Day 16 – San Nicolas – Reliegos 42.1km
I woke feeling sensitive but keen to walk. I ate a banana and bread for energy and had lots of electrolytes.
I took my time, careful not to overdo things. The guys were happy to walk at my pace as Dave still had blisters and Aaron wasn’t feeling too crash hot after his upset tummy too. We stopped at the cafe first where I bought some more plain food and more electrolytes to settle my tummy. I ran into Sandra who told me she’d also been sick. It seemed that there was a bad virus going around. Although not as bad as the day before, I still had to stop a few times along the way and it wasn’t pretty.
When we arrived in Calzadilla my body felt tired and started to cramp. We rested and I took more electrolytes. I looked at the guide book that Llew had lent me. He’d written notes throughout it and I felt a little overwhelmed when I saw he’d written, ‘LONGEST day ever’ at this stage of the trip. I felt tired but I knew the guys wanted to continue. They’d stopped to support me so I felt I owed it to them to continue on. I told myself that it was only 20km, that it was flat and that we would reach our destination in four hours. Easy…
I was wrong. About 5km down the road, my right glute started cramping, so badly that I had to stop to stretch it out. At this point, the guys were out of sight. It was the last Roman road in Spain and it was long, rocky and hot. There were no trees and no shade to rest in. I felt sick and in pain. I cried and cried and cried. The tears were flowing down my face and every heartbreak and every emotion came flooding over me.
After another hour of limping, I saw Aaron in the distance. He was sitting on the side of the road. He was struggling with walking on the rocks and his feet were hurting badly. We rested together. I felt frustrated, in pain and full of self-doubt. I actually wanted to give up. At one point, I lied in the fetal position in tears and felt that I could just stay there and sleep. After a while, Aaron told me to harden up and convinced me with his motivating words to get up and continue on.
I was so desperate to get to the next village that I kept thinking I could see it in the distance. At one point, Aaron called out that he could see it ahead. As we got closer though we realised it wasn’t. It was just a bloody tree. I was so mad I wanted to punch Aaron but I didn’t have the energy to. I couldn’t even talk back which was unusual for me!
Thankfully Aaron kept motivating me… just a little further, another hour, another hour. It was like I had my own Anthony Robins with me. Still, the sun was starting to set and I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long. I knew the distance and it had been flat. Well, I thought I’d known. It turns out that we had taken the long route which was an extra 5km. I later learned that not many pilgrims take the Roman road because it is so awful.
I felt immense relief as the village Reliegos appeared in the distance at 7:30pm. For real this time! The tears started pouring out, I cried like a baby. I went into panic mode, total drama princess style. As we came into the village, Dave and an older Spanish man came running towards us. The Spanish man kept saying, ‘Relajarse! Relajarse!’ meaning, ‘relax, relax’. I had a choice to go to a private albergue or to the municipal. I chose to go to the municipal with the Spanish man as he seemed so caring and made me feel safe. The municipal was old and dirty with marks all over the mattresses but I didn’t care. I even laid my head on the pillow without putting my sleeping bad liner over it first… yuck.
Dave stayed with me for a bit and made sure I had plenty of water and Hydra drinks. He’d been organising a car to come searching for us before we arrived. He knew that Aaron and I would have been struggling with the walk. We all struggled. It was a huge day – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Once I’d had a shower and calmed down I spoke to my family at home to let them know I was okay. I went straight to bed in the hope that I would be feeling better in the morning. My tummy was so sore. I felt exhausted and frustrated with myself.
Awareness Gained Along The Way
I realised that I was still being stubborn and not listening to my body. The universe was getting my attention and making me realise that I’m not as invincible or as strong as I think. It really hurt my ego.
I also need some motivation at times. The nature of my job has me motivating others all the time and it felt amazing to be on the receiving end.
Being at my lowest point physically brought up emotions that I hadn’t felt in years. The tears were a result of letting go of a lot of pain from the past.
I need to be more conscious of signs. The guide book was a warning. Instead of taking it on board, I mistakenly challenged it.
Day 13 Castro Jeriz – Villarmentero – 35.1km
I started walking in the dark just after 7am. It was a little scary on my own but also amazing. I loved that the walk went straight up a massive hill. I loved the burn in my legs. I was curious about what I’d find at the top and loved the feeling of the sun coming up.
I could see two people in the distance and by the time I reached the top I had caught up with them. It was Aaron and Dave. I was happy to see them. We caught out breath as we took in the amazing view. It was the start of The Meseta and everything looked so dry. I’d heard a lot of talk about the Meseta. Apparently a lot of people skip this part of the walk, saying that’s boring – too dry and flat. I personally was excited to experience it myself.
We spread out as we continued down the hill at our own pace. Aaron and Dave both had their ipods in and I thought I would try some meditation. Walking and meditating – totally my style of meditation. It felt like a full body cleanse, absolutely amazing. It felt good to breathe deeply and, although I’d still had a running nose in the morning, I felt like I was finally kicking the cold/virus that I’d had. I could feel my strong self returning.
I had so many laughs with the guys along the way. Aaron was an amazing rapper. I love rap and sometimes I think I make a great little hip hop dancer when I want to so it was fun walking with this really cool guy. He had the hand movements and all.
We called into a great albergue along at way at Boadilla that had a pool and delicious food. The guy made us whatever we asked for. If it wasn’t so early in the walk we would have stayed there for sure. Soon after we were joined on our walk by some rather unusual pilgrims. A herd of sheep sped past us, lightening the atmosphere and having us in stitches. It was an awesome feeling.
The last 15km was very flat and long, it seemed never-ending. We were all so happy to reach Villarmentero. There was only one albergue and it had a real hippy feel to it. I had tepee tents and an open paddock. Before picking out our beds, we enjoyed a delicious Malibu and pineapple juice. OMG it was amazing. Dave is a chef so he decided to cook us up a storm for dinner. I used the time before dinner to chill out, washing my clothes, reading my book and writing in my diary.
After dinner, just as the sun was going down, I turned my phone on and I had messages from my mum, my ex and my brother. To my surprise my mum called at that moment. She hadn’t called yet, only messaged. When I answered, I immediately knew that something was wrong. She told me that my Dad had had a mild heart heart, that he’d just had surgery and that he’d be okay. I later learned that it was actually a major heart attack and that my mum had chosen not to tell me and worry me with this. I was so shocked. Tears instantly came out. I was so confused I had to ask if she meant her dad or my dad. I knew that my Pop was unwell so I thought that she might have meant him. I couldn’t believe it when she said, “your dad”. I cried so hard. My dad is invincible. An amazingly, strong man. The only man in my life who has never let me down. And as cliche as it sounds, my Dad is my hero.
This was just so unexpected. I immediately started wondering how long it would take me to walk to the next village… I was already 60km out of Burgos and 100km away from Leon – the only two places I could get a train from to the airport. I told mum that I’d come home but she told me to stay, reassuring me that Dad would be okay. She told me that he was going to stop smoking and look after his health. I trusted her and felt for her. I knew mum was already struggling with her dad’s ill health and needed my dad to be strong for her. I am normally the one that tries to keep it together for the family and I worried about how she we cope with me not there.
The ladies in the room had heard me on the phone and they all hugged me and tried to reassure me that all would be okay. When I went outside the other pilgrims were sitting around a campfire. A talented Aussie was playing a little guitar and singing. It was magical. We all sat around, sharing dark chocolate and red wine, zoning out. I felt incredibly sad and helpless but also very grateful to have such loving, caring friends with me. Aaron and Dave already felt like family to me after just one day of walking together.
I went to bed and cried myself to sleep praying that everyone back home would be okay.
Awareness Gained Along The Way
All Hungarian men seem kind.
My family means everything to me.
I chose to look for the gift in the awful situation back home. My dad’s heart attack meant that he was going to live a healthier lifestyle free of smoking and mum was becoming stronger to handle the stressful situation without me there.
The positive experiences I was having on my journey were helping me to forget the pain I had been experiencing back home after my recent relationship breakup.