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Day 50 - The Camino Provides (or does it?)

Sat 4th Nov., Oseira to Estacion de Lalin. ~15 klms a pie, ~16 klms a coche

I risk offending some good folk here - not my intention, and so lo siento in advance. I simply offer my thoughts, observations and feelings.

Let me start with a view of the Camino providing, 4 minutes after we set out this morning ...

That sort of set the scene for at least the earlier part of the day.

[Warning - potential offense ahead.] One of the more inane comments which one reads on Camino websites or from Camino aficionados is "the Camino always provides". It is often expressed in a sort of "new-agey" way - "oh, I left my poncho in the albergue last night but only 10 minutes down the road a "Camino Angel" [another expression which annoys me] gave me a replacement. The Camino always provides." Really? Isn't that just human decency at play, not a road/path/way "providing"?

But irrespective of one's belief, today the Camino didn't provide. Remember I said yesterday that today would be a biggish day? That was a bit of an understatement, at least to start with.

Let me share an anecdote. Some of you know that I play a bit of a volunteer community education role at home. A few years ago, after we had walked the Camino Frances and after I had published An Impossible Dream, the then Commissioner (CEO) of the government agency I do my volunteer work with was retiring, and was planning to walk the CF. My main liaison person in the agency purchased a copy of the book as part of his farewell gift. A couple of years later he rang me, to sort of thank me for the book, and offered the feedback "you were a bit grumpy, weren't you?" (I didn't think I was, by the way, other than occasionally.) Interesting feedback on an 80,000 word story covering an historically-oriented commentary on a 35-day journey, but I guess it takes all types. And I cannot imagine that the man concerned will read this, so there's no risk of further offense.

Let's draw those two themes together. The Camino doesn't always provide, sometimes it takes away, and it's OK to be grumpy every now and then. I'm only human after all.

Yesterday was tough, you might have gathered that. We didn't want a repeat of that, and yet we almost did. Albergue rules are that you have to be out by x o'clock (in this case 8), which for us today was about 8:30. We had already decided that we weren't walking the "official" Camino path, that being no more than an endless series of rock-hopping uphill lakes. Endless consultations with yesterday’s friend Google Maps showed us a way to go by road. So that was the plan.

One of the German ladies at the albergue had departed some 15 minutes before us, and then just as we were leaving returned, saying, that it was an impassable swimming pool, or something to that effect. She declared that she was catching a cab to Estacion de Lalin. We pressed on regardless.

4 minutes up the road we encountered Flood #1 (see video above). We did manage to negotiate that, and proceeded up the road to the left. Explicitly trusting our friend GM we proceeded up the hill for maybe a kilometre. "We" was a party of 5 by this stage - Aussies Jill and Sarah, and Pom Janet. There's no photos of this little jaunt; it was a repeat of yesterday and no time to be taking photos, other than to say that the volume of water pouring down the path we were walking up really had to be seen to be believed. After perhaps 30 minutes or so my Janet and I bailed. We headed back down the hill, across the flood, and back to the start, having lost an hour or so. My feet were wet and my mood was not positive (grumpy, anyone?).

We then found a way (not necessarily the way) forward. For the first hour or so we followed the roadway which cyclists or caballos would normally follow. It mostly mirrored the formal/walking Camino, but not exactly. In distance it is probably a bit longer, as we stuck to roads whenever possible, rather than the short-cut goat tracks which are the main Camino.

Here's a roadway:

And another:

The wet roads do have their uses: to clean one's shoes (did they really need cleaning??):

The horse path:

As with yesterday, parts of the walk were very pretty.

And lots of eucalypts here. Saw this quite extensive bluegum plantation

Where I live bluegums are rather an environmental drag (for the non-Aussies reading this Tasmanian Blue Gums are a wet climate eucalypt which has emerged as a significant plantation species). They consume huge amounts of water and can lower the natural water table. But I guess that it's normally so wet here that that isn't really a concern.

The distance marker shows 75.3 klms to Santiago. Yesterday, at 1:30 pm, we only had 77.8 to go. So, many hours, muchas agua, and perhaps 20-ish klms of walking we'd advanced 2 klms.

So, no, I wasn't a happy chappy today. Wet and sometimes cold, the Camino, rather than providing, had pretty well sucked my last bit of spirit. The marker below says it all.

About that time Janet got cranky at me because I was walking head down into the wind and rain, and didn't see a car coming towards me (luckily he stopped a metre or so in front of me). Actually, she got cranky because at that point I said that I didn't care if I got hit by a car. Silly of course, but it does show the low to which the spirits had descended.

Even the local cats were miserable.

Underpass to pass, anyone?

At one point we came across this wonderful path enhancement. It’s not obvious from the photo, but these are granite blocks, anywhere between about 600mm and 3 metres long, provide a welcome non-soggy pathway.

Entering Castro Dozón, we had this:

Winds maybe 40/50 kph. It's the sort of thing I see at home when the big winter storms roll in off the Great Southern Ocean and almost bend over double the huge eucalypts on our boundary. And we were walking into it.

So at Castro Dozón we made the very wise decision to catch a cab to Estacion de Lalin, where we have a basic but warm and comfortable room for the night.

Does the Camino provide? Well, yes, metaphorically. Amongst other things it shows one that you can press on and get through the discomforts of the day. And it provides one an opportunity to reflect. The mediaeval pilgrims walked these paths

under huge hardship and great personal danger (which is in part why bodies such as the Knights Templar and the Order of Santiago were formed), in order to obtain some spiritual benefit. Modern believers seek something similar. Others, more secular or less devout, follow these paths for a variety of personal reasons. And whatever one's motivation I guess that in that regard the Camino does provide. But on days like today one needs to draw deeply on one's well of inner strength to find that provision. Today my well was somewhat dry.

Tomorrow, a 15klm walk into Silleda, our second last night on the road. I won't make any predictions at all ...

And a ps - Sarah, Jill and Janet, who we had left at the top of a mountain around 9:30 am whilst we retreated and they weighed up options, turned up here around 4 this afternoon, having eventually followed more or less the same path as us ( both walking and taxi-ing).

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