Day 17: Villafranca to O’Cebriero (Sept. 26) 31K

This was our longest, my hardest day EVER. We were leaving the wine country and heading up a river to the top of the world as we know it. The first 20K (12 or so miles) was mostly flat and followed the river. Gorgeous. The last 10K (6 miles) were essentially straight up rocky forest paths.

We arrived at the 20K town at 3 p.m. This is normally when we like to get to our final destination. Oh, no, not even close!

If you know me, you know how much I love water. This was our view and our audio the first 20K.
The view from our “lunch” table at 3 p.m. Patatas brava, ensalada mixta and roasted peppers (not Padron, desafortunadamente). (Use Google translate, Mom!)

Thou shall walk thine own Camino.

Yeah, right. The trail gained more than 3,000 feet in elevation over about 6 miles. The picture below doesn’t look hard at all, but I can tell you that I was panting, chanting, just breathing the best I could as I came “this close” to cursing my dear friend Donna for having the energy to pause her climb to take my picture.

Yoga breathing, Lamaze breathing couldn’t drown out the voice inside my head that taunted: “You thought you trained. You think you’re so fit. You. Are. Weak. Look how easily Donna got ahead of you. And she’s older!”

Donna told me later that she knew I was struggling because I not only stopped talking, but even when she would put forth an observation or comment, I would not respond.

When we got to the very last hamlet before the top, a hamlet called Laguna, my brain was boiling and I was stumbling and dizzy and doing all I could not to burst into tears. Donna steered me into a cafe/bar and I sat down in a chair and began taking off my clothes.

I was that hot and sweaty. I stopped at the base layer of a tank top and my pants. I fanned myself with the menu. I blew cool air into my tank top. I don’t know where I threw my hat, but my hair was dripping sweat and I distributed it with my fingers through my chemo curls thinking it will just perk them up.

Donna bought a Kas Limon (like sparkling lemonade) and I downed it, along with a banana. I think I scared the hostess/bartender. She brought bread (which I couldn’t eat because of the whole gluten thing) topped with salami. I told her no thank you, I can’t in Spanish, and Donna commanded in English, “Eat the salami!”

I did.

The hostess then brought me a bowl of something puffy and fried and think it might have been pig parts. I ate a bite our two, trying to channel Cheetos.

Eventually I calmed. Donna stopped staring at me with worried eyes.

The last upward kilometers were not as steep, but were definitely a steady uphill climb. It’s important to note that we on the Camino talk in kilometers. When I heard that it was “only” about 3K to O’Cebriero, I was not amused. At the rate we were crawling uphill, 3K translated to at least another HOUR of walking, and it was already 6 p.m.

But walk, we did. I had adjusted my wardrobe to allow more breathing room and breeze. We knew we would walk in to town before dark, and that there would be an obelisk or cross to mark the spot.

That was my goal. To place the shell that I had inscribed with the word “cancer” at the top of O’Cebriero. It was my version of conquering not only 18+ months of cancer crap, but of proving I am strong and moving past it all.

Mine is the pinkish purplish shell.
I wasn’t kidding. Top of the world!

I am behind a few days as I write this. I will catch up as I can. Or not.

I can tell you that the next day out of O’Cebriero was miserable, with fog, cold, mist, rain and low visibility. The Camino is also mental workout, too.

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