Day 26: Ponferrada – Villafranca del Bierzo

I’ll remember this stage as one of the most enjoyable days on the Camino. Not that something specific happened, or because of some interesting experience – just, because I enjoyed it.

I left Ponferrada at 07:30, and within minutes of leaving my hostel met a young woman named Catalina, from Chile. I remember seeing her near Molinaseca the day before.

She’s 20, bright, and incredibly attractive – though I got the impression that she has no idea how beautiful she is. 
Her father is a well-known politician in Chile (I had to admit that I know nothing about Chilean politics, though I suspect that counted in my favour), and she’s doing the Camino before she starts her studies in Scotland in September.
We walked together for a few km’s, and she shared her experiences as a politician’s daughter. 
What I found interesting, and sad, was when she told me how superficial she’s found her relationships and friendships in Chile. As her family is well known, she’s never had a relationship or friendship in which she felt that the other party is interested in getting to know her – they simply assume that they know her through what’s in the public domain. So, she says, she’s found it diffucult to have confidantes, as she’s never had people who really know her – despite the fact that everyone knows ‘of’ her.

We parted ways at Columbrianos, as I wanted to stop for coffee and orange juice, but I saw her again a few times during the day – one tends to catch up with the same people, as you stop and start during a day.
I asked Catalina what she found most difficult on the Camino, and we had a great laugh when she answered that she battles with the communal bathrooms, and has mostly ‘adjusted’ her routine to use public toilets in restaurants and pubs along the way.
You know, she said, your stomach makes noises, and then you need to leave that cubicle and face everyone that’s just heard you poo!
So, I said, you mean to tell me the children of famous politicians can’t crap in silence?

Catalina is a remarkable young woman, and I hope to see her again somewhere on the way.

From Columbrianos I walked through the hamlet of Fuentes Nuevas, and then onwards to Camponaraya, where I had breakfast. I prefer having my first meal after the first 8 or so km’s.

From Camponaraya one has a nearly 7km walk to the town of Cacabelos. Somewhere between the two I met up with Alicia again. She’s been walking with an Aussie-guy the last few days, and I could sense the ‘friendship-cracks’ appearing. I’ve seen it before on the Camino: people meet, get along, and then start doing everything together. It’s something I’ve intentionally tried to avoid, as the Camino (and what you go through as an individual) most often split these up again.

Just as I exited Cacabelos it started to rain – and while some pilgrims ran for cover, or rushed to get poncho’s and raincoats on, I could not have been happier. It’s just so much cooler and more comfortable to walk in the rain, than it is in the blazing sun.

A few km’s further on, at Pieros, I stopped for a beer. By the time I got going again, the rain had stopped – it was still delightfully cool, though.

From Pieros to Valtuille de Arriba, and onwards to Villafranca del Bierzo, one walks mostly through vineyards. The landscape has again changed completely, and this cool, mountainous area is a major wine producing region.

I arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo at about 14:30 – the albergue I stay in, San Nicholás el Real – is in an old monastery that dates back to the 12th century. It really is beautiful. I have the most amazing view from my bed.
When I arrived, I first had a beer, then showered, washed my clothes, and now I’m just chilling on my bed.
It started to rain again about 3km’s before Villafranca del Bierzo, and it’s still raining now.

Along the way today I again though about how we’ve been spoilt (and spoiled) with the promise of a tomorrow. Tomorrow, next week, next year, in 5 years, in 10 years…it’s just become everything.
But what about today?

I don’t want to sound like Joyce Meyer, or worst still, Solly Ozrovech, but the ‘tomorrows’ are killing our ‘todays’!

Imagine this: what if you weren’t so certain of tomorrow? How would it have changed your today?
Why can’t we BE for today, and then just repeat the principle for the next day, and the next, and the next?

As I walk the Camino (having done more than 600km’s already), I simply cannot allow myself the luxury of thinking about the next town, the next day, the next… I simply have to just focus on the step I’m taking now, and then the one thereafter, and then the one thereafter. And doing so has seen me walk over 600km’s.

So, what if, in your marriage, you’re only ‘married’ for today? And then you repeat the principle tomorrow, and the day thereafter, and the one thereafter?
What if as a parent you consider yourself one for only today, and then the day thereafter, and then the day after that?
How different would things have been if we were not so spoiled by the promise of a tomorrow?
How about being a friend TODAY? Not relying on the false assurance of a tomorrow to keep your friendships in tact.

More and more I’m believing that the cumulative effect of living each day only for that day, would be a much better ‘distant’ future, than the futures we keep our eyes on, and live for.

Tomorrow has become an all too handy excuse for us to postpone being our best selves today!

Kris Kristofferson sang, ‘yesterday is dead and gone; and tomorrow’s out of sight.’

CCR’s got a great song called, ‘Someday never comes’;

I wonder how much different things would have been if (even just in my own personal life) we made more of an effort to focus on the current?
How much different things would have been if we hadn’t been fooled by the comfort and promise of a tomorrow?

What if, as Garth Brookes sings (god, I know, this is like citing Kurt Darren in an academic journal), ‘tomorrow never comes’? I suppose the question should really be: if it doesn’t come, would today have been enough?

For me, for today, I can answer yes. I did my level best to make every step (approximately 52 500 of them) count. 
I should have just started doing so a long time ago.

Villafranca del Bierzo is one of those postcard pretty places. It lies in a valley, surrounded by mountains.
A 700m ascent awaits me tomorrow, but that’s still a day away.

I thought about my dad a lot today. He would have so loved (he’s near blind now) to have done the Camino. Yet again: stop hiding behind tomorrow.

Buen Camino!

Ps. If I can contradict myself: there is one thing you’ll be able to count on tomorrow – Vaseline!

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