Vía de la Plata – Day 25: Requejo de Sanabria to A Gudiña

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43 kilometers, 9 hours and 15 minutes. Over the highest point of the VDLP and through Lubián, Vilavella, O Pereiro, and O Cañizo. There were some detours because of construction on the new high-speed rail system.

Another Fine Day of Beauty and Introspection

Just out of Requejo, on a wonderful path, there was a detour sign that took me back to the highway until I rose above a construction site for the new AVE high-speed rail line that would run from Madrid into Galicia. A nag, that. But, what ya gonna do?

This part of the VDLP was well and properly into the mountains bordering the autonomous community of Galicia. And it was stunningly beautiful. After so many kilometers of farm tracks, oak and cork forests, and tilled lands, it was a welcome experience for me to climb into the higher terrain.

I spent much of the day reflecting on the beauty, the long views and what it was I sought during that long walk. It had started the previous summer while I hiked the John Muir Trail in California. I would try to break a nagging habit of always needing to know what was next.

Throughout my professional career and my amateur athletics, I had always been controlled by that concept of what was next. I made a good living and funded a comfortable retirement with that focus. And I’ve been very happy with the results of my athletic endeavors. But I thought, It’s time to develop an ability to turn those mental machinations off when I want.

Walking a popular Camino route in Europe is pretty easy from a navigational perspective. Follow the yellow arrows and listen to the locals. That seemed simple enough; keep my head up and pay a little attention when I would come to a junction. But I continually looked for the path well ahead and depended on my map and GPX course on my smartphone. When I would remember, I endeavored to let go of those habits. So what if I was off course for a bit. I could find my way back on course, and I may have found something special, something rewarding on my detour.

For slideshow, click on imagine.

I would constantly think about what was next. What should I be doing, eating, drinking, or writing? I could break that habit, I thought. I could let the Camino provide. It would give me the arrows when I needed and would provide the intuition to know when I needed to ask or to look around for the proper route.

As I made my way over the high passes (highest at 1,361 meters, or 4,466 feet) and into Galicia, everything changed. The terrain changed, but also the language and the people. Signs had to be reconsidered. I had become quite good at interpreting Spanish signs, but Gallegos is more like Portuguese. I had to calibrate.

And the people were different—in a cool way. Much of the labor force that worked on the rail line was from all over Spain. But in this area, the sheepherders were pure Galician, a dark, weathered Galician masculinity. I passed one such man on my route that day as he moved his herd from one pasture to another, his stubby, smelly stogie protruding just beyond his lips. As I passed and said, “Buenas tardes (Good afternoon),” he gave a sharp grunt—the most I have ever received in reply from a Spanish sheepherder.

At the xunta (the Galician equivalent of a municipal) albergue (hostel), I found Fernando, Hiromi, and the young Spanish couple, who rode bikes on their Camino, I had met earlier in the day. I knew Hiromi only by her name that I had seen in registries at albergues in the previous days and weeks. She started in Seville about twelve days before I had.

The albergue was close to the train station, but it was quiet and nice. Warm, too.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €2 for breakfast, €5 for lunch, and €6 for dinner.