Camino del Norte Day 23: Don’t get cocky

Climbing those hills
Climbing those hills

October 23, 2015

Soto de Luiña to Cadavedo: 14 miles

Downhill from here?

When we started this morning, we were feeling pretty confident.  We were tired from yesterday’s monster walk but knew that, at twelve miles, today would be “short.”  We marveled at the fact that our perspective had changed so much that we considered twelve miles to be a short day.  In the morning before we started, I had visions of sitting at a cafe sipping tea and writing blog posts all afternoon after rolling into Cadavedo around lunch.  Easy peasy.

We were so unconcerned that we had a leisurely start, sleeping in a little and having breakfast at a cafe.

And when we started, we felt strong.  The path today was also extra beautiful; the trail mixed it up and gave us a little bit of everything: green pastures, small quiet villages, forest walks, and periodic beach views.  We were both feeling happy to be alive and to have the privilege of hiking the Camino.

Not a bad place to live and work.
Lovely, lovely view from an overlook.
More farmland and coastline
Making a new friend

And then we hit that first hill.  Damn.  It was hard.  But we managed to reach the top and told ourselves that we just had to get warmed up.

Then the hills starting coming more frequently.  We were going through coastal mountains, one after the other, and we would barely finish one descent before it seemed like another uphill climb lay in front of us.  We were much more tired than we realized.  My legs were screaming during each ascent, and we got slower and slower with each hill.  I can only describe the way we were walking as “trudging.”  Begrudgingly trudging up those hills.  We only had 12 miles to cover today and yet by 1:00 we’d barely done half of that.

It was then that all the positive mojo we’d generated yesterday was starting to fade.

The annoying, whiny voice in my head, the one that had plagued me during the first weeks of the hike, started going into overdrive.  I found it saying things like, “This is so unfair,” and “Why is the universe so cruel?” and “Why can’t these Camino people get this trail right?”  It seemed truly unfair that the second part of the trail, when we were most tired, was nothing but damned hills.  My mind was cursing the people who determined the path of the trail.  Have some compassion, please.

Dale was still managing to hold onto the positive attitude that he had recovered yesterday, yet he still complained that the hills were kicking his ass.

At one point we came to the train station and had an overwhelming desire to take one to Cadavedo.  We even checked the times.  The train didn’t come for another three hours, but we considered waiting for it.

But then something kicked in, a desire to be true to ourselves and to the goals that we had started with and then recommitted to in the past few days.  This was a true moment of growth for us both, where we grew stronger, not physically–physically we were being pulverized by the trail–but mentally.  We started to be true to ourselves.

And we acknowledged the following: we’re here because we want to be here.  We chose this path, with all of its joys and hardships, and we should therefore be true to the path rather than taking a train just to avoid a few miles of physical challenges.  It’s easy to take shortcuts in life, even if it means waiting an inordinately long time for a train.  But in the end what good does that do us?  What do we learn?  How do we grow?  The answer is, we don’t.

So we decided against taking the train.  We’d started this mess; no matter what, we would finish it.

The ALSA bus is one of Spain’s local and regional bus lines. At one point we joked that we could take public transportation from town to town instead of walking and then write a guidebook, ‘Camino de Santiago by Bus.”

Lessons the Camino is teaching us

It’s funny how these same lessons keep coming up over and over.  The Camino is supposed to be a transformative experience, but so far it’s been more like a teacher who has to review the same material over and over. Just when we think we’ve mastered the trail and what it takes to get to Santiago, it humbles us.  But it’s good to be reminded of the lessons over and over again; isn’t that how humans learn, through repetition?  The lessons we again faced today were:

  • Don’t get cocky.  Be humble.
  • You reap what you sow. We asked for this, just like we ask for so many things in life, and it does us no good to pout or complain when things get tough.  Complaining doesn’t get you from Point A to Point B; it only makes the trip more miserable.
  • Don’t take short cuts.  That’s true of so many things in life.  We ask for a particular job or possession or mate or circumstance, and yet when things get difficult or don’t go the way we want them to go, it’s often too easy to find a train that will take us right out of the situation, but at the cost of not reaping the benefits of perseverance.
  • Quit having expectations.  We expected the trail to be easy, and when it wasn’t, it almost derailed us.

I’m proud of us.  We sucked it up and finished the hike, even taking a side trip at the end of the day to the Regalina Hermitage, which offered sweeping views of the ocean but also added 2 miles to our hike.  It’s not because we suddenly felt better—my feet were rebelling and I could barely walk, and Dale was just plain exhausted—but we added the side trip because it was something special, offering expansive views of the coastline, and that’s why we’re here, to experience amazing things.  And sometimes you don’t get to the amazing part until you’ve gotten through the hard stuff.

The cute little hermitage with the million dollar views
The historic Regalina Hermitage, which offers million dollar views
View from the hermitage
View from the hermitage
Wonder Woman! (except my cape is my towel, drying on my backpack.
Wonder Woman! (except my cape was my towel, drying on my backpack).

We’ve written a lot about Camino del Norte!  Read more of our Camino blog posts here.