Around 6 AM, Mark and I stood about 4 pilgrims deep around a makeshift bar and ate a couple of bites of toast and drank a small paper cup full of cafe con leche. He suggested I go ahead since Barbara was not ready and they would catch up later.
What must go up must come down and the first 10 kilometers of that morning were to be twist and turns down, down, down again. I noticed that my right boot felt as though it had shrunk a 1/2 size because there was now a fairly intense pinching going on in the left big toe area. I would try to compensate and curl my toe back a bit with each step but nothing seemed to resolve the pinching. Just decided to focus on the walk and ignore the pinching for awhile.
The descent seemed to level off at the town of Triacastela and I entered an open bar and ordered another coffee and a pastrie just as Mark and Barbara arrived. We rested a bit, found a farmacia open where we each bought either ibuprofen, cough drops, blister cushions or variations of the three. Soon afterwards, the lack of sleep from the night before seemed to hit me like two tons of bricks as I just stood in the middle of this road. I motioned at Mark and Barbara that I would meet them later.
“Wow, this is some serious fatigue,” I said´hovering over and taking off my backpack. I pondered for a bit about what I was going to do. When you talk with others, it seems there is always that fleeting thought in every pilgrims mind from time to time about giving in and maybe taking a taxi or bus to that night´s destination. I´m not sure if I would have had the will power at that moment to decline if one had materialized beside me.
I´m so glad that one didn´t.
After a few minutes of circling round and round in my head with these thoughts, I decided that the day was going to be my opportunity to create the perfect Camino day – the one I’d fantasized about long before setting foot in Spain.
To help support that, the weather was gorgeous, sunny, a continually cool breeze. Every meadow I passed would have this uncharacteristic opening in the stone wall barriers or some old rusted fences separating someone´s property would be propped wide open. I took this as an open invitation and settled into a slanted hillside pasture that was filled with wild mint and patches of clover.
I love clover – read my book Where Regret Cannot Find Me, and you´ll discover how much patches of clover remind me of my dad. As a child I would spend hours searching for four leaf ones and whenever discovering any, press them in books. I had noticed huge mounds of clover for days now and even though I would glance at them as I walked by, I never really stopped and looked. Now I did.
I laid out my sleeping bag, plucked some wild mint to chew and rolled onto my stomach as I scowered the clover patches for the prize. Time floated. I scowered the ground when suddenly my eye caught one. Victory at last, my eyes landed on another and then another until I had found 7 all in the same vicinity. And just as I did as a young boy, I pressed them into my journal. Rolling onto my back, I looked out over the beautiful field, the gorgeous sky and embraced my perfect Camino day.
I fell alseep for a short time while breeze and sun watched over me. Just shy of an hour, I opened my eyes. Bees were seriously engaged with the clover and the clouds were now interrupting the sun’s rays. It felt cooler. I rolled up the sleeping bag and got back on the trail feeling rejuvenated. The rest of the hours brought bagpipe music coming from someone rehearsing in a barn. A bit further on, I came upon an old renovated stone building where a former pilgrim from England, who´d fallen in love with the area from a previous Camino pilgrimage, had returned to create his painting studio. Chatted with him a bit – then continued on to an out of the way pit stop called Cabor where I had agreed to meet Mark and Barbara.
Even after all that rest time, I still arrived at that alburgue around 4 PM. It turns out only 4 of us stayed in Cabor that night while dozens of others opted for the next larger town. It felt a bit odd having all that space and only 4 pilgrims to use it.
Slept some more, was shuttled to a nearby restaurant for the evening meal since no restaurants were within 5 kilometers. Coming back, feeling awkward in an automobile, I suddenly became increasingly aware that the end of this journey was getting seriously close.