Tuesday, October 15, 2013. It’s raining this morning, a confirmation that our decision to take a bus to Finisterre was a wise one. Waking up early has become a habit after all these weeks and by 6:30 a.m. my backpack is ready. Yesterday afternoon I delivered a duffel bag to the Seminario Maior, full of things that are not essential for the next week, and I’m prepared to go to the end of the earth. I knock on Ria’s door and tell her that I will meet her for breakfast at a bar down the street that should be open at this hour. My key for this funky room is hanging from the door lock, and the sweet old man who manages or owns the Hospidaje Santa Cruz will be along later to collect it.
My hiking poles are collapsed and tucked into the sides of my pack, waiting for another opportunity to prevent me from tripping half a dozen times a day. But I’ll need to do more walking than just to the bus stop to justify pulling them out again.
Getting to the bus stop is fairly simple, and we meet Christel there, take a short hop to the main bus depot and buy a ticket for a longer-distance ride to Finisterre. Ria and I discuss our tendency to get motion-sick, and our plan is to make sure we have plenty of windows from which to see the horizon and sky, often a good remedy for road-nausea. The day is gloomy, foggy, and drizzly, so what might have been a gorgeous coastline is haze. The bus we board is a double-decker, so we head for the top, thinking (erroneously, it turns out) that if we’re up high with more glass, we’ll be better off.
Unfortunately, since the road is winding, our upper seats make us sway even more than we would have on the lower level, and within about 30 minutes, I’m sitting on the front bus steps, gesturing desperately for the bus driver to pull over. He finds a turn-out, I jump off the bus and lose that delicious breakfast of eggs, ham, orange juice, etc. He reaches behind him, hands me a blue plastic bag and gestures to the back of the bus. “Bathroom back there,” he says cryptically.
I see that Ria is having the same issues. Without more gruesome details, just let me say that I needed those bags four more times on this less-than-three-hour ride, and when we arrive in still completely-socked-in Finisterre, Ria and I are in matching wiped-out physical states. Christel is doing just fine, and we envy her.
Right off the bus, we are fairly well assaulted with people who hand us flyers about various albergues in the area, with the prices crossed off in favor of their “deals” for pilgrims like us. We head for a bar. Coffee for Christel, mint tea for Ria and for me. Stomach settling tea. Another German woman, Barbara, has been on the ride with us, and she joins us as we plan our next steps.
First I call the number on a flyer that looks promising. 10 Euro for a private room. The woman at the other end of the line says it’s 15 Euro, and I tell her I have a written commitment for the lower price. She reluctantly acquiesces, so Ria and I decide to check out the place. After our tea, Christel and Barbara take off to walk to the Finisterre lighthouse, since Christel has to be on the 3:00 bus back to Santiago. Ria and I leave the bar as a blond older woman rushes up to us, thrusting in our faces the same flyer we have in our hands.
She gestures rather frantically (that should have been our first clue) and says, “Three minute walk, three minute walk.” We follow her down the street, up a hill, through a winding neighborhood pathway, all the while listening to her throwing the phrase over her shoulder, “Few more minutes, few more minutes.” We pass an inviting place called Albergue Sol y Luz, as we are rushed along up yet another hill. Ria comments that at least this is a quiet neighborhood, and we finally arrive at our potential destination. The blond woman escorts us inside the house, where in the parlor sit an ancient couple, nearly wax-museum specimens.
Blondy shows us a room with three twin beds. She echoes the flyer price, 10 Euro, and we say, “No, the price on the flyer is supposed to be for private rooms.” So she moves to the second bedroom, and suggests that we can have one of each. We say we’ll think about it. Ria mutters, “This feels like a nursing home to me . . . that scene with the couple in the front room is unnerving.” I nod in agreement. The Blondy hovers. We again say we’ll think about it, and we leave. Walking back toward town, I notice that the woman is rushing toward us. She waves a hand back toward her place, tells us in her minimal English that we can have BOTH rooms for 10 Euro. We again try to tell her we aren’t ready to make a decision, so she scurries down the hill toward the bus stop, obviously wasting no time attempting to recruit some other newcomers.
Pretending to look out at the foggy sea view, I notice that we are directly in front of the Albergue Sol y Luz, and Ria comments that this is one of the highly recommended places Matthew and Livia (Vega de Valcarce new albergue owners) suggested we stay, so we duck in to this hippy house and meet Elizabeth, a delightful, friendly Brit. I tell her this place has been recommended and when I mention the two names above, her smile grows wider and she gives us each a hug. She explains the charges for the only available twin-bedded room, the donativo community dinner prepared by Mario, one of the volunteer residents, and we see the washer and dryer behind the desk in the reception room. We’re in . . . and relieved to be in this soothing place instead of the mausoleum we just left.
After a bit of a nap, I think it’s possible to head out to the lighthouse, a mere 3 km. outside of town, before dinner. We hope the fog will have lifted and we can make our quick trip, back before dinnertime. Heading out toward the sea again, asking directions for a rather badly marked, though popular landmark (occasionally the word “Faro” and an arrow), I find that the scene to my left is complete soup, and to my right, ethereal tree lines. I hope the lighthouse is big enough to be seen through the dense atmosphere, and continue to trudge uphill. No sticks. That was dumb.
We walk and walk, walk and walk, peering into the fog, seeing nothing. Not only have I brought no walking sticks, neither of us has any water. After nearly an hour of trudging, peering, we come to bathrooms and a gift shop with postcards of the view we cannot see today, but still there is no water to drink. So we continue, finally coming to a bar at the top of a hill. I climb the several sets of stairs while Ria continues to the Faro, because she has saved her stone to throw here, rather than at Cruz de Ferro, which we passed two weeks ago.
I feel rather disoriented, after weeks of being able to see the landscape around me. The end of the earth is a haze, unfortunately. I can’t see the Faro/lighthouse, though I have walked to the place it should be. It is there, obviously, but certainly not visible from the walking path. How can it possibly help sailors near the coastline if those on land can’t even see its light?
I had so hoped to walk to Muxia from here tomorrow, but am hesitant to travel two days on foot in more badly marked, nearly invisible surrounds. Ria and I are trying to connect near the bar, but in the haze, we don’t see one another for a while as we criss-cross the pathways. Finally we are together again and headed back down to town for our dinner. Since it is a community meal, we don’t want to be late.
Ria sees a Camino friend from Germany coming up the path as we are descending, and she stops to talk. I wave and say I’ll see her at the albergue. Entering the town, trying to retrace my steps is even more confusing than exiting, and I find myself asking old people for directions, people who act as though they’ve been in Finisterre for less time than I. It’s a frustrating experience, and the dinner hour has approached and moved past my disoriented self. I hate being late, especially for a communal dinner.
Six weeks of walking across a country and I’m lost in one little town! Having gone around the very long way, I begin to see familiar landmarks, including the bus stop and the bar we just visited hours ago. And there is the Blondy, still trying to solicit bodies for her two grim bedrooms. I duck my head practically into my shoulders and hustle up the hill to Sol y Luz, just in time for dinner, in a circle on the floor, to begin in true hippy fashion.
I stumble into the “dining room” apologizing profusely, with all the smiling faces assuring me they are just beginning the meal. Three more familiar people are sitting near the floor spot they make for me , and one of them greets me by name. She is Josie, from Belgium, and the three of them were my bunk-mates in Palas de Rei. Her companions, all French-speaking as she is, don’t say a word to me, but she’s happy to catch up in English. We continue our conversation from at least a week ago about old movies, as we eat another delicious soup, and a vegetarian rice dish, not quite paella, steaming in the middle of the bed sheet that is our sitting mat and tablecloth all at the same time.
Another subset of my dinner companions are a group of three British men, well versed in the names and practices of various Buddhist “gurus” around Colorado from the past several decades, since we somehow started talking about where I’m from, the Shambala center, Boulder, etc. I quickly drop out of the conversation, since I only can offer a few tidbits and they pick up that ball and run with it. As we are clearing plates after dinner, they begin talking with a young British woman who comments that as she travels through this part of Spain, she is hoping to run across a particular man who is a close friend/teacher of one of her friends in England or Ireland. She mentions the name, and one of my Buddhist dinner-mates laughs in surprise, points to the friend next to him and says, “Well, here he is!” So strange, the distant connections that become immediate, no matter how far we travel.
After dinner, I finish the laundry I began before the Faro excursion, we check in with Barbara, who has discovered that for 30 Euro, we can take a taxi to Muxia tomorrow if the weather is still soup, and then catch the 2:30 p.m. bus back to Santiago. We’ll meet at the original bar near the bus stop at 9:00 tomorrow morning. Worst case, at least I’ll be able to complete the visit to the last town on my Spain agenda, soup or no. Still hoping the weather will clear, I am mentally read to do a two-day walk, rather than a 45–minute cab ride. One way or another, Ria and I agree that we won’t get into another vehicle without visiting a farmacia in the morning to purchase some Dramamine. I don’t think taxis have blue bags.
I drift off to sleep, adamantly grateful that we are in this place, rather than in the Albergue Wax-Museum . . . The Blondy doesn’t even dip her face or her flyers into my dreamscape.