Day 31- To Palas De Rei

June 27, 2014 - Distance Traveled: 24.8 km

Jeff and I set out early, the rest of our crew would catch up. I was still walking slowly and there was no need for them to leave so early. The ankle was doing a little better than yesterday, but still sore. Unlike the Mesada, where the full moon lit the way, the tree covered path was quite dark. It was like walking by braille. The thought of twisting my ankle again did cross my mind, so I took it slow while it was still hard to see.

After about an hour, the light was sufficient enough to walk with greater confidence. While there was not any way to gauge how quickly I was walking, I must be doing a bit better because not as many people were passing me.

It wasn't until the 7.8 km mark that we came across our first cafe/bar of the day in Gonzar. I had really thought our Rolando and the Kiwis would have caught us by now. I introduced Jeff to cafe con leche and we waited around for a half an hour. Just when we were getting ready to move on, I spotted Amy walking up the road. The others were not far behind. We hung around a little while longer and then set out. Even though my pace was quicker than yesterday, it was still slow enough that I was confident this time they would catch up quickly.

While I took this photo of the path rather than the people, we were engaged in a conversation at the time I snapped it. I had stopped to ask a gentleman about the distance to the nearest . He proceeded to tell us he had walked this section of the Camino ten times and the whole thing twice. He assured us he knew every café/bar between here and Santiago. I chose not to disagree since I had met this man in Leon and knew how he would respond to being challenged.

Emilie and I were hanging our cloths out to dry when he struck up a conversation about the failure of the educational system. Emilie, being a teacher, set to defend her profession. She held her ground despite his vehement insistence the educational system was destroying the western world. Luckily, I was able Emilie walked away before she destroyed him. Though he was a big man, I am pretty sure she could have taken him.

We walked another 2 hours and 8.7 km before we stopped again at Ligonde. Just as we sat down the rest of the crew showed up. They all found a spot to drop their packs. While the others were setting in, Rachel went into the albergue. When she returned she explained there were 9 beds available, her hip was hurting and she would rather no go on. Another factor in their decision was they had more time than days left on the this journey. Living on the Camino was cheaper than it would be once they were done so they did not want to hurry. She knew we did not have the luxury of time that they did. She then said this is where they would probably have to say goodbye. It was not what I had expected, but I affirmed that I thought they were making a good decision, even though I would miss them.

After the Kiwis dug around in their packs and scribbled a few words on a piece of paper. The girls then gathered around me in order to presented me with a gift. It was called a Pounamu or greenstone and is considered a Taouga or treasure to the Maori people of New Zealand. It is a jade stone which has spiritual significance. It is usually only received as a gift to affirm relationships, peace, love and safe journeys. You cannot buy these stones, they must be given to you. It was a great honor for me to receive it from them. Along with the stone, the spoke a blessing over over and Helen gave me a note she had quickly written. They also told me that they hoped I knew, along with the stone, I also received three new daughters on the Camino. All I could muster was the words, "I know it is true".

Each one of them have carved a place in my heart and will always have a home in our home. We hugged one another (Even Tom from France wanted a hug), shed a few tears and then I put on my backpack, picked up my walking sticks and headed out. I could not bear to turn around and look back.

Jeff and I walked in silence for some time after that. There were now words, only gratitude.

As we walked into Plaza De Rei, some 10. 6 km later, we came across a family from the states who recommended this albergue, it is called Buen Camino (The Good Way). It seemed like the right choice. It was a bit lonely at first, a room for twelve, occupied by three men. Two who spoke English (Jeff and I) and one who spoke French. We could only communicate to through smiles and gestures. It was far different from the past few days.

Late in the afternoon, three women from Texas entered the room. While I had not seen them before, we were soon telling each other about our experiences on the Camino. As they were sharing their stories, I had to smile to myself. Once again, the loss created by the Kiwis' decision to stop in Ligonde, created the space for new people to enter into our story. This truth was being cemented into my heart. I guess the third time is a charm.

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