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Olives in the Raw and Hearts Along the Way

Day Six on the Camino – Villamayor to Viana (about 32+ kilometers, eight hours or so)

My apologies – if you saw the photos from yesterday, you probably realized that there were a couple of highlights I forgot to mention. Yes, there is a fountain that dispenses wine. It’s not a fairytale. It really does exist and the wine is not bad. And yes, we did walk some of the ancient Roman road, we’re talking a road that is 1900 years old. Again, pretty cool.

And here’s the highlight for today – breakfast. The very kind Dutch volunteers at the “Harry Potter” auberge have provided breakfast for us. That may not seem like a big deal but when you’ve been walking for a number of days and hoping every morning that you’ll come upon a small store or café before noon (one that is actually open and offers something besides tobacco and large hams hanging from the ceiling), well, breakfast served up is a big deal.

Getting Down to the Essence

I don’t even remember what they served for breakfast. Yogurt in little containers. Some bread. So-so coffee. No matter. It was all heavenly. That’s the thing about this hiking business. Even the most ordinary of fare is the best ever. Everything is distilled down to its most basic and wonderful essence. The coffee is hot? It’s a small miracle. The shower offers more than a trickle of water and it’s not cold? Wondrous. There’s room on the communal wash line for our clothes? We are so lucky. This is definitely an attitude adjuster.

Jay and I are two happy campers as we ramble down the hill and into the rose-colored morning. The sun is just about to rise, life is good, and we’re moving along.

In fact, life is good until the sun doesn’t go away and we’re running dry. Our water supplies are low and we’re both a little concerned about getting to the next stop. We’ve decided to do a big hike today and all of that seemed well and good at the time.

The hours tick by and try as we might, we can’t find a stitch of shade. It’s about 80 degrees, which wouldn’t be a problem but with our heavy hiking boots and even heavier packs, it’s starting to feel oppressive. Plus, we’re in vineyard country and while that makes for a lovely postcard, it also makes for flies.

I’m starting to feel like Pigpen, the Charlie Brown character, as I walk along with a little cloud of buzzing flies around my head. Both Jay and I walk while waving our hiking poles to scare the flies away. I’m sure anyone looking at us from a distance would think we were slightly insane.

At one point, I’m so hungry and thirsty that I pick an olive from a tree and pop it in my mouth. Hey, it’s green just like those one at Whole Foods, and it’s right from the source. Must be good. Wrong. I spit it out immediately but not soon enough for my whole mouth to go dry and bitter.

The Hearts Bit 

What to do but keep my head down and hike. To keep going, I look for heart-shaped stones along the way and damned if they don’t appear every time I start feeling a little discouraged. Maybe I’m delirious. I keep thinking they are being sent by guardian angels. Maybe I’m right. I’d pick them up to prove my point but that means I have to carry them so I just enjoy their occasional appearance and walk on.

Jay and I arrive in Viana just as the evening sets in. We find the auberge and register for the night. It’s a triple-decker bunkbed arrangement and we are lucky (ha!) to get the bottom and middle bunks. We walk to get a beer and some sausage, cheese, and bread for dinner. Tomorrow is a shorter hike, our last in Part One of our Camino quest. It’s bittersweet and brings on all sorts of thoughts and emotions, but for now it’s time to sleep and hopefully dream of heart-shaped stones and golden fields.

Day’s Wish List 

What we wish we had: Electrolyte tablets. REI and sporting goods stores have these little tablets you can put in your water to help replenish your electrolytes, thereby helping you avoid hitting the proverbial wall. Ironically, I’ve used them for rowing races but why I didn’t think they’d be useful for eight-hour days of hiking under a blazing sun is a mystery to me. Another lesson learned.

What we’re glad we brought: Clothes we don’t mind tossing. We’re getting to the end of this part of the quest, I am going to offload a few items tonight. It will feel as good as tearing my towel in half did. Like I said, getting down to the essence feels great.

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