My third day on the walk was short. It was very tough going as there was a lot of steep uphill. After the blessings of yesterday; I had to learn to find my own pace and harmonize with my backpack and surroundings. In this, I discovered a little secret about myself. Read on for more!
While I was asleep, I became dimly aware that pilgrims were already setting off at 3am or so. It was still too dark for me, so I continued to sleep and harmonize myself to the noises of pilgrims. They are amazing, up and celebrating like there was no tomorrow until around midnight; then up and at it again three hours later!
I felt the first rays of the sun peeking above the eastern hills and knew it was time to get up. I felt sluggish, my feet were protesting loudly, and a large part of me desired rest for today. Yet, my little voice told me to go on, even if just a bit. I needed to move on from this pilgrim camp. I threw off the top covers of my sleeping bag. It was later than I thought it would be. I spent too much time fighting the urge to stay in bed.
I packed up mini-camp and set off, thinking to head away from the sun. A lady came out and told me that I was going the wrong way and pointed me in the right direction. I needed to head south, uphill and through town. Off I went, through many huts tantalizing me with their offerings. I chose to forego breakfast, for a reason I did not understand yet.
The steady and smooth uphill soon turned rocky, steep, and curvy. My pace slowed again as I labored under the hot sun and backpack. There was a long moment when I regretted not choosing to leave early with Luis-Fernando and the others at 4:30am. My thoughts went to them and I started to think about my time with them - it started with intense doubt about these "tricksters", and as my time and kilometers went, they showed themselves to be true companions and my doubts slowly melted away like obstinate glaciers giving way to flowing waters.
I had a thought that stated that the role of tricksters in my life was to help me lighten up, and not take myself and this existence so seriously. They called me "compal" and "primo" - a companion and family member connection for life; and even invited me to come visit their future family ranch in one year. When Gustavo asked me if I would be going with them in the morning; I told him no, that I must let go and receive new blessings each day.
When I indicated that I was going to bed; Luis-Fernando looked at me with such sad eyes. It was a brief look, but it said everything. This is how I would receive their invitation of being their compal and primo?? Not cool. Not cool at all! Being called such meant that we were connected for life, and that it is meant to be indebted to each other for life - that we face the joys, triumphs, trials, and tribulations of life together; no matter what. It was not about being in a mutually beneficial relationship - it meant that no matter what kind of dysfunctional stuff came up, whatever shadows came up in this connection, that we remain together and work through these things *together*.
In my Western trained ways to have no debt of any kind; to only participate in any sort of relationship where we mutually benefit each other; and get the heck away and out as soon as it becomes toxic; I thought it would be a clean parting and generally be good.
That sad look from Luis-Fernando said otherwise. Well, I certainly made another mistake! Maybe next time, I will make a different choice. Sigh.
My awareness came back to the trail at hand. Somehow in my thoughts, I came to a cadence - A, B, C, D, two sets of steps at different notes. A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D, etc. They would be a steady beat, that would dynamically speed up or slow down depending on terrain, each footing decision made deliberately and purposefully. I started to voice the cadence in my head as I went, and it remarkably improved my progress - I was not faster or anything, but steadier, less burdened, less exhausted. My breathing became consistent under the Cadence, inhale during A, B, and C, then exhale through the mouth during D.
Even though I had that Cadence, going up that relentless uphill still took its toll on me and I stopped at every hut on the way. There was one large hut that sat on top of a particularly difficult segment, as it it was a temple on top of a 5,000 step steep hill; and everyone who made it was visibly exhausted. It was larger than the others on today's segment; and I spent about an hour there. After a few of these huts, I came upon one that was next to a fairly level terrain - and I thought, Hallelujah! I rested once again and ate some of my vegetables that I had brought with me. Few other pilgrims stopped at this hut, and it was desolate of all forms of life. The hut felt forlorn in a way.
I walked on, and into the forlorn landscape, feeling drained. I traded uphill laboring for lifeless laboring. Every step seemed to sap what little energy I had out of me. I rested at another forlorn hut, both this one and the last one were *not* occupied by anybody. I do not blame them. This landscape would depress anybody!
More steps along the now tortoise slow cadence: a... ... b... ... c... ... d... ... a... ... b... ... c... ... d... ...
A step that jolted me awake! I looked up and was greeted with the sight of trees with dark greens on them, framed by bright rust colored soil. This was such a contrast from the landscape earlier. My cadence suddenly picked up, and each step was re-energizing me little by little with lovely energy - life affirming energy. I was elated, tears coming unbidden to my eyes - tears of joy. As I walked through these woods, I felt and saw in my minds' eye that the trees and earth here were nourishing me; not as a provider to consumer, where I was simply consuming. I felt like I was participating in a cycle, where I let go of my used up energy and returning it to the very earth I was walking on; and simultaneously taking in fresh, cool energy from the land and trees, like a wheel spinning as I walked, cycling this energy. This was the way it should be for me. Not to simply consume, but to participate in this life-affirming cycle, to stay connected to the land, to be in relationship to the land in the similar manner as a compal or primo would.
I smelled food in the air, a *lot* of food. My pace quickened as I realized I was hungry, and remembering that I did not eat anything but a few vegetables this day. I walked through the woods and the rust colored earth gave way to a series of huts, side by side. I followed the food scent that most drew me - the smell of chicken soup; and like that toucan flying around, hanging from his beak, and the aroma wafting towards the source; I floated towards the source of the chicken soup; and sat myself down.
A large lady approaches and asks for my order; and I asked for a bowl of whatever calda de pollo smell it was coming from; and she smiled as she went to fulfill my request and indicated to her companion to start making tortillas. I sat, reveling in the smell, remembering that besides my addiction to pizza; my real favorite and wholesome food is soups of all kinds, followed by salads. Soups have always occupied a special place in my heart. I always sweat profusely whenever partaking in soup - I always felt cleansed in doing so.
I looked around and saw a nearly full 30 liter container of agua fresca - just the perfect accompaniment to my meal! The bowl and towel of tortillas were brought to me and I asked for a liter of agua fresca. I did not care which kind it was - it was a welcome sight regardless! They did not have liter cups, but said I could ask for as many cups as I wanted. I gulped down the first cup in one go; and immediately asked for a second; much to the amusement of the large lady.
The calda de pollo looked so enticing - it was exactly the soup I was looking for - a lone drumstick topping thick and fatty chicken broth; with sings that it had been simmering all day in a fire. Large chunks of potato, carrots were scattered throughout the bowl; and cilantro dotting everything. There was a side of onions which I spooned in; and I got down to eating with gusto. Spoon of soup, then bite of fluffy tortilla, spoon of soup, rinse and repeat. All the while, especially salty sweat formed rivulets down my head and drenching my shirt; and I felt a joyfully powerful sensation of cleansing happening as I continued to enjoy the calda de pollo.
Before I knew it, I ran out, and asked for another bowl. Tortillas kept coming my way as I continued, and I barely remembered to tell them to stop making tortillas for me. I sat for a while drinking more and more agua fresca - it was made with guavas, according to my tastebuds. Eventually I asked for "la cuenta" which is the check - and got a shocker - nearly 200 pesos! I forgot that each thing I ordered cost pesos and I got carried away. After paying for my meal, which despite the cost, I was extremely Grateful for; I took inventory - I only had 900 pesos remaining for the rest of my trip. Less than half of my initial funds left.
I asked the ladies if there was a place where I could camp for the night and they directed me to the nearby campground. I was elated, I get to sleep in these same woods that so nourished me! I got up and set towards the camp. The camp was full of cars, trucks, tents, bbq grills, the kind of place that is a known mainstream campground. I walked around to find a space for myself.
Two small children approached me and asked if I was lost. I said no, but am looking for a space to camp. They indicated me to follow them and led me to their spot. The father greeted me and asked the same question. I replied the same answer, and he looked around. Eventually he said, here, on the other side of the tree from them. It looked like a *great* spot, so I gratefully set up mini-camp. The two children brought me crackers, canned tuna, and a few cups of artificial orange juice, akin to Sunny Delight.
I thought that was interesting, and stowed away the goods, as I thought they would come in handy later on. The juice I accepted and drank, as I could not store it for later. The children and I chatted for a while and the adults called them away. They left and I was left alone again. A large man in a hat came by and asked me what I was doing there - and I indicated in Spanish that I was resting for the night. He nodded and moved on. I did not think anything of this. I proceeded to lie down and take a nap, enjoying the less intensifying sun and cool breeze...
I woke up and it was darker, dusk now. Most of the other campers were gone, and a new, and nice looking black car was in the spot next to mine, on the other side. I needed to use the bathrooms, and with such a campsite, there was sure to be los banos nearby. I found them, paid my fee to use them, took care of business; and decided to explore more of the place. The banos were outside of the campgrounds and there was a gauntlet of huts along the Rutas del Peregrino continuing. I looked around and remembered that I was out of water and needed to stock up - 2 liters should do it. One to drink, one to save for tomorrow.
I slowly walked down the huts, with my broken magnifying glass out, peering at one that would likely have water available for purchase. I found one and approached. The proprietor asked what I needed and I indicated my need. He obliged and while hunting his stocks for the water, we made small talk. He quickly realized that English was my language and we switched for ease of communication. It turns out he spent many years in the USA as a pipeline worker and we talked about pipelines and the ethics of fossil fuels. He said that he also has food for later on, and that he would be open until around 10pm. I made note and told him I will be by later.
Back at the mini-camp, I sat and relaxed. The large man approached me again and asked if I was going to stay the night. I was a tad confused as I indicated this earlier. I replied in the affirmative; and he apologized but my spot is reserved for cars. I was annoyed, because it felt like I was in a spot somebody else wanted, and they prevailed. There were few other campers in the site. He then indicated to pick up my stuff and follow him. I did not want to fight this battle, as I am the outsider; so I followed him to a site with dark ashy soil with a sick looking young tree with trash stuffed all over it. He said to me that this should be a great site. It would have been good if there was not so much trash; or being behind a hut's wastewater section, and the smell of wastewater and trash filled my nostrils.
I sighed and re-set up mini-camp, careful to position myself so that I was not smelling the odors as much; and just sat and watched the sky grow darker and the moon rise. I kept looking at the sick tree and felt disgust that there would be trash surrounding it like so and a soda bottle rudely stucked into the tree's cavity! I got fed up with this and got out one of my bags, intending to pick up all the trash and dispose of it - help the tree and myself out.'
With trash in hand, I walked back towards the huts, and towards the hut I bought water from earlier. Disposed of the trash and ordered dinner. The man.. I think his name is Geraldo, made small talk as I ate, and I told him about why I was traveling in Mexico, and why I was on this trail. He asks where I was staying and I told him about the campsite and the encounters - he said that normally it is free to camp anywhere here; but there may be a few people who will try to take advantage of others. I described the area and he added that the site I am at might actually be a paid site. 30 pesos per night he believed. Suddenly, things made sense, and the reality that I perceived was not the ultimate reality. The large man who moved me did not charge me, when it was normal that he would. I said to Geraldo that perhaps I should be grateful - and he replied "Well.... not really, do you want to camp elsewhere?" I told him that I was reluctant to move as it was now dark and I cannot see.
Geraldo asked me to hold on for one minute while he talked to his wife. When he returned, he then asked me how much money I had left, and it was okay if I chose not to reveal that information. I decided to trust him, and he offered to allow me to rest at his hut, as long as I did not intend to steal any of his merchandise; and that they will feed me a meal tonight, and tomorrow's breakfast at no charge.
I was surprised, then Grateful. He then asked to follow me back to the other campsite and offered to help me move it to the hut. So we did this, and I once again re-set-up mini camp. He offered his tent, as they have two, and I decided not to take that, as I preferred to sleep under the open sky and air. He felt that was odd, and I replied that this is one of my many quirks. If I did not sleep with a source of sky and air coursing through me, then I could not sleep. He shrugged and we started to close down for the night. If I had taken the tent, he, his wife, his two children, and his sister would have crowded into the tent in the back of his pickup truck.
I felt dirty and grimy, and was thinking that the upside was that the dirt was preventing flies and mosquitoes from feeding off me; and Geraldo suddenly asked if I would like to take a shower.
What? Where?? How?
Geraldo chuckled and indicated that his cousin, across the path, runs another hut with banos, and there is place made up for showers - it was not open to the pilgrims, just the people working the huts here. I happily answered in the affirmative, thinking that even a cold shower would be a relief! He asked if I needed hot water and I answered in the negative, as it would require some labor to set that up - first world problems have no place in my heart at the moment. He shrugged as it was an odd answer but obliged. We go over to the shower area, to find it was occupied by a lady. She asked us to wait a bit, as she was almost finished, and that there is still a bit of hot water if I needed it.
She finished, I returned and Geraldo mounted the flashlight to provide me light. There was half a bucket of hot water, and a full bucket of cold water. I had my toiletries bag ready and soap fragments selected and went at it. When I finished, Geraldo marveled at how little water I used - less than a quarter of the hot water, and about an fifth of the cold water. I felt very clean, refreshed, and ready to retire for the night.
We returned to his hut, and I fell asleep very quickly. The long day finally hit me, despite not making much progress this day. My last thought was how Grateful I was for being helped like this.
47.89 traveled thus far; 7.47km this day. Not much progress!
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