Europe N to S: One of Five Thousand (3/21-22/17)

Today’s Miles: 15.6
Total Miles: 5,016.6

Ponferrada, Spain – March 21, 2017

Today’s Miles: 1
Total Miles: 5,017.6

Ponferrada, Spain – March 22,2017

Grey, half-frozen rain meets us at the doorstep of Tomas’ refuge in Manjarin. It swallows the mountains and leaves the world small, a hazy hundred yards through the mist. Their hugs goodbye are the last warmth on the mountain top. I think of the last five thousand miles and pull my coat tight around my face, sinking into my thoughts and pushing the cold away. Five thousand should mean something. It should feel like some line I’ve crossed in the dirt, but it doesn’t, it only makes the rain feel familiar, like an old friend that I’ve seen before, that I know how far I can joke with.

Daya and I drop down from the mountains, passing through small villages, not wanting to stop, not because we are particularly warm, but because it is hard to start again in the rain, especially downhill. It is easier to lean on trail-hardened legs and demand that they serve mile after mile. Down, down, down we drop, falling through the ceiling of clouds, past houses and fields, down into the lowlands of Ponferrada where the sky feels high and the world opens up around us again.

We dry off, we recover, we text our friends a day behind us. The next morning we try to leave, but get sidetracked by the old Templar’s castle still watching over the city. From the walls, we see a storm coming like an army on the horizon. Our wills dissolve and we imagine our friends coming down the mountains in the oncoming storm. They will arrive tired and cold. Better to not move, better to find refuge and a grocery store, to cook as snow falls and the dark grey clouds build, better to meet them with warm food as they arrive.

I fill the biggest pot I can find to the brim with my abuela’s arroz con pollo. I meant it for the five of us, but we serve eleven people from seven countries before we finally scrape the bottom clean. The night descends into laughter and new friendships, into different stories told in different languages. It is full of joy.

I barely walked at all, barely added to the 5,000 miles of this trip. On a map, the single mile I did manage actually took me backwards, but it brought me to my friends, brought a me to that table, just as much as the other five thousand before it. For that, I love them all. 

6 thoughts on “Europe N to S: One of Five Thousand (3/21-22/17)

  1. One more time you prove it right: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent in arriving.”

  2. Well Daniel, you are getting close to the end. Be sure and let me know when you get home again. I know you have had some rough days but I have envied you every step of the way. What a hike. I am still acting as Trail Angel.

  3. Sweet! Staying flexible. Willing to relax and prepare a meal for tired friends rather than pressing on. Gathering new friends. Sweet.

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