Day 21: Walking through fear.

Just the facts
Day 21: Villafranca del Bierzo to O’Cebreiro
Distance: 20 miles / 32 km
Time: 7 hours
Total to date: 389 miles / 627 km
Aches and pains: Minimal.
Mean dogs: 3

Long before leaving home I had become quite fearful of the climb to O’Cebreiro. It’s a 30 km uphill hike that is adjusted to 36 km because of the elevation gain. If I hadn’t looked at the elevation map (again!) I wouldn’t have been so worried.

Last night I went to bed very early and was quickly fast asleep mostly because I was thoroughly exhausted from the day’s hike.

My phone chirped at 4:30, By 5:00 I was off with fingers crossed that I could find my way in the dark.

Forgotten childhood memories found their way into my mind. In particular, I recalled a game I played with myself at about age nine. I would slip out of the house at night, and pretending to be Mingo, Daniel Boone’s sidekick, I would run the trails in our woods. Barefoot and relying on memory and the smoothness of the well worn path, I would run, not walk, along a certain trail to its end. If I had a misstep and strayed from the path the game was over and I would go home to try again another night.

Now I was walking a new, unfamiliar trail. A misstep would cost me dearly as I would have to retrace my steps and correct the uphill route using precious energy. Finding yellow arrows in the dark is almost impossible so I had done my best to commit the map to memory.

With dawn came confidence, and error. Not big, but big enough to be annoying. I corrected and paid closer attention. Continuing to climb, the trail crossed into Galicia, and by noon I had downed a liter of Aquarius Limon at a cafe in O’Cebreiro.

The climb was work and I broke a serious sweat, pausing occasionally to slow my heartbeat, but today’s hike was far easier than the agony of yesterday. Go figure.

In the future, I need remember to check my fear at the door.

(No wifi (pronounced wee-fee) here. Challenging post via iPhone. As I stand in the churchyard reaching out for a cell signal others are wandering up doing the same.)

The climb on this stage was reported to be especially tough.

In reality, this stage was much more difficult for me than O’Cebreiro.