sounds of their boots on the loose gravel and rocks is almost non-existant. You can hear your poles, the sounds of your feet, your breathing, and heartbeat…..and nothing else.

At the same time I am still not fully functioning. It generally takes me a couple of hours to come fully around….and I’ve had about 30 minutes of start-up time today.

I settle into a rythym, throw the “automatic switch” and start looking 4 feet in front of me. This is the standard distance I look in front to find my footing and avoid the obvious stumbling dangers. Normally I walk just slightly faster than 4 km/hr. The rock path up the hill is just over 1 km in length…and I make it in less than 30 minutes. I pass many pilgims….and I am feeling like a walking machine roday.

OK, so I’m not a walking machine really…. I was actually passing an elderly couple from Brazil, others having equipment problems, and some who decided they would take 3 breaks on the way to the summit.

The other thing you need to know, once at the top after about 300 metres of flats you will suddenly come to an ubsurdly steep descent. This is nothing to be remotly complacent about. If you stubble or fall you will roll for a long while and be shredded by the cement path. Seriously, you can climb up a rocky path, but I’m sure this would be impossible to head back down from the top. The slipping danger would be too high to risk. I assume this is the reason the authorities have paved this section.

Once at the bottom it becomes apparent the fog is now suspended above us by about 25’. Oddly comforting. And we are back on the Meseta again.

Walking on this terrain becomes monotonous really, really quickly. I zone out…keep looking towards the path, but I am not seeing the ground after a short while. The added advantage of this zoning out causes me to also stop noticing the various pains and discomforts I am in the midst of. My left ankle was completely fine until I thought about it…then it hurt. My right knee was pretty much the same. I spent the next couple of hours devoid of a pain and thought.

It’s vital, especially after the sun rises, to start drinking water. When I am in my “blank space” I admit I start to dehydrate. When I start to realize I am getting too dry I up my intake to compensate.

My thoughts wonder. A bit later in the day I am climbing a long, gradual incline. I’m not resentful of the fact I have to climb over this obstacle, rather I am curious. What is on the other side of this hill. Perhaps this is a differentiator between animals and humans. I wonder if cows ever walk up to the edge of a hill to see what’s on the other side? Do wild animals see a beautiful forest and like the visual of autumn leaves….

I would like to think so…..but this might be a bit too romantic.

Probably not.

After about 21 km in the direct sun, 28c, with my pack feeling like a ton, and my feet are screaming to get out of my boots and I decide to call it a day. I walk into  another private Albergue in Boadilla Del Camino about 5 km short of Fromista.

The town is non-existent, but the Albergue is very clean, roomy, and is in the right place.

I’m checking in……