Laza - Villar de Barrio 20 kmJune 5 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C
I woke early but just lay in bed for a while listening to Kathleen's gentle snoring, weirdly I never found her snoring annoying, in fact I always thought that it was kind of relaxing and I was genuinely happy that she was getting a deep sleep. I guess a key issue in dealing with snoring is how you feel about the person, and I felt nothing but good things towards Kathleen, she's a treasure.
I was only walking 20km today so I was in no hurry, and the albergue in Villar de Barrio didn't open until 1300. Today's walk was going to be a challenge, as there was a mountain with a very steep ascent in between Laza and Villar, and I still had some anxieties about ascents, which in this case totaled 690m. However, today I was to experience another camino miracle.
I had walked about 3km when I saw another peregrino in the distance, and I happened to notice something falling off their mochila. I quickened my pace and got to the spot and there on the ground was a woolly hat, so I quickened my pace again until I was in shouting distance of its owner. He stopped and waited until I got to him and was overjoyed to have his hat returned, as he was quite bald. So, we walked together and got to know each other a bit. His name was Ougo he was a retired surgeon from Bologna, he was 73. I noticed a dressing on his knee and asked if he was ok, he said yes but he was very upset as his knee was no longer stable enough to allow him to continue mountaineering, his great passion. He had been mountaineering and walking the alps since he was a boy, but all he could do now was walk caminos. He was coming back in July to walk the Norte with his wife. I felt like a total wimp by comparison, moaning about every hill.
After an hour we arrived at the base of the mountain and began our ascent of its steep slope. After about 30 minutes, Ougo, whose English was ok (better than my Italian) stopped me and said, "I have something I would like to say. In my opinion your mochila is too low." So, I had to loosen all the straps whilst he readjusted them and then told me to tighten the straps and walk. I could not believe the difference, it was as if he had taken my mochila off me, and the nagging pain in my hip completely disappeared. (He thought my mochila was actually too large for me) He wasn't finished, he told me my walking pole was too high and he adjusted that, and again I felt a difference right away. Finally he said "If I can say one more thing, your pace is all wrong. if you are going to walk up a mountain, you must walk, not too fast, not too slow but you must walk at the same pace from start to finish. If you keep varying your pace you will exhaust yourself." So he got me to copy his pace and style of walking and with all the other adjustments he made, I was at the top of the mountain in no time at all, and feeling more energised than tired.
Why is that a camino miracle? I didn't even realise I needed help, but I did need it, and through a strange set of circumstances I met Ougo, who of all the people I could have met that day, had the knowledge and experience to see what I could not and who knew exactly what to do to fix the problem. If I had not left late, if Ougo's hat hasn't fallen off his mochila...
The help I got from Ougo that day transformed my camino and I will always be thankful for him and I will never forget him. When we got to Alberguería at the top of the mountain we went to the famous café where pilgrims are invited to write their name on a shell, (there are over 50,000 in the café and albergue), and so we signed a shell together and I bought him a coffee, and we sat for a while listening to Dire Straits (the café owner plays them all day, he's a superfan).
The steep decline down the other side of the mountain was actually more difficult than the ascent, but we stopped for a moment near the top and looked out over the vista before us and Ougo said "Our Lord's creation is very beautiful." I couldn't argue with that. As we got to the bottom, Ougo and I said our goodbyes, as he was going to have a longer rest before going on to the town beyond Vilar, and I never saw him again.Read more