Day 40 – 26th October 2015, Palas de Rei to Arzua.
I can feel I am getting closer and closer to Santiago de Compostela (just 68.2 km away) and to the end of my pilgrimage at Muxia. This is a mixed blessing for me. I love walking in nature every day and the simple rhythms of life that the Camino enables me to enjoy. I love feeling connected to the ancient ways and how the strands of the past, present and future are all intricately woven together. My body is tired, but my mind and spirit are wakeful and alert.
However, I am also looking forward to going home and beginning the next exciting phase of my life. I miss Brett. Someone told me a while back that you don’t walk the Camino, the Camino walks you and for me, this has been true. The Camino and my life are entwined like the loops of infinity. I walk the Camino and in turn the Camino walks me, seeking out every ounce of my being, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Stripping back and nudging me towards letting go of mindsets and habits that no longer serve me. Opening me up to expose the rawness of my grief and my perceived, past failings to allow me to heal, grow and express my personal power.
I awoke to the sound of rain on my window. Yes, it was going to be another soggy day. Oh what joy! I was almost overcome with desire to do a happy dance right there in my room (no, I’m lying…that was British sarcasm). I bade Pension Pardellas farewell with a sigh and emerged from its cosy, homeliness to set forth onto the damp grey street. I fuelled up in a nondescript cafe in town before loping off, clicking my way down the road. I aimed to reach Ribadiso by the end of the day, a bit more of a longer trek than usual at approximately 26km. I wound my way out of Palas de Rei, through Carballal and onwards to San Xulian where the Camino trail took me away from the busy main road. Ahh I could breathe and relax into my rhythm. I enjoyed being in the greenery of the woodlands again. The trees offered some shelter from the torrential rain. Soon I came to a little village called Casanova, and I stopped here for a second breakfast in Taberna Casanova.
I followed the trail out on a loop and crossed over from the province of Lugo into A Coruna at O Coto and wandered on to the tiny hamlet of Lobreiro. Here, I broke my stride to pop into the parish church of Santa Maria for a quick tour and a quiet moment of contemplation. Once again, I felt the thinness of the veil between the physical and spiritual realms, co-created through hundreds of years of prayer, worship and community.
I resumed my trek and pressed on through a couple of villages, along the pathway past an industrial site to Furelos and eventually the bustling town of Melide. The shock of so many people rushing by on the pavement and fast traffic on the roads, spurred me onwards. I didn’t want to stop there, despite the Camino guide’s hints of an ideal place of refreshment to sample one of Galician’s local and much celebrated delicacies, ‘pulpo’ (that’s octopus to you and I). Melide’s tentacles failed to secure me in its grasp!
Oh boy, it was a long walk in the rain today. It rained so hard, that it fairly poured inside my tangerine poncho. I’m sure if I stayed in Galicia long enough at this time of year I would evolve a pair of gills and fins to swim to Santiago. Still I relished tranquil and witchy scenes like these…
I half expected some tree sprites or the elven Galadriel to emerge from the tree canopy and telepathically guide me on my quest. I crossed over numerous, narrow, brooks and through some more hamlets to reach a larger village of Boente. Another church was open! Hurray! Thank you Galicia. At least some kind parishioners, enabled the churches on this section of the Camino to remain open, so that weary pilgrims could find some solace and rest. Iglesia Santiago welcomed me in its embrace and I happily added another stamp to my pilgrim passport. Not that I’m a kleptomaniac of ‘sellos’ you understand.
“Rain, rain go away , come again another day…”, accompanied my footsteps. Apparently, James Howell in the 17th century noted in his proverbs a different version of this rhyme, “Raine raine goe to Spain: faire weather come againe”. Well the constant cloud-bursts certainly had arrived in Spain and were not going anywhere, anytime soon! I must confess, by this time I was getting ever so slightly fed up with the deluge, so much so that from Castaneda onwards to Ribadiso de Baixo I became more inclined to search for a welcoming albergue. I enquired in Los Caminantes in Ribadiso but there was already a long queue for check in and I felt an impatient urge to go on to the next place. Over another river and up a hill, I went, willing my tired limbs forward. I could barely see through the sheets of water falling into my eyes. Eventually I came to the hostal O Retiro by the side of the road, on the outskirts of Arzua, a strange place. There was nothing for it but to stop there. I had had enough!
O Retiro, had a room free so I snapped it up. However, it was bit pricey and beige. Perhaps a better description would be a rip off and taupe, in both decor and atmosphere. I spent a considerable amount of time fiddling with the air conditioning to boost the temperature of the room and dry out all of my sopping wet clothes. The descriptive Chinese laundry doesn’t cover it…why are there never enough coat hangers in these places? Do travellers steal them? Or are they considered a deadly weapon? Hmm death by coathanger, not a pleasant thought but I bet someone somewhere in the world or a parallel universe has tried it. Being a compulsive packing nerd (yes I do keep packing lists on my computer for a variety of occasions), I did pause, while packing my borrowed back pack in readiness for my Camino journey, to ponder whether I should pack a couple of fold up hangers. Granted, they were made of lightweight plastic and folded away, nice and neatly, however my pack had already reached the 10kg limit by that point and so reluctantly I put them back in my drawer instead. I imagined how Eric (from le Chemin d’Etoiles albergue) would have reacted had my pack weighed any heavier.
Later on, I ventured downstairs into the minimalist restaurant and bar area, also taupe, with a hint of chrome, and ordered a pilgrim meal. I sat there, all by myself, and ate in silence. I doubt I would have had the energy to summon up a conversation, had there been any other pilgrims to talk to at that point. The meal was OK as pilgrim meals go, generous in proportions but somewhat bland and I had a carafe of wine to myself. I’m not sure that was such a good idea…
Off to bed and sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep zzzzzz
Day 41 – 27th October 2015, Arzua to Pedrouzo.
This morning, I faced the reality that today’s trek would be the penultimate leg before I reached Santiago, approximately 42 km or 26.5 miles away. I could hardly believe it! I had walked over 700 km! I felt excited and perturbed at the same time. Soon my pilgrimage would be over and I began to ponder on what my life would be like when I returned to the UK. Walking the Camino de Santiago has been pretty much all-consuming. A total immersion if you like and one, which I have found to be immensely precious and profound, including all of the peaks and troughs, the wrinkles and flat bits, ebbs and flows…
You can tell how my introverted side has come to the fore these last few days, can’t you? I must admit I have relished the opportunities to walk in relative solitude, have my own space and peaceful nights’ sleep during this latter stage of my pilgrimage. Dog tiredness can do that! Looking back I have always enjoyed my own company, being an only child, this was something very natural and normal to me and I’ve grown up (well who ever really grows up? …but you know what I mean) to become quite self sufficient and fiercely independent. These are traits, which as with all others, can have their pros and cons. They are great for adventurous solo travellers, who can just get up and go and make their own intuitive decisions! Having said that though, I do enjoy the company of others and I have appreciated hiking with friends and making new friends along the Camino. However, I get impatient with idle chit chat, the boisterousness or competitiveness of large groups, or people, who are perhaps more pessimistic than I and moan a lot. For sure, these encounters aren’t only confined to the Camino, they can happen anywhere, in any culture as any seasoned traveller knows!
For me the adventure of life is often about attitude and what you make of it. From the moment you wake up you can choose what day you are going to have and it can be a good day, and ond which brings much happiness. I believe, also in co-creation, and that each one of us has the power to co-create our reality on a daily basis. We naturally co-create with other people, our surroundings including other living beings and the universal life force energy that is ever present.
Whoa…stream of consciousness. Funny how walking the Camino taps into one’s consciousness like this isn’t it? Have you had a similar experience? I would be interested in reading your perspective, so feel free to drop me a line in the comment box below. I digress…so today, I chose to have a good day and make the best of yet another soggy and squelchy outlook and set off up the high street. I decided to seek a warm and friendly albergue for breakfast. I had had my fill of beigeness at O Retiro. There is something magical about the word Ultreia. I know I have mentioned it several times on my blog already. The cheerful and colourful albergue Ultreia couldn’t fail to draw me in off the street and I fuelled up on my usual desayuno. I lingered for a while and watched the pilgrims come and go. I had no desire to rush on today. Pedrouzo was only about 22 km up the road, so I could afford to take my time.
Eventually, I creaked up from my chair and toddled out on the Camino trail, which meandered through a different kind of woodland, mostly eucalyptus, a tad strange sight in this part of the world. The fragrant aroma from their leaves, seemed amplified in the rain. I could have been walking through a bush path in Australia if it wasn’t so wet. Maybe that’s why they were there, to suck up all the excess moisture. This must wreak havoc with the soil structure though. I remembered another kind of eucalyptus, that gave rise to vivid memories from my humanitarian aid worker days. When I lived and worked in Tanzania, back in the mid 1990s, I stayed for a while in a team house in a little village called Murgwanza, up in the hills overlooking Ngara. Exceptionally tall stands of lemon eucalyptus, stood in regimental rows in and around the village. Their heady fragrance was quite unique and overpowering at times. My mind, went down a few rabbit holes, reflecting on my time serving on mission in the refugee camps near the border with Rwanda. It was my first humanitarian mission overseas and I could still recalled the painful and joyful details as if it were yesterday. I ambled onwards in a kind of trancelike state.
However, the collection of hamlets and villages, strung out like a pearl necklace, brought me firmly back to the present and I remembered I was walking through the lush, green and moist Galician countryside. No humanitarian crisis here. The rain continued to pour down as hard as yesterday’s and, again, inside my rain poncho (note to Altus – sort your waterproofing out!). I had decided it would be better to walk in my long shorts instead of trousers. Better to suffer bare lower legs in the rain than have a layer of annoyingly wet, cold and clingy material flapping about around my knees and ankles. How I was mistaken. My shorts soon got completely soaked through, and as they were ‘zip off’ shorts from a former pair of travel trousers (the other bits discarded owing to broken zips) the seams where the zips were chafed and rubbed and scratched….so much so they drew blood. I’m not kidding you! It was the worst case of chafing I have ever experienced, my thighs stung like hell and brought tears to my eyes. Ouch!
Thankfully, to take my mind off the throbbing pain, I fell into step with Jerome from Ireland (no, not Jack from Ireland) for an hour or two. He was a cheerful chap, obviously adventurous being a keen hiker and he was a sailor back home in Kinsale. He gladly regaled me with his recent experiences of walking the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo. Both routes sounded challenging, remote, yet beautifully rugged and wild. I wondered if I could have the stamina and strength to complete these routes sometime in the future. Right now, I struggled to muster up the energy to reach Pedrouzo. With Jerome’s pleasant conversation and company, I did make it to my destination. On the outskirts of town, I peeled off the main Camino trail and wished Jerome “Buen Camino” as he continued onwards to Santiago at quite a pace. I admired his courage and determination. I took the turning into town and squelched all the way along the main street singing under my breath:
“Its a long way to Santiago, its a long way to go.
Its a long way to Santiago, to the Saint James we all know,
Goodbye Pamplona, farewell Astorga,
Its a long, long way to Santiago but I will walk on!”
Towards the bottom end of town I found Pension Pedrouzo and a lovely room adjacent to a shared bathroom at a good price. Could I really be only 19 km from Santiago? What a day and what a journey. After a wonderful, hot shower and a change of clothes I forced my throbbing legs and feet back out on the street so that I could track down a late lunch. Cafe Che4 beckoned me and I sat a table by the back window and raised a glass to a group of French pilgrims enjoying a well deserved three course pilgrim meal at the table opposite.
On my way back to the pension for a little rest, I happened to bump into my pilgrim friends Nick and Stefanie, who were sitting on the front step of their albergue just up the road from where I was staying. I agreed to meet up with Stefanie later on for drinks and a catch up, but first a rest. A while later, Stefanie and I met up for a little ramble to find a welcoming bar. We didn’t walk far! We toasted our respective Caminos with some wine and then we joined Stefanie’s pilgrim companions Sheree, Nick and Michel for a carb blow out at a pizza restaurant! A perfect end to the day.
Are you curious to know, how things went from here? Well watch this space…
Peace, love and light,