Day 4 for John and me, and Day 3 for Constantine, was a very tough physical challenge of over 30 kilometres. The last 8 km to the magical town of Cebreiro was a steep climb that took almost as long as the first 22 km. Yesterday, Constantine had already developed his first two blisters and John had begun popping ibuprophen, or "vitamin I" as hikers call it, for various pains. Today, Constantine counted a third blister and John moved up to extra-strength Tylenol.
We had stayed the night in the Convento de San Nicolas, an actual convent that has opened an albergue, or hostel, in some of the many rooms no longer filled by nuns since the community has reduced in size. It is a beautiful place that charges €8 for its albergue, providing rooms for two with a bath – an absolute luxury compared to where we had stayed in Rabanal.
Our fellow pilgrims at the convent were from South Korea, Russia and Australia. Breakfast was a wonderful Tower of Babel experience, where each of us shared only a few words in common but somehow we made ourselves understood. The Russians are cycling the Camino and one of the men had traded his cycling jersey with a Canadian cyclist who gave him his "Ride to Conquer Cancer" jersey.
The sense of community and shared challenge is incredibly strong along the Camino and is one of its great pleasures. Few other experiences this side of the United Nations can expose you to so many cultures so quickly.
I love walking the Camino in the late fall because it is harvest season. I already experienced the local mushrooms but since then, we have been picking and binging on grapes, apples, pears, figs, walnuts and chestnuts along the way. Add in fresh bread produced in one of the many little bakeries en route, and the added pleasures of local honey and wines, and the Camino really is a foodie's delight.
But the walking and the physical toll on your body is the great equalizer. I'm walking with high-powered executives on our Pilgrimage for Progress for Prostate Cancer and they are pushing through the blisters and the pain. They are embracing all that the Camino has to offer, while at the same time, e-mailing their friends and collecting new donations daily.
In the early days of the Camino, pilgrims would be offered a blessing for walking it. Those who didn't have the time or inclination to walk it could "hire" a professional pilgrim who would walk it in their stead. They would be paid half up front and half when they returned with the blessing. Constantine, John and I would happily be your avatars and walk on your behalf. By all means "buy an indulgence" by sponsoring one or all of us at www.prostatecancer.ca/roccorossi.
Rocco Rossi is the CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada. He will be blogging as the Pilgrimage for Progress on Prostate Cancer proceeds and you can follow that blog at tgam.ca/giving.