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.)

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

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