Today, I reached Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino, where the cross and big pile of rocks is located. I thought I had a little more time before I reached this stage, so I had a lot of contemplating to do in a short period of time.
Actually, I do contemplate a lot each day during my long periods of walking, but I guess I feel there is always more to do. A couple of points along the way I thought I was about to reach this place and panicked because I didn’t feel prepared. Today, I felt the same, but I think I would have even a month from now. Maybe it’s just hard to be prepared for anything when it holds that much weight in your heart.
I heard the rain early this morning when I was lying in bed. I usually start to wake up around 6:00 a.m. A few pilgrims start stirring around that time and you can hear the rustling as they try to quietly pack up their few belongings.
It was going to be a wet day climbing higher into the mountains, but I remembered what I always told my son, Brandon, on soccer game days when it was wet like this. “Get out there, play and have fun,” I would tell him. “Yes, it’s wet and cold, but there is a reward at the end.” The reward was usually hot chocolate and a bath or soup and banana-bran chocolate chip muffins.
At the end of my day of walking in the rain there would also be a reward – a hot meal, a bottle of vino tinto, the good company of fellow pilgrims and a bunk bed to sleep in.
So, I got up, packed up my things and left in the rainy darkness.
The pilgrims breakfast’s in this village seemed expensive, 11 euro in one place, so I continued walking to the next village five kilometers away.
I felt weak as I climbed into the mountains.
Even though it was raining, the air was heavy and muggy.
Sweat trickled down my body under my layers: a plastic poncho, rain jacket, long-sleeved shirt and tank. It was hard to get comfortable, so I stopped and stripped down to my tank, then pulled my saturated rain gear back over top. At first, my skin felt cold against the dampness of my rain jacket, but it didn’t take long for my body to adjust.
When I arrived in the next village, I walked into a welcoming scene inside an albergue. The atmosphere was very down-to-earth and cozy. I dropped my pack with its sodden cover near the door and shed my rain gear. The wood burning fireplace crackled beside a simple, but heavenly spread of food and drink that was laid out on a table.
It was only three and a half euros for breakfast here. It included toast with chocolate spread and jam, quick oats with granola chunks and hot milk, cookies, coffee and fruit. It made the five kilometer trek in the rain so worth it – the reward.
This is where I learned I was going to reach Cruz today. Ahhhh!!! I don’t know why I felt so scared. I guess I just didn’t want to mess something up that I felt was so important.
Joey and I walked for a little while and talked about the strange little things that happen on the Camino and the reasons why people walk it.
The wind was blowing so strong we had to lean into it quite hard. The drizzly rain was pelting against our faces. I thought it quite fitting for what we were about to experience actually. The forces of nature pushing against me as I slowly moved forward was like my fear trying to hold me back from reaching this point.
The Cruz monument appeared around the bend so suddenly.
There it was, a tall pole with a cross at the top, erected in the centre of a massive pile of rocks. The mist enveloped it and the drizzle rained down. I stopped. There it was. It was time.
About my rock: This is a special rock that was given to me by a very positive, beautiful and spiritual person who came into my life about a year ago, Lisa, my roommate. She has been an absolute inspiration to me and I thought about her lots today. The rock is shaped like a triangle and is the size of the palm of my hand. I’m not sure how much it weighed, but I was going to carry it no matter what.
It is what Lisa, Terri and I called “The Power Triangle” rock. The day I received it was one of the most memorable days for me in Chilliwack. I won’t go detail about it, but I just became a whole lot more centred that day. The rock became a source of comfort as I went through a difficult time. It even came to bed with me sometimes. So, you can see why I was so thrilled to get the rock from the Spanish man, right?
I stood at the bottom of the rock pile with my “power triangle” rock in my hand and waited my turn to say my prayers – still scared. Then it was time. I walked up, knelt down at the base of the pole and did my best.
I asked what I needed to ask and said some prayers for my future as well as for others in my life: for my son, my parents, my brother, my family, my friends, my acquaintances. May they all find peace, happiness and love in this world. I placed the rock on the pile near the base of the pole.
There were many items other than rocks sitting there so I considered moving the rock somewhere nicer, but then I thought to myself, everything that has been left here whether a ripped piece of paper with a message, a broken shell, a candy bar, a photograph, it was all left with a prayer and with love in mind. I just left the rock where it was. It was perfect.
The rest of the day I walked alone. It was hard to leave the place and the rock behind. I thought, as I was walking, it was because I left more behind than just those things. There was some letting go of the past as well.
I stopped in the village of Molinaseca – a 26.5 kilometer day.
The albergue is nice and there are a few Camino acquaintances staying here. Josh from London, England was bunked across from me and asked if I’d like to walk into the village for dinner.
The food at the restaurant was excellent. I ordered vegetable soup, trout and a fresh salad. There was, of course, lots of bread since Spain is very big on simple carbs. Also, a bottle of vino tinto and cheese cake for dessert.
It’s time for a good sleep now. I plan to set out early tomorrow morning with my head lamp on. There are two 30 kilometer days in a row coming up and then some shorter ones. Depending on how I feel, I may walk further on those days to arrive in Santiago on October 23rd instead, but we’ll see.