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Day 51 - What if??

Sun 5th Nov., Estacion de Lalin to Silleda, ~15klms, 20/22,000 steps

Water, where it's meant to be 😉 ...

... and where it's not meant to be 😞.

My simple view of the world tells me there's two types of "what ifs?". One's an inquisitive, forward-looking, positive question, that says "I wonder what might happen if ...?". The other looks backwards - "what would have happened if ...?" - it's a sibling to the "if only ...?" question. Neither of these latter questions are of much help, because no matter what answer one comes up with they can't change the past. And yet even armed with the knowledge that such questioning is futile, it's rather human nature to speculate on what might have been. In our case, the questions revolve around the central theme of "what if the weather had been better/different?". Perfectly natural questions, and useless, because the weather was what the weather was, and our responses were the best we could do at the time.

Apart from this little "philosophy 101" monologue, where is this going, you may ask. Well, simply this. We've agreed (we both came to this point independently, and only got to discuss it last night), that this will most very likely be our last ultra long-distance walk. I'm a bit of a "never say never" sort of a guy, and as an example those who know me have probably heard me say 5 times that "that was my last trip to the Himalayas". But even though I feel as fit as a mallee bull (that's a piece of Aussie colloquialism, see here for an explanation), and walking 20+ klms with my 10kg-ish pack day after day seems perfectly normal, the presence of the uncontrollable factors (i.e. the weather) have sufficiently detracted from the experience to cause me/us to say "enough".

We've proven to ourselves that we could do it, not that we really needed to, and we certainly didn't need to prove it to anyone else, but the joy has gone, and that memory will last some time.

We'll continue to walk and explore, but perhaps only in 3 week-3/400 klm batches in future - obviously the weather and other factors can still influence smaller trips, but when one takes out the "endurance" factor immediately things change. And of course a 3/4 week window is easier to plan around than a 8/10 week window. Then it becomes more of a "let's look at what will happen if ..." question - lots more useful. We'd been talking about walking the full 750 klm via Podiensis or Camino de Le Puy next year with a good friend from home. We'll continue to plan, but maybe only half.

The above is written more for my own personal record than to necessarily advertise that to the world, but of course there's no reason why you out there in blog land shouldn't know.

Now let me transition back to today’s walk. It rained, well, duh!! But mostly no more than the occasional drizzle, sometimes slightly heavier, and even if it had been a lot heavier that wouldn't have mattered all that much. The actual rain is fairly inconsequential; it's what happens underfoot which plays a bigger part. So today was all round fairly benign.

We are tonight in Silleda, and the local tourist department gives the following insight into some of the history of the path we've been following.

Known as the Via da Prata, in the Galician section, we should really call it, the southeastern or Mozarabic way, being an extension of the Roman road of the same name, Via da Prata, which linked Emerita Augusta (Mérida) with Asturica Augusta (Astorga), crossing from south to north the western peninsula. This road was laid out in the Christian era by making use of existing paths as befits the practical spirit of the Romans.

In the early Middle Ages this route was kept alive, first in the Visigoth era and then under Islamic rule. The term Vía da Prata, derives precisely from the original Arabic etymological sense ‘Bal’atta’ that Muslims appointed to the wide, solid and cobbled road that headed to the Christian north. The name Via da Prata does not refer to anything related to the trade in precious metals.

In the late Middle Ages, it was re-Christianised by the Mozarabic Andalusís who pilgrimaged to Santiago with greater ease after the conquest of Sevilla and Córdoba by Ferdinand III. From 1250 it was used by pilgrims from Andalucia and Extremadura. Some continued to Astorga, connecting with the Camiño Francés and others took the detour at Puebla de Sanabria-A-Cea Gudiña-Laza/Verín-Ourense- Dozón-Silleda-A Bandeira-Ponte Ulla-Santiago, this being the reason why some people call it the Camiño Sanabrés.

I find the almost interchangeable use of the Via de la Plata/Sanabrés/Mozarabic/Via da Prata descriptions interesting. I've usually simply said that we're walking the VDLP, knowing that that also includes the name the Sanabrés and sometimes the Mozarabic, but I'd not incorporated the Via da Prata into that set. Indeed, until reading the above, whenever I'd seen the Via da Prata label I'd assumed that it was simply the Galician language description of the VDLP. I'll assume that Turismo Silleda and the Concello de Silleda who authored the above have researched their facts and the derivative Bal’atta from the Arabic is correct. If so, the Plata from VDLP, very commonly accepted as coming from the Spanish for silver, may not be accurate. I guess someone more knowledgeable than me in these matters may be able to cast some light.

Coincidentally I saw this earlier today just outside the village of Botos.

We had to go cross-country at one stage.

Some of today's paths were lovely.

I'm astounded at some of these. The embankments on either side can be up to 3m high. I wonder whether the banks have been build up over the years (they don't appear to be as often they're level with the surrounding paddocks), which leads me to ponder that perhaps some of these paths have been worn down over the millenia by all manner of traffic, human and beast. Who knows?

A very well maintained horreo in an equally well kept property.

A stream selfie; we hadn't had one for a couple of days

Under 50klms to go

At one point we eschewed the muddy Camino for the N-525. At that point, by road we were less than a marathon's distance into SdC.

At the entrance to Silleda is the statue La Muller Labrega (The Farm Woman), honoring the work of the old/traditional women of the district. Janet's comment - she looks like a drama queen like me!!

Apart from our decision, little to report today. Staying in a nice pub on the edge of town. Following is a view of the rolling Galician hills from the window.

Second last day tomorrow. A relatively modest 20 klms. Once again, no predictions ...

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Tania Herbert
Tania Herbert
Nov 08, 2023

Congratulations San and Jan ! You made it - safe, sound and fitter! Thank you for sharing your journey in words and photographs.

As you said Peter, the 2nd or 3rd of anything isn't quite like the first.

The place of arrival, in this case, hasn't necessarily changed.

However, your journey to get there was quite different to the first. And that is where I think the gold is. The path is the goal.

God bless. It is Santiago 'Saint James', of the Field os Stars, who welcomes you and Jan home 💛 Buen Camino ❤️


Danielle Beckwith
Danielle Beckwith
Nov 07, 2023

How does one get inside the Horreo ? Hmm a wise decision not to do any lengthy walks - until you do 😆. You are both AMAZING - especially as J doesn’t ‘do’ winter. Xx


Nov 06, 2023

Hi Peter and Janet! Great to read about your thoughts and experiences. It is your Camino and yours alone! It has been seriously challenging on the VDLP first due to heat, then the incessant rain, wind and storms indeed, adding to what is a challenging, superlong Camino in the first place. And we've all grown and gotten wiser along it, one way or the other. And that, most likely, translates differently into each of our lives. A huge congrats on completing the journey, with humour, creativity and positivity along the way, and taking so much time to share your insights, thoughts, and so much background info with us. Appreciated! And it was a pleasure meeting you guys! Ps. I mad…

Nov 07, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for your warm message Annalies. It was lovely to have met you, and I will long remember our first interaction at the Orange tienda in Salamanca with a smile.

If you're ever heading over to the West please be in touch.

Buen Camino/safe travels to you ...


Tania Herbert
Tania Herbert
Nov 06, 2023

You are nearly there....what a journey!

Buen Camino 😊🚶🚶🏻‍♀️


Nov 06, 2023

Yes, the weather is the biggest challenge, and is definitely shaping our plans for next year. here’s a pic when we were on the Camino in Galicia in July 2018 . It rained for days, just not as cold as you are 😢 we were not pilgrims, just happened to got through SdC on the way from Porto to San Sebastián.

I still remember the eager look of peligros as they strode in on their last day.

BTW 400km on foot is still substantial!

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