Day 3. One banana

June 6, 2013

Cornellana to Bodenaya

Distance: 19 kilometers

Steps: 25,685

Stairs equivalent: 96 flights

Agony level: 8

The fog closed in.

Today was hard, just plain hard!

There was a climb immediately after leaving the monastery, but then the route settled down and was comfortable. Fooler.

I stopped at a cafe in Salas for a small lunch before starting what my guide indicated said would be a challenging climb. Several of us squeezed around a small table on the sidewalk, one guy actually had his chair in the street. It didn’t matter much because we were at the end of the road and there was little traffic.

Going inside to pay, I left my money on the counter. The woman behind the bar called me back, and when I turned she handed me a banana. “Peregrina”, she said, “Eat this in one hour. Buen Camino.” I thanked her, jammed the banana in the extra bottle pocket on my pack, made my farewells to the people at my table and hit the trail.

There were eight kilometers to the next albergue and a shower. The first kilometer was a pleasant, gentle climb. I enjoyed the scenery, the ancient bridges, the abundant wildflowers. Then suddenly the trail rose to meet me. So much for that Irish blessing about the trail rising to meet you and the wind always at your back!

This trail rose in a way that made me feel I could scrape my nose on it. It was muddy and rocky, and climbed and climbed and climbed, never leveling out. I reached what felt like my physical limit and found a rock to sit on while I caught my breath and pondered the situation. I put my pack on the ground and noticed the banana in the outside pocket. Remembering the instructiction from the woman in the cafe, I glanced at my watch. An hour had passed since leaving Salas. That barmaid knew perfectly what I needed and when I needed it.

I continued climbing feeling the effort in every muscle. How could anyone make a trail that had no level spots!  The Camino Primitivo is the original route to Santiago and I felt sorry for the many pilgrims who had climbed this mountain with poor shoes, little in the way of comfortable clothing and not much food to speak of. You can be sure they didn’t have a banana.

Near the top of the mountain the trail joined a  narrow road that cut through cow pastures. The fog closed in blotting out anything more than fifty feet away.

And so it went until a couple of farmhouses appeared. Then an intersection came out of the fog (more like the crossing of a cow path and a tractor road) and the road leveled out. In another hundred feet was an old church, beyond that I spotted the albergue and stumbled in.  The place is funky and we are crammed cheek by jowl, but the camaraderie is wonderful. This is a very popular albergue. At the moment the hospitalero is busy preparing dinner for everyone and in the morning he will wake us with quiet music and the smell of coffee and breakfast.

Now that I’m a little bit rested I can look back on this day’s hike and feel pleased to have met the challenge.

I’m also hugely grateful to the lady that gave me the banana. Her timing couldn’t have been better. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one who benefitted from her kindness.