Some say that “no good deed goes unpunished.” I’m sure that thought must have crossed the minds of John and Constantine at some point during Day 5.
They are raising money for Prostate Cancer Canada and paying all their own expenses (as am I), so that 100 per cent of all funds raised are going to the charity. Moreover, Day 4 had been a hard challenge of 30 kilometres, including a very steep 8 km climb in the rain. My fellow pilgrims are both on various meds for aches and pains, and Constantine is using our frequent stops to adjust the bandages and mole skin on his growing collection of blisters.
So, of course, I decided to up the ante and have us walk more than 32 km today, in even more rain (that later turned torrential), for the last 6 km! Now, to be fair, much of it was downhill, but all of us find walking downhill with heavy packs to be much harder on our knees, feet and toes than uphill.
A dog joined us at Alto de Pollo and walked with us for a few hours all the way down to Triacastela. Any time he got ahead of us, he would turn and gives us a look that suggested we were cramping his style, and that it was a great favour he was granting by allowing us to be his escort down the mountain. He eventually found another group keeping a pace more to his liking, and promptly dumped us.
We had a leisurely lunch, but the restaurant owner clearly thought we had lost it when we announced we were continuing on the next 10 or 12 km to Samos in the rain, rather than stopping and taking shelter.
I was pushing because I really wanted to stay at the Benedictine monastery in Samos. And, after all the effort and pain, John and Constantine shared my joy in arriving at this special community (although finally stopping might have been a small contribution to the joy).
There have been monks at the monastery since the sixth century and the Benedictine order took over in the 10th. At its peak, Samos housed about 100 monks, but today it is down to about than one dozen. Despite fires and periods of anti-clerical movements, the grounds, the cloisters, the church and the paintings are still maintained and stunning.
After a simple dinner of boiled chestnuts, lentil soup, sardines, potatoes, cheese and bread washed down with apple cider and beer, we joined the monks for completas, or compline prayers, at 10 p.m.. Hearing them sing, some of the men in their 80s, and realizing that they have devoted their lives to their faith is inspiring. We are giving a few weeks and some money to help a wonderful cause, but they are devoting their entire lives to service.
Some find the concept antiquated, and some even find it misguided, but there was no mistaking the genuine joy these men were feeling as they raised their voices and hearts. We were honoured that they allowed us to share a magical moment in the lovely small chapel in Samos.
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.