17.7 kilometers – Slightly more than 11 miles.
Some miles are easy. Some are tough. Today was tough–much tougher than yesterday.
The first three kilometers from Zariquiegui included a rise to over 2,000 feet–the highest point on the Camino de Santiago for the next 150 miles.
That kind of climb over a short distance meant one thing–we were going up at a terrible pitch. The trail was mostly loose stone over hard packed trail–walked by thousands of pilgrims over eight or nine centuries.
Needless to say, these two pilgrims took a lot of breaks on the way up. We told each other we were admiring the landscape, but we knew that each of us was looking for an excuse to stop to catch our breath.
This climb on the Camino results in pilgrims reaching what is named Alto de Pardon–“Peak of Forgiveness” translated in English.
Lore states that pilgrims who make this climb are foregiven of all sins if they reach the peak, even if they do no reach Santiago. Needless to say, Jackie and I are now as pure as we have been in a while.
The Foutain and Todd’s Stone
It is traditional for pilgrims to carry stones on the Camino to signify family members whom they wish God to bless, along the Camino. There are many, many small shrines and important Camino sites upon which these stones can be left.
Today, Jackie left the first of our stones in honor of her son, Todd.
It’s location was significant.
Nearing the Alto de Pardon is a special water fountain that is important in Camino lore.
Here is the story:
A lonely and spiritually devout Pilgrim travelling the Camino, thirsty and exhausted from his walk was confronted by a fellow traveller, which turned out to be the Devil in disguise. The Devil offered to show the Pilgrim a hidden source of water but only on the condition that he renounced God, the Virgin Mary and St James.
The Pilgrim held steadfast to his faith, and even though it could have meant dying of thirst, he refused to do what this man asked.
At that moment St James, also disguised as a Pilgrim, appeared and led the thirsty and exhausted man to the hidden fountain, and using a scallop shell, provided the traveller with water to quench his thirst.
That is the lore, and it is where Jackie left a stone, painted white, with Todd’s name written on it.
Cool stuff-it’s magical.
Alto de Pardon
A twenty minute climb from the fountain, we reached the Alto de Pardon.
At the top of this peak is a metal sculpture dedicated to the pilgrims on their way to Santiago.
An inscription on the sculpture in Spanish says this is “where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars.”
The wind was higher at this peak, and after sweating our the long trek to the top, we reveled in the cool breeze.
During our rest, we met Anne and Carolyn from Sydney, Australia. We and they took turns taking photographs of each other. It was very touristy.
From the Peak of Foregivene.ss to Puente la Reina
Descending from the peak, after a 20 minute break, was steep and treacherous. Thankfully we had walking poles. It was slow going–watching every step.
When we eventually passed Anne and Carolyn, we laughed as we told them that they were the first piilgrims that we had passed as we walked.
Jackie had laughed earlier in the day when she told Jim how many pilgrims had passed us along the way. “All of them,” she joked. She was right.
On the route down, we stopped twice at bars for water and Diet Coke. The first stop at Uterga was a pilgrim mecca. We saw Anne and Carolyn, and had lunch with Darrell and Arla from Victoria, British Columbia,-celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary on the Camino.
There were cool shrines along the way. A shrine to the Virgin Mar appeared out of nowhere, along with a small cross hosting hundreds of pilgrim’s bracelets.
Our stop 30 minutes later in Obanos was a serious one, though.
Jackie was overheating–the day’s temperature hit 88 degrees–and she was melting.
We stopped. She drank a lot of water and coke and more water. Even a double espresso. Then, after a 40 minute break, she led our two member march down the path to Puente la Reina.
At the same time, Jim managed to choke down tapas of green olives, fresh sardines and onion–Good stuff!!
And it was just in time, because by our arrival, Jim was panting and puffing with a backpack that was too heavy.
Later, at Dinner, Jackie treated Jim like the invalid he had become. His sore neck muscles, from the strain of the unfamiliar pack, left him with dinosaur arms. His reach was about 15 inches from his body, and Jackie could not stop laughing at her nearly useless husband.
We know that tomorrow will be slightly longer than today, but should include far less climbing and descending. We’re loving…..and hating this.