Stage 29, Oct 4, Villafranca del Bierzo to O’ Cebreiro, 30.1km, total time 8:15hrs

Most people tell stories about how the spirit of the Camino can make wonders out of the most miserable conditions. I have to witness how I could wake up and start my inner motion engine with a renewed intent and passion. Maybe it was the subconscious motivation to put in as much distance I could between myself and that messy Albergue, but I never felt so good and eager to start the Cebreiro stage, one of the toughest ending with a steep 900 meter hike at the end of the day.

As it happened already many times, the blinking of the fading morning stars, and the motherly kiss of Venus shining low on the eastern sky, made once more the miracle of setting positive expectations for the new day. No regrets leaving Villafranca, even if mentally I made a note to come back and correct the negative personal impression.

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My first hiking friend of day has been Don from New Jersey, a retired dentist doing the Camino with the wife Peggy, trailing and panting  a couple of hundred meters behind him. We went fairly ahead for some while till we reached a treacherous junctions with signage indicating contrasting directions. Don went right as this for him was the least risky option, possibly fearing the nagging from Peggy later in the day. I went off on the left with another two hikers. One was Suzanne from South Afrika, the other was Luigi travelling on foot from Rome. I started questioning him on his motives for a 2500km journey, and he started vomiting all his past life and all the mistakes he has done to motivate the wife to file for divorce and leaving him only with the underpants he was wearing. This was a long and captivating conversation that dragged us for 15 km at least.  I thanked him for sharing his story and experience, finally something deeper to meditate on.

Other climbers were suggesting to stop at the foot of the Cebreiro mountain and to attempt the summit the following morning. I was blessed with a good strength and determination and I am glad I finally made it to the summit on the same day.

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To celebrate myself I conceded finally the luxury of a double bedroom just for me only. It is amazing how good it feels to use a shower for as long as you want and leave all your stuff scattered around the room.

Even if was quite tired, at about 6:30 I took slowly the road climbing to the cross dominating the two valleys on both sides of the divider. I had with me a few other stones I have carried during the ascent from Villafranca to leave behind for other friends.

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As I was sitting down on the grass looking directly at the cross, on my left it was my past, with all what I have been through, on my right was the future for the next few days, with the road descending sweetly into Galicia and towards the end of my experience.

The peace that surrounds this place is incredible. Since there is no WiFi in this remote outpost, I am not sure about when I will be able to upload this update. However I am trusting my regained serenity and my renewed appreciation of my blessings and love to the wind, so that it may reach you anyway.

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In the confort of my 6.5 square meters I checked again and again my gear and quite happily I trashed about 350 grams of unnecessary stuff mostly toiletries for the just-in-case type of occurrences. I am still considering to trash the 350 grams of the sleeping bag. I believe I have still a lot if work to do on myself to let go of the false reassurances of the material objects.

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Stage 28, Oct 3, Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo, 29.8km, total time 8:31hrs

A relatively tranquil stage to get nearer to the mountain range which separes the province of Castilla y Leon with Galicia, the province of Santiago. The target is still to reach Santiago on October 12, and then to continue up to  Land’s End (Finisterre) for additional 3 or 4 days.

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As I crossed the farmlands in the Bierzo region at the feet of the Cordillera, the grapes harvest was in full activity and there are tractors everywhere pulling trolleys filled with all grape varieties.

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Not always I am able to keep a positive mind, and today is one of those days. I do not feel good, and I am a bit depressed and demoralized. I do not want to mingle and feel less and less social, ducking the drinking or dinner invitations.

I am a bit disappointed on my overall physical conditions. The legs are still hurting in the usual places, and some of the original blisters have yet to heal.  New soreness is now affecting the other muscles involved in the steep climb and likewise descent from the Montes de Leon yesterday. The recovery is slow and I am facing tomorrow the other challenging stage with the passing of O’ Cebreiro. I think I am going to stop for the night at a midpoint, and then go over the mountain pass the day after.

I think also to put a stop in checking-in at the cheapest Albergues. It do not understand why in days like this, instead of pampering me a little with some good food, or perhaps a pastry, I insist in this self-inflicting punishment because my body, mind or spirit are not in a top form.

Need to say though, that as I entered the Albergue in Villafranca, the attendant offered me immediately a welcome glass of fresh water, and helped me to carry the backpack to the room. Maybe this little gesture of respect for the pilgrim, or else, convinced me to stay in that messy place.  After the good feeling of the kind gesture faded away, I felt immediately miserable but at the same time happy to endure once more a great deal of discomfort.

Despite of other people I knew before invited me to dinner in the main square restaurant, I opted for communal dinner at the Albergue, which consisted in a vegetable soup, a fried egg with chorizo and watermelon.

Most people, including a newly married Japanese couple, seemed quite happy about it and politely were exchanging questions about the country of provenance and the other usual Camino topics: when did you start, where are you going, how are your feet/legs, and so on. Next time I would end up doing the Camino or similar other walks, I will prepare a set of photocopies, with all my answers, to cut short all these casual and superficial conversations around dinner tables.

As soon as you try more specific questions such as for instance the spiritual motivations, or what people look for in the Camino, then the conversation comes to an immediate stop.

I do need someone though to talk to go much deeper but this frightens people and hence I will not join possibly the communal dinners from now on.

The room I stayed with 10 other people, was truly a refrigerator: 11 degrees indoors. I pulled in two extra blankets over my liner sheet, and nonetheless I shivered all night long. I wore all my clothes to protect me from the cold and I sweared to myself to never do this again.

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