Sunday, October 6, 2013. Everyone is up really early this morning, probably because with 75-100 people in a bunk room, crammed together, no one can sleep late anyway. I get ready in the dark, wander to one of the two or three pubs at the top of this hobbit-village, have the requisite cafe con leche and bread, and yes, drop off part of my pack. Leaving O’Cebreiro is magnificent in the early morning. As the sun rises, the mist settles into the dips in the mountains, making the tops of the hills look like islands in a steamy sea. The island misty scene is one that follows me on my right for quite a while this morning. I allow it to distract me from the discomfort that is rising to my consciousness.
That left leg problem I noticed a couple of days ago has gotten worse overnight, and I know that since we went UP to O’Cebreiro, we will all have to go DOWN now. I want to take care of this in a hurry, though I’m not sure what “this” actually is. My guess is that it is shin splints, my first real problem (unless you could all the bush visits . . . ) on the entire Camino. I remember that the twinges began the day after the awful nearly-vertical ledge going to Molinaseca, and wonder whether that might have been the cause. Runners usually get shin splints. I don’t run. Ever. But the pounding down the ledge might have done a real job on me. That said, my shin is beginning to scream a bit and I’m brainstorming alternately with my appreciation for the scenery up in these clouds.
I know that nearly every day has some up and down on the path. Again, kind of like life. However,today’s trail looks like it will go for nearly 15 km on a gentle walk. It’s the last 3-4 km section that has the now very recognizable (!) in red on the Brierley map. I will have to be very careful because I don’t think I have any options today for a farmacia. It is Sunday, when almost everything is closed, and there are only little spits of villages on the road during this stage. But I am so close to the end of my walking days here and don’t want to shoot myself in the foot (or shin, in this case) after all this time.
However, for once I am in luck. After 3 km. I come to Liñares with an open Farmacia along the two blocks that make up this village. The pharmacist nods when I point to the place on my leg, “Shin?” I say inanely. She says, “Crema or wrap?” I’ll try the crema first. Should have gotten some ibuprofen as well, but I do have a few in my pack, so I don’t think of that. I open the creme (Arnica) and rub it into my lower left leg. We’ll see.
Soon after the farmacia stop, the mist is clearing and I see up ahead clusters of walkers taking their turns, posing with some sort of statue. Turns out it is the Monumento do Peregrino, head bowed against the wind, stick in hand, facing Santiago and mounted on a pedestal of neatly cut and stacked rock cubes. As you can see, the sky is magnificent, as it will be for many Galician days.
The countryside is full of little farms with their contented cows, usually a dozen or two. Vegetable gardens, fields full of corn still on the stalk, for feed, I assume, because I wouldn’t want to eat any of what’s still standing. Occasionally there are a few sheep, always the village dogs lying about, and the cats scurrying under fences, through doorways, over stone walls. I’ll bet there are no mice anywhere in Galicia!
I’m headed to Triacastela, a bit more than 22 km from here, and I’ve gotten used to that distance. The village stops along the road (sometimes with only an albergue and a bar) seem full of familiar faces sitting at the tables here and there. I see my red-headed pod-mate, Larraine, from Cacabelos and she again apologizes for the whole young crew that night. “We were so rude . . . we should have known better and just gone to bed.” I remind her of the stars. She nods. “Rude,” she repeats firmly.
Yves and Janice show up again, and Ken from Northern England, near Manchester, I think. I thought he was from Ireland, because his accent is so thick almost no one can understand him, and that makes his forlorn demeanor even worse, poor man. But it’s not Ireland. Just country northern Brit. He seems to like to hang out with a South African young woman named Nompi, whom I met on the worst meseta day and I’m happy to see her again. Christel is texting me, letting me know where she’s stopping. She’s about a half day behind me, and will catch up soon.
When toward the end of my day I hit the big downhill into Triacastela, I am really limping, and have my zip-off-shorts pant legs wrapped around my left ankle, trying to prevent the boot tongue from hitting the sore spot with every step. And some of you know that when one part makes you limp, you begin to feel the effects on other parts . . . knees, the other leg, etc. Sigh. Larraine warns about wrapping shin splints too tight, and I tell her this is just for padding, not containment. By the time I see Triacastela, I’m really ready to sit down, but this is another of those towns that just seem to jump away from you as you approach it. One sign said: “Triacastela – 2 km.” and then twenty minutes later another said: “Triacastela, 2.5 km” and on and on. I tell myself that the damned town will show up when it wants to and I already have reserved my room, so just walk, already.
Finally I swing onto a street that looks promisingly as though I’ve finally arrived, and I check into the Complexo Xoajacobeo. Lower bunk, lots of space between the bed sets, and a man in the next set who is sleeping soundly, red-faced. It’s 4:00 p.m. Must have had a long day. He looks terribly sunburned. I get organized and then go looking for a supermercato. I had planned to walk two more days and then rest in Portomarin, but I think that rest day needs to be tomorrow. And a private room for tomorrow day and night. This place has a big eating area with a kitchen so I’m going to buy some food to eat here. I text Christel so she can join me tomorrow for breakfast when she gets here. She’ll catch up her half-day and go on, leaving me a half-day behind her all the way to Santiago. But we don’t mind leap-frogging. We’ve each had our injury reasons for keeping things slow when necessary.
When I return to put my few groceries away . . . fresh tomatoes, little packets of salt, a box of mint tea bags, Ruffles potato chips (only on the Camino can I eat these), two bananas, a box of orange juice, and a nectarine. Oh, and a bar of dark chocolate. My first . . . anyway, I see that the red-faced man is still sleeping. And hasn’t moved when I return from dinner 90 minutes later. Maybe he’s just really tired. It’s now 8:00 p.m. I will arrange my private room for tomorrow but there is no one at the desk now, so it will wait. After one more dose of crema on my leg, it’s time for me to crash. I’ll leave you with a most favorite photo from today’s walk, near the Monumento do Peregrino.