Saturday, June 06, 2009

Day 6 - Estella - Sunday, 26 April 2009

Puente la Reina -> Estella = 22.4K (656.6K to go!)

I slog through thick mud as I climb up a steep hill, only to face another muddy challenge.

As I walk, I make mental lists of all the things I am grateful for. I sing all the inspiring Christian Science hymns and reflect on all the healing truths I've learned.

The rain is intermittent, the day is cold. And my knee aches. I struggle to keep up with my delightful walking companions.

I remain cheerful and pleasant. I absorb the beautiful countryside around me and stay engaged, but it is a struggle today.

This is a character-building experience. A spiritual being having a very physical experience.

I walk on the dirt path past vineyards, olive trees, and fresh green grains springing up to the sky. There are fields of asparagus. I pass through the medieval village of Ciruqui. The name makes me laugh a nervous laugh - in Basque it means "nest of vipers". The paths are actually covered with large black slugs and many snails. I am grateful to find no real vipers along the path.

I continue soldiering on past cypress trees that flank a 2,000 year old Roman bridge. I recall reading a horror-story extracted from an old pilgrims guide that tells of some French pilgrims who met their death and lost their horses in a violent incident when some wicked Navarese men tricked them. Blood and gore - not a happy tale.

Later in the day, I give my 2 young friends "permission" to simply move on. I walk on alone. I walk very slowly down the steps, over the wooden bridge and down the long last slope into Estella. My knee hurts. I weep a bit. I feel old and broken. I weep as I walk down the mountain.

At the albergue in Estella, I am grateful to find a bed and I am grateful to find a pair of English-speaking angels who share a pilgrim meal with me. My spirits lift over a meal and conversation. The 3 of us share common histories of military careers and working with students (13-18) in leadership and development programs. We sip wine and I almost forget my aching knee.

The sun comes out on the walk back to the albergue.

I am grateful that tomorrow will be another day.

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