DAY 31: So Close, Yet So Far…
It was still dark when the four of us stepped out of the Albergue. The moon was still visible when I looked to the right, a fading silhouette against the grey sky. Passing through the silent streets of Lourenza; the colossal medieval styled church looming on our left, I began to tremble with excitement. After Lalika had injured his foot, we had made the executive decision to rest and recuperate in the seaside city of Ribadeo. Now after fully recharging, we were ready to resume our adventures on The Camino de Santiago del Norte.
The sun rose behind us in a beautiful pool of golden light, reflecting off the dark trunks of the Eucalyptus trees. We climbed out of civilisation’s cradle, chattering away as light flooded the world around us, joyful that we were back on the familiar path, with the trademark Camino shells guiding our way. Ahead of us in the distance, an army of wind turbines decimated the morning fog, their sleek white blades cutting through the haze.
Time floated past and we soon found ourselves entering the town of Mondoñedo, a town famous for its alluring, ancient cathedral and signature pumpkin and almond cake. We positioned ourselves perfectly in alignment with the 13th century cathedral and watched with interest as the town geared up for its local medieval festival. All around us villagers were dressed in gowns and armour, setting up wooden stalls for the celebrations that would commence later in the afternoon. A humungous cauldron of pork stew frothed, slowly cooking for lunch. The surrounding stalls began to smoke of Chorizo and Lomo, causing the medieval style tapestries and flags to wilt in the morning breeze.
As an avid student of medieval history, particularly medieval English history, it was a lovely surprise for me to find out that the polychrome statue in the high altar of the Mondoñedo Cathedral, called Nuestra Señora la Inglesa (the English Madonna) was rescued from St Paul’s Cathedral in London during the Protestant Reformation in the time of Henry VIII of England. I couldn’t help but smile at the medieval Easter Egg the Camino had seemingly gifted me, though my smile did unfortunately buffer when I tried Mondoñedo’s signature cake. To be completely honest, I am not a huge fan of the nutty pastry, glazed with candied green apples, but what I did love, what we all loved, were the piping hot, sugary Churros we purchased from a cherrywood stall and the energy it replenished us with. There is nothing like some good ol’ potato dough, deep fried and slathered in sugar to give you that extra energy rush. 😀
Truth be told, we needed all the strength we could get. The ascent out of Mondoñedo is categorised as one of the most difficult climbs on the entire Camino de Santiago del Norte. Mountain after mountain loomed in front of us, the sharp rocks that made up the steep path pressed through the worn soles of my shoes. While recuperating in Ribadeo, we had unfortunately fallen out of the daily Camino rhythms and routines our bodies had become so used to. Now being thrown back into the midst of it, without much warning to our bodies, on a 30 kilometre day, was not a pleasant sensation. In fact, I found myself having PTSD-like flashbacks to Day 1 when we had not only overpacked, but were also prey to the brutal Basque Mountains and hillsides. 😉
We pushed through, however, onwards and upwards in a constant tempo until the trees parted to an array of magnificent mountain top views. To our surprise, we found ourselves right next to the wind turbines we had seen 5 hours earlier, slicing the air, turning slowly in a symphonic motion, like the gears of a precision-crafted Swiss pocket watch. Leaving behind the mountain range, we entered into the phase of the final 3 kilometres.
I have said it before in previous entries that the last 3 kms of the day are always the toughest for us; the time when the pain seems to amplify, our feet seem to fill with lead and the road seems endless. It’s a trick; when your mind knows you’re within reach of your end destination, your feet turn sluggish, your thoughts become muddled and your bones feel as if they have begun melting in the sun. These moments are the definition of “So close, yet so far.” Yet they are also the metaphoric testament to overcoming the challenges of life that face us.
Everyone has dreams, wishes, goals they want to achieve in life. However, so many of us don’t even try to fulfil them, accepting meagre lives of discontent in their place. For those of us that do go out there and work hard towards achieving these goals and dreams, many fall short in that final 3 km. As they get closer, as they gain confidence, as they can see the pieces falling into place, they are dissuaded to stop, either by the seeming enormity of an obstacle, the judgement or criticism of a loved one, or peer pressure to conform. They are tempted to give up, not realising just how close to the end they are. More often than not, the finish line is just over the next hill. “So close yet so far…”
This is the time when we all have to dig deep, to transcend that barrier within our minds that tells us we are weak and limited. These last 3 kms are the metaphoric challenge for all humankind, calling to our everyday lives. It is a challenge where we must gather the mental, emotional and spiritual strength to master and overcome these final barriers and help each other through it.
I feel we are ever so close to realising the limiting illusions that project into our collective psyche. Even with all the perceived scarcities, disasters and tragedies our media are so willing to throw at us, we are close as a group of people to realising that we must have the courage and determination not only to face our fears, but most importantly to live our dreams without exception, in the authentic way we have intended. Today was an inspiration for me to share what I know and inspire others to walk their own last 3 kms with confidence in their personal journeys. In achieving your dreams you are not just fulfilling your own goals, you are creating a world in which we will all want to be a part of.
When I walked it, I didn’t consider completing the final 3k on Day 31 of the Camino as an achievement, but now, I can see just how profound an impact those last ninety minutes of the day’s walk had on my personal journey of achieving my dream of becoming a published author.
What I realised though, was that it doesn’t matter what your goal or dream or wish is. It’s a question of whether you will take that next step with confidence, whether you will ascend that next hill or cross the next valley, whether you will keep on walking even if you can’t see the checkered flag in the distance just yet… no matter what people say or do. That you’ll keep on going, because you know deep in your heart, in your head, in every fibre of your being, that this is your dream, a dream the world is waiting on and one you want to see fulfilled.
Climbing over the final few cow paddocks that lay between us and the town of Abadin, we descended down into a valley, right to the front door of the municipal Albergue. I can see the silhouettes of our fellow pilgrims through the windows and a wave of relief washes over us. It was a moment that we were able to appreciate for all it was worth. Then we stepped inside, the final 3km behind us.