Day 33 - To Monte Gozo

June 29, 2014 - Distance Traveled: 33.4 km -

Today, we were hoping to make to Monte de Gozo, the Mountian of Joy, which would leave us with only 4.7 kilometers to walk tomorrow. This is a bit ambitious, but would allow to spend our last night on the Camino in view of the Cathedral.

My ankle stiffened overnight and it takes about an hour before it works itself out enough to allow me to walk with any sort of normal gait. I cannot help but wonder if at some point it is going to seize up and declare "no mas" preventing me from walking any further. This is not a pleasant thought on the day our intention is to walk the farthest we have in any one day. For now, all I can do is put one foot in front of the other.

We walked for three hours before stopping to eat breakfast. It also gave us an opportunity to get a stamp in our pilgrim's passport. During the last 100 kilometers before Santiago, you are require you to get two stamps a day to demonstrate you have really walked.

Jeff and I were the first to leave this morning. Mark,and Sam caught up with us at the cafe. When we started walking again, Mark walked with Jeff, and Sam and hung back with me. As a resent graduate of the Air Force Academy, Sam was very fit and could have run circles around me. Instead, Sam was kind enough to keep in step with me. We spent the next 4 1/2 walking and talking without a break. The roads were filled with beauty and conversations about life, relationships and faith. Mark and Jeff put distance between us and them and eventually were far enough in front of us that we could no longer see the.

After several hours passed, we kept thinking we would find Mark and Jeff sitting outside a cafe or waiting on a bench, but there was no sign of them. Sam was sure his father would take a break at some point, so we began checking every cafe we passed to see if they were inside. There was no sign of them. We began to think that maybe we had already passed them, and had not noticed because we were caught up in our conversation? All we knew to do was keep going.

By the time we caught up with them we had been walking for hours and had covered nearly 18 km. They were waiting for us in Lavacolla on the steps of a church, with a picnic of fruit, cheeses, and bread. The church overlooked a park, where the community band was playing American show tunes. Food, friends and an orchestra, who could ask for more. It was a wonderful place to take a break. I was glad we had waited.

Earlier in the day the three ladies from Texas passed us, so we were surprised that they came walking into Lavacolla behind us. It was a mystery where exactly we had passed them back. Regardless, it was a pleasant surprise to see them here. They joined us on the steps to listen to the band.

After about 15 minutes, I decided to get up and move on because I didn't want my ankle to stiffen up. As I climbed the last accent of the Camino, I could still hear the sound of the orchestra. It was as if a move score was being played for this second to final act on the Camino.

About 1 km away from our destination, all six of them caught up with me. We walked the final steps to Monte de Gozo together. It was only then that I could I allow myself to fully embrace the reality that tomorrow I will walk into Santiago. From here I could crawl if I had to. I am filled with gratitude, especially because six days ago there were serious questions about whether or not I would be able to finish. By the grace of God and the kindness of others, those questions have been erased.

Jeff and I are standing in front of the monument at Monte Do Gozo.

The hostel associated with Monte de Gozo was contructed in 1993, in conjunction with the Catholic Holy Year for the benefit of pilgrim. It has 500 beds. We would have no problem finding a place to sleep.

I realize this photo is blurry and dark, but it is an important one. It captures our last communal meal we would cooked together on the way. I was excited because it was the first one Jeff was able to participated in. The market where we shopped was small and the food we could find was a bit of a hodgepodge, but it was a wonderful meal. Mark showed off his pasta cooking skills, the ladies from Texas concocted a special sauce and I got to use my corkscrew for the last time. While we ate, we shared what we were feeling about being so close to Santiago, what we anticipated it would be like when we arrived, what was most meaningful about our journeys and what we would miss.

I will miss much, but mostly the people.

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