A decision must be made. We have been hiking for 23 days (including 2 zero days) and have reached the half way point; about 408.7 km/253 miles. The problem; we only have 22 days left before we have to set up for our Madrid flight home. So, we can walk faster; not a likely option even though John and I are more able to bang out a 20+km day with less pain and complaining than in our first weeks.
We can walk two more days and then take a bus through the major industrial town of Leon, thereby avoiding a traffic, noise, industry intensive walk of almost two days.
Or by good fortune, we are in a town that has a train direct to Leon, cutting off two days of walking in a swift 41 minutes or, we can even take a train, skip Leon, and go to Astorga, thereby gaining 4 to 5 days. Extra days to spend on leisurely days; days in Ponferrada hanging out with my brother and his friend, Bruno; days spent walking from Santiago to the “end of the world” Finisterre. These are the decisions modern day pilgrim can make.
I have a hiking guru, who gives me amazing advice on the beauty of walking. Coincidentally, I received some of that advice just yesterday…really lovely and insightful.
“Don’t get demoralized by the trash-strewn outskirts of towns, by the strip malls and poorly executed housing developments, or by the endless walks along roaring highways. Walking across a country isn’t about going for a stroll in a lovely park, or making a trip to a pristine alpine area- you are in the process of learning a landscape. Landscapes are not there for you to render judgement. As a walker, you need not decide how pleasant or unpleasant your surroundings are. You are on the move, these are just places you move through. Forested lane, busy street, rocky underpass, trashy creek, and quiet bluff- the long distance walker is given the blessing of connectivity. Only you will know what holds the country together. An understanding of connectivity is denied to those chums in cars with their paltry destinations and attractions. You the walker hold the knowledge of knowing what land is- it is something that you, you in your very own body, can move through.
Maybe you are tired of hearing about blessings and sacredness. But to me, walking is sacred. It will give you everything you need. The thoughts that matter only come when I am walking.
There is no point in complaining. No one is listening to you. Just keep going.”
So, at this crucial juncture, this difficult pilgrim decision, what would my walking guru say? -k