Understandably sore, from the accumulating physical toll, our morning mental fog would surrender by breakfast’s end to another glorious day. Weather has a measurable effect on the spirit, and we remain blessed thus far to be uplifted by the inviting warmth of the sun. Also feeling the proverbial burn, the team coordinated a morning stretch before resuming our Way.
Driven by endeavor, today’s walk would be our second of four consecutive half marathons (22.8km to be precise), from Palas de Rei to Castañeda. While an indisputable challenge, success would mean that our destination of Santiago de Compostela would go from a distant dream to a tantalizing reality, leaving us 46.5 kilometers away and two days to get there.
Undoubtedly, the Camino de Santiago has a defined target on which pilgrims are singularly focused. However, the journey — that is the process — is often the most satisfying and revelatory part of any trek. To say the least, there’s a lot to be learned along The Way. In Quaker terms, eventually the way really does open. In our case, The Way has been opening. For example, the mundane seems exceptional in the wake of our long walks, food tastes better, a smile warms more, kindness is precious, a shower heals, rest is a reward, and sleep’s a gift. Virtues like gratitude and humility rise to the surface, just as perspective becomes clearer.
Among the rolling green landscape of the lush Galician countryside, dotted with farms, stonewalls, and tiny Romanesque churches, lies the town of Melide, renowned in foodie circles for two very different culinary treats: octopus and the famed, tiny, green Pimientos del Padrón. As the saying goes, when in Melide… With a spirit of adventure, it was wonderful to see so many students go from suspect to aficionado in their first reluctant bites of each.
In Melide, the main branch of the Camino Primitivo — the earliest of all the pilgrimage routes, coming from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela — merges with our route, the Camino Francés. Understandably, the closer we get to Santiago de Compostela, the more pilgrims we encounter and the more friends we reconnect with, leapfrogging one another at our respective rest stops and, in many cases, staying at the same albergues and hostels. Not all of us are on Intersession, but we are all on our Way.
The Camino teaches the valuable lesson that appreciation requires perspective. In order to really appreciate comfort, it helps to really experience discomfort. Our reward for today’s toll was being the exclusive guests at Pazo de Sedor, a seventeenth-century manor house founded by Francisco González do Vilar, in the town of Castañeda. This traditional Galician noble house has been restored to perfection, from its singular balcony that runs the full length of the building, and crowned by a large Baroque chimney, to a spectacularly grand, stone, main staircase and “lareira” with its enormous fireplace and two wood ovens.
May tonight bring sweet dreams, as tomorrow will see us working our angels overtime. As we reflected together last night, “coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” Onward, together.