On Day 5 I had to get started multiple times, and my body kept giving me fits!
The morning began in a fairly unexpected way. I was awakened by some kind of sound, and I got annoyed at whoever so rudely had their phone alarm turned on so loud.
As I started to come out of my sleep/wake haze I realized the noise was actually coming out of the speaker in the room. Then I realized it was Bob Marley!
The night before the manager asked what time everyone was getting up in the morning, and we said about 6:30. So he woke us up and got us going by piping in a Bob Marley playlist. The six of us in the room all got ready together, which was kind of cool.
At breakfast we all talked about the Cruz de Ferro, or Iron Cross, which is a major landmark on the Camino Frances and the next point you hit after Foncebadón.
The tradition at the Cruz de Ferro is to leave a rock at the base of the cross symbolizing your journey, a prayer, or what you hope to gain from the Camino. Many people bring a rock from home, which I didn’t do, so I picked up a rock in front of the albergue.
Once again all of the clothes I washed the day before had not dried overnight, so I hooked the damp items on my backpack and head out.
As I made my way out of Foncebadón my right hip started hurting. I chalked it up to just getting started in the morning and hoped that as I kept walking and warmed up it would feel better.
As I continued on the pain persisted. I tried to keep walking, but I thought that might be a bad idea. I didn’t want to make things worse.
It felt like something muscular, so I thought I needed to stretch. There were a few stretches I wanted to try, and I thought if I turned around and went back to the albergue I could spread out on the floor there.
I’ve already had issues with my hips and knees, so as much as I wanted to get to the Cruz de Ferro early in the morning I knew I should go back.
I went back to the albergue walking in the opposite direction of everyone else. The manager of the albergue was surprised to see me back, but he let me let me in so I could go through my stretches.
After stretching out my hips and legs I started walking again about an hour after my initial attempt. This time it felt like my hip started to improve little by little as I proceeded.
The Cruz de Ferro served as a beacon, and it was amazing to finally see it as I arrived.
There were some people there, but it wasn’t crowded.
It’s amazing to see how tall the rocks have piled up over the years.
I left my rock at the cross in the spirit of letting go. Letting go of things physically and mentally.
Letting go also meant letting go of my rampant perfectionism and a need for things to be “just so.” To let go and realize that things are really okay as they are.
I didn’t get to the cross at the time I initially wanted and that is okay. I may not have a plan for what’s next in my life, and that is okay.
I spent a while sitting there by the cross just being before I continued my walk.
After la Cruz de Ferro the path takes you up to Alto Mayor, the highest point of the Camino Frances. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the sun was shining, but it was a challenging, tiring uphill walk.
As I got closer to the peak I was really hoping for a place to sit for a minute. Please let there be a bench or something up there.
What I got was even better. Up on the top of this mountain was a mobile café with chairs AND umbrellas! Praises!
A guy named Cenci owns the café, and I was so grateful for him and his presence at the top of the mountain. I got a bocadillo de jamón, banana, and water and took a much-needed break.
As I was enjoying my siesta Gary and Lou came over the peak and joined me.
“You look like the most relaxed person on the Camino,” Gary said.
At that point I felt like it.
After I was refreshed I got up to continue walking, this time down the mountain.
When I was planning for the Camino and thinking of doing it in May I was told that one advantage is that the wildflowers would be in bloom. That was coming to fruition, and I got quite a show on the mountain. The yellows and purples were beautiful.
The scenery was so awe-inspiring. I was grateful to be in this place.
The Friends of the Camino in León marked on my Camino diagram that I should be careful along this stretch. They said more people hurt themselves coming down the mountain than going up. During my descent I could see why.
As I walked down I started feeling pain again in my hip but now also in my knees. I was going slow to try to take my time as other women sped past me bounding down the mountain.
My initial plan for the day was to try to get to Molinaseca, but as my discomfort intensified I wondered if I should stop in the next town, El Acebo.
As I was gingerly walking I came across Yannick from Quebec and Rick from Los Angeles. Rick was filming his Camino experience and asking pilgrims to describe their Camino in three words. The three words I gave him were Intense, Inspiring, Challenging.
As my legs were starting to feel worse it was so nice to encounter Yannick and Rick’s positive energy.
When I got into El Acebo I saw a bunch of people I knew: Gary, Lou, and others. They were all taking a breather before walking farther.
Based on how my body was feeling I thought that perhaps I should just stop here in El Acebo for the day.
But it was only 1:00, and there was still time to go further. And I had only walked 11 km. I’d done more than that on previous days.
The more I thought about it though the more appealing it sounded to have a chill afternoon. For the last couple of days I’d seen signs for a new albergue in El Acebo. It looked nice but too bad I’m not stopping in that town, I thought. Well here I was. I could take the rest of the day to enjoy myself.
So I checked into Albergue La Casa del Peregrino and had a brilliant afternoon. I washed all of the clothes in my backpack and EVERYTHING DRIED BEFORE THE SUN WENT DOWN! I can’t overstate how exciting this was.
I took the most refreshing shower. I had vino and wrote in my journal. I just sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and mountain views. That afternoon was exactly what I needed.
Plus! There was a guy who wound up sharing my room whom I met at a Charlotte Camino Pilgrims meeting. What are the odds that we would end up in the same place just because of my hip and knee pain? The world is so tiny and just keeps on shrinking.
While I was in physical pain Day 5 was one of my better days on the Camino. I started to learn how to listen to my body and take care of myself, and that is priceless.