It has been a while…if you need to refresh your memory the first part is here.

Day 5: Ponferrada
I am SO glad we went extra yesterday; today was extremely difficult for me. It was almost all downhill, many parts very steep. And rocky too – difficult to find comfy footing for my recovering blisters. Threw a lot of “God, help me” prayers up & continued knocking back ibuprofen. My feet were in quite a bit of pain by the time I made it to Ponferrada. Unfortunately there is nothing to be done but to keep going until you get there – on Camino and in life. I think of my friend Amy, who is walking through some horrible situations in life, and I would rather live on Camino – miserable as it is – than go through what she’s going through.
There is only 1 albergue in town so we went there – to be sent to the back of an extremely long line. <One person> was in the front because she hitched a ride and she told them we were a group of 18. They pulled us out of line to check us in together, even though there were still 4 people missing. We got in trouble for that later because it is against the rules to save places and the guy said he would kick all of us out if they became overcrowded. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Jake & I were dubious about checking in with them in the first place because cutting in line is not usually the best way to make friends.
True colors are starting to show through as people are tiring and getting hurt.
Some people want to pass Villafranca tomorrow to shorten the O Cebreiro day, despite an acute lack of lodging. Jake & I, along with Esther & Jeanette, decided we are stopping in Villafranca anyway so we can be rested for O Cebreiro, which will be difficult no matter how much we shorten it.

As an aside, my only regret from Camino is that we passed the Cruz de Ferro early this morning, and even though I had a Texas rock to place at the cross I didn’t. (Pilgrims have been placing rocks from their homeland, representing their burdens, at this cross for hundreds of years.) I didn’t realize we were passing it this morning and didn’t feel prepared to participate in something so significant. I wish now that I had done it anyway.

Day 6: Villafranca
Today wasn’t too bad; a shorter day, and not too challenging as far as terrain goes. I made decent time but came into town alone, so I wandered around looking for everybody (I had no money with me so could not procure lodging on my own). Finally I found an albergue with a few familiar faces, so I asked if they’d seen anyone from my group and they directed me to a nearby albergue. I was one of the last few to get a bed. This was the last day Jake carried all of our money with him.
At this point Jake & I are sharing food & medical supplies freely with Esther & Jeanette. We started out keeping tabs and more or less paying each other back, but at this point we are not bothering with money any more. We do try to rotate who buys the bag of croissants for breakfast but other than that it’s like family.

Day 7: O Cebreiro
Jesus knew what He was talking about when He told people to travel light. We paid a few euros to send our bags ahead for the longest & most physically demanding day. Some people said this was cheating, but I think it was more authentic – after all, pilgrims 1000 years ago had just their clothes, walking stick, and a gourd for water. I replaced the gourd with a Nalgene and that was basically it. Anyway, the result: what should have been the most taxing day was the best since the first walking day. I did a little over 19 miles in 6 hours, which is a pretty good pace. Like I said, Jesus knew what He was talking about when He gave traveling instructions. They sound so restrictive, but really, they’re grace.
I had a wonderful conversation with a little old lady on my way today – in Spanish, of course. It has been wonderful to understand the language around me while here, but also very discouraging because I haven’t taken a Spanish class in 11 years or so and I speak much, much more Spanish than French despite living in France.
Last night my bed was literally under the eaves in the attic of the albergue (like I couldn’t sit up because the ceiling was RIGHT THERE) and it was unbearably hot, to the point I couldn’t sleep. But it was really chilly for the first few hours of walking. Having a day off from the pack gave my hip sores a chance to heal, and they’re looking a lot better. My feet feel a lot better too – they did hurt while walking, but not as bad as they have since I switched to the new shoes.
Also, community showers. The guys say these aren’t “real” community showers…but I figure if I am naked & showering, and I can see other naked people showering & they can see me, that is plenty of community.

Day 8: Triacastela
Not too bad today; it was mostly downhill but ok. I didn’t see any signs announcing that the town was Triacastela so I stopped, fixed my sock, stretched, and continued on. When I got to the highway I noticed the direction sign didn’t have Triacastela on it, and since I’d seen a lot of albergues in town I decided to find out what town it was. I returned and asked what the name of the town was, and found out it was Triacastela. I headed back to figure out where everyone else was. Turns out the municipal albergue was across the street from where I fixed my sock and stretched, and unfortunately none of the people who were watching the road saw me. The albergue is pretty far off the road so I didn’t see it either.
Some in our group didn’t like the looks of the municipal albergue and went to a private one which is 7 euros instead of 3. I feel like that is taking advantage of fact we are being reimbursed but got a negative reaction when I mentioned this. Apparently I am on my way to a reputation as a holier-than-thou but since I don’t like a lot of these people anyway that doesn’t bother me too much.
Community showers again, but since I showered when everyone else was at lunch I managed not to be seen by anyone.
Had a cool conversation with a guy named John we have seen at several stops along the way. Found out he went to the same smarty-pants school as my sister.

Day 9: Sarria
We accidentally walked the long way today, past an old monastery (founded in the 600s). Unfortunately, being Sunday, the monks were busy praying so the monastery was closed and they wouldn’t stamp our credencials. Which is disappointing, because this is supposed to be the coolest stamp of the whole Camino and since we accidentally walked the extra to go there it would have been nice to get. As far as walking goes, it wasn’t too bad; the terrain was fine. But the ground was very rocky and uneven, so my feet were in a lot of pain. I made it, though. We had to stay in a private albergue because the municipal is very small, but several of the people we have seen along the way are staying here too.
There was a discussion today about whether or not we should make reservations at another private albergue because lodging will be harder to procure from here on out (a lot of people start the Camino from Sarria because it is the last place to start if you want a compostela). My opinion is that we should not deliberately plan to spend three times as much.
“Perseverance is not resignation, putting up with things the way they are, staying in the same old rut year after year after year, or being a doormat for people to wipe their feet on. Endurance is not a desperate hanging on but a traveling from strength to strength…Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness.” – Eugene Peterson