Wednesday, September 30, 2015 Gontan to Vilalba (continued)
My right lower limb, with all its aching bones and joints, is doing much better, partly because I have devised a plan I think will work for me for next few days. No more than 15 km of walking per day, and since these stages are very long, with only occasionally a place in the middle to stop, I will do what I need to do to keep within those parameters. Today the walk was supposed to be more like 20+, so I catch a local bus and lop off about 6 km. The driver drops me off in Martiñan, two short stops from Abadin, my breakfast place, and the arrow are waiting for me.
From Martiñan to Vilalba is just right, about 15 km. or a bit less. Perfect. I was going to the Albergue just before Vilalba, but there are posters for a new one in Vilalba itself, near the other side of the downtown, and I’m going to go there . . . just a few more km than I had planned. And past the farm stand, I am now loaded down with about five lbs of food, including that bag of little peaches I bought.
As I walk into Vilalba, I see that I am walking with Ivan, the young man from Oregon, and we talk about body ailments on the Camino. He is quite clear that he and many of the young men he has met with foot and leg problems have caused those problems with macho stubborn behavior (“It’s a dick thing sometimes”), and he has become conscious of paying more attention to how his body feels and not how far he can claim to have walked on any given day. Quite a candid and newly self-aware young man. I tell him he doesn’t need to stay at my slow pace as we find our new albergue, but he says there is no reason for him to hurry, and I see that he is practicing his new awareness of going more slowly. Karen has loaded him up with creme for his injury, and she will be at this albergue as well as Sonja and her adoring crew.
When I am settled in the new albergue (quite nice, with a little dining room and a fairly well-equipped kitchen), I wander a few blocks to a bar and have a glass of wine. Carrying my bag of corn nuts (I forgot how much I love these!) gives me a perfect snack with the wine. I get out my MacAir, of course, and begin to write.
Showing Sonja the Dance Montage 2015 last night makes me want to see it again, so I load it up, and keep the volume fairly quiet, but a couple who has just seated themselves at the table next to me begins to bounce a bit in their seats. The tune for this video is “Shut Up and Dance With Me”, and I love it. I can’t sit still, and neither can this couple. They come over to my table to watch part of the video, and we begin to talk. Here’s the video . . . how many film clips do you recognize? The whole thing makes me incredibly happy, so I’ll watch it again when I’m finished with this write.
Andrus and Brigita from Sweden. I tell them about my son Tanner’s partner, Hanna, also from Sweden, and of course don’t know her home town exactly, but hey, that’s what Facebook is for. I’m friends with some of her immediate family, so I look up one of them and get the name of a town. The couple recognizes its location, and we have a very nice conversation about travel, Sweden, and the United States. I give Andrus my card, because he says he has friends in America. I invite him to visit if he is in Colorado sometime.
As they leave (they have arrived for a week’s vacation and are staying at Vilalba’s Parador Hotel), he says, “Don’t be afraid if I come knocking on your door in Colorado one day!” And I tell him I will welcome both of them. Love these kind of surprise interactions . . .
Thursday, October 1, 2015. – Vilalba to Baamonde
There are strange names on this Norte. Poo and Boo, and now there will be Saa . . . where the Ponte de Saa is located, a very medieval bridge, I think.
As I approach it, I renew my excitement for old bridges, especially ones I can walk across.
With my new plan of walking no more than 15 km a day for a few days, I cut off a bit less than 6 km by taking a local bus from Vilalba to San Xoan de Alba, and get off just where the shells direct me to the path from there. (I think I wrote something about this erroneously in the last post, but can’t seem to keep track of myself at this point!)
We are deep in Galicia now, and the mist, the green green green everywhere, the moss growing completely over the stone walls . . . all indicate exactly where we are.
The walk today is really lovely, and as usual, I am alone, with only one or two or three pilgrims who pass me. Ria is now headed to Miraz or towns beyond that, and still texts me when she gets to a place for the night. But I see that I will collect another little family of friends for the next few days. A spontaneous, perhaps synchronistic, gathering.
Am I Alice? Or Dorothy?
I’m in a rhythm now, and happily walking, paying attention to twinges in my right side’s hinges, and finding that nothing is getting any worse than it was a week or two ago. My plan is apparently soothing to my hip socket, though I’m still on my feet and they shout at me occasionally. But their shouts have become those of children singing a song in which they are losing interest. They know I won’t be carried to Santiago, so they have to just give it up and accept that they will hurt for at least another 100 km. I promise myself to look for a foot massage place in Santiago. I will be there for nearly a week. Surely someone wants to soothe my toes, foot bones, ankles.
When I arrive at the little town of Baamonde, the albergue is dead center. A Spanish man who had kindly asked me very recently along the road how I am doing (“Que tal?”) was approaching the albergue from a different direction, as were two Australian women. They had all had reservations at the Hostal just past the town, but when they got there and looked at the rooms and the beds, they decided the albergue had to be better than the Hostal Esmerelda.
So back into town they walked, and settled in with the rest of us. This is the largest public Albergue on the Norte, about 100 beds, though I think there were probably no more than 30 people settled in by the time the doors locked at 10:00 p.m.
A couple from London, Marco (Italian) and Teresa (Poland) are also new to me. For a brief moment I hear their conversation, but don’t really make a connection with them yet.
Everyone takes a turn with the washer and dryer, ecstatic because we will have really DRY clothing for awhile. While I wait for my turn (Karen and Loli are ahead of me), I walk down to the bar and have a glass of wine Loli, with the brightest smile I’ve seen in awhile, will wave to me when her washer load is finished and I can put mine in. As Karen said, Loli speaks no English, and I don’t speak Spanish, but she is wonderfully perceptive and alive, despite her knee problem. I will see that lit-up face for a few more days, and I will quickly learn to love it. Wish I could have shot some video of her, but who knew?
I have run out of spaces for sellos, the stamps we get for our Camino credenciale, and I need a second one. The Tabacos shop should have them. It is an easy purchase, and on the counter of the shop I see something that smacks of home. I buy it. 1 Euro.
In the albergue are Karen (Denmark), Loli (Spain), and a few I’ve not met before . . . Francisco, who rejected the Hostal Esmeralda, a wonderful man who has made a threesome of Karen and Loli, since Loli has the bad knee and both Karen and Francisco want to help take care of this amazingly lovely woman. Francisco is 56 and adorable. You like him the moment you meet him, whether you are male or female, I suspect. Just a solid person, it appears to me. Marco ( 71 – Italy)and Teresa (77 – Poland), both living in London for many years, and Barbara, the bicyclist. Barbara was born in Scotland, but now is living in France, and announces it as though she has escaped some banal existence for one in a much more prominent or desirable country. No excitement, but rather a droll pronouncement.
She looks like my friend Beth, but is not at all like Beth in personality. Barbara knows everything, has the latest and best version of everything, and does like to buy and share her wine. There are to be no variances from her experience, and I am surprised at her vehement insistence that she has the only answers.
Also Danielle, from Switzerland. We connect quite quickly and automatically. She and I eat at the albergue, while all the others go up the hill (no more hills for me today) to an apparently very nice restaurant. I can wait for great food. Tomorrow is another day, and most of us are headed to Miraz. We have lost Sonja and her entourage, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Who knows what other careers she might add to her story if she could talk to me for one more day. I’m sure they are already far ahead of us. But Miraz is my goal.
Friday, October 2, 2015. Baamonde to Miraz
Miraz is just about 15 km, a perfect distance for my latest “saving the joints” plan, and I begin in the near dark, morning mist down to the street level. Walking on the street for 3 km is boring, but I know that part will be over soon and I’ll be back in the countryside. I can barely see at first but when the mist lifts in Galicia, it’s like the magic curtain rises, bringing emerald green to everything below it. Happened every day on my last Camino, though I was a bit farther south on the Galician mystical trail. Here is not much different . . . every morning is lovely, as long as it isn’t pouring. And it’s not, though the rains are supposed to come within a few days.And I can’t resent the rains too much because it is the wet that makes the emerald and lush thrive.
Barbara the bicyclist is on her way, as is Danielle (Switzerland), and the new trio, Francisco, Karen and Loli. I think the London/Italian/Polish couple, Marco and Teresa, are on their way as well. So I will see all of them tonight. There’s nowhere else to go unless they want to walk 41 km instead of 15.
Barbara, Marco and Terésa arrive in Miraz first, and are sitting outside the only bar, with wine already. The albergue, this one run by the Confraternity of St. James in England, doesn’t open for another 30 minutes. Barbara asks which way I’ve come, and I point to my entrance road. She insists that I’ve come the wrong way and that there is a second set of waymarkers that bring one into this village from the opposite side. No arguing with her, even though Marco and Teresa also came from exactly the same direction as I did. Barbara still insists that we couldn’t have come in the way we actually DID come. Sigh. I go into the bar, get myself a glass of wine and do not join the three across the street. I then make my way to the albergue to wait for it to open. Better than having an argument with someone who must argue about everything. Very weird on this Camino. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my Camino travels, though I know people like that at home (don’t we all?).
Marco and Teresa join me at the entrance to the albergue. Seems they’ve come to the same conclusion about Barbara, and we become fast friends.
This albergue is definitely British . . . the three British hospitaleros take the pilgrims two at a time, and the man, Colin, carefully explains each point, the laundry, the kitchen, the open time and closing time, breakfast, etc. to each and every pair, some of us in English, others in Spanish. Precise language, modulated tone, slow and controlled. A perfect English albergue. Interesting and very different from the typical albergue, where people come in en masse and are registered in turn but without precision.
Once inside, I choose my lower bunk, of course, and dig out my groceries. I want to lessen this extra weight, and there is a kitchen with several long tables here. I spread out my food, trying to decide what to eat first. I make a ham and cheese croissant sandwich, get out my corn nuts and pastry items. Marco and Teresa are at the same table, with salami, cheese, and wonderful tomatoes. Marco longs for salt, and aha! I have a larger-than-I-need salt shaker to share with him. He in turn offers me some of the delicious tomatoes. Well, if salt on good tomatoes is not a friendship anchor, nothing is.
Barbara sits with us for awhile, and as I talk about my still-aching hip socket, she points to a chair in the corner and says, “You should sit there, not here. Go. Sit there.” I try to ignore her until I’ve finished eating, and as I rise from the table, she again points to the corner chair. “Sit here now.” I sit. No use arguing, and sitting here or there is no big deal for awhile.
She soon sits next to me and says, “Suppose I go get you something to fix that hip.” I say she has no idea what’s wrong with my hip, nor do I. She says, “Well, wine can’t hurt anything, can it?” So she goes to get a bottle of wine from the bar around the corner, and comes back with two. I think the wine is her attempt to connect with people, and she doesn’t realize that her manner alienates more people than the friends she tries to make with the wine purchases. Sad. She does have a good heart, I think.
There is to be a short talk at the little church in the village, given by the precise and contained Colin. After a glass of wine with Barbara, and my “chair therapy”, I take a stroll down the road to see what’s happening. I enter the church late, just in time to get a beautiful sello for my credenciale, and then sneak out, wandering farther away from the albergue in search of the only real restaurant in Miraz.
On the road I meet Danielle, the Swiss woman from last night. I saw her register at the albergue but haven’t seen her since. She said she was “window shopping” though there are no real shops, hoping to run into me. We continue to the restaurant for a glass of wine. Then Marco and Terese join us and soon Francisco, Karen and Loli take the table next to us. Ah, together again. No Barbara.
The Menu del Dia is 9 Euro here. I have soup, grilled chicken breast with salad, and tarta de Santiago. The food is very good, which isn’t always the case with the Menu del Dia across this country. During the meal, I hear some of the life stories of all three of my dinner companions, Marco, Teresa and Danielle. Interesting, personal, some of it private and tragic. So most of it stays inside me, and it helps build the friendships for the next few days.
I think this is usually how it is on the Camino . . . we know we will never see most of these people again. Sometimes that isn’t the case, but typically it’s a surprise later if we do reconnect. Ria and Larry are perfect examples of that surprise. But for the most part, once we fly home we only carry the memory of these friends, not a hope to see them in a year or two.
So tomorrow, Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes, where the albergue is in another very old monastery. Teresa doesn’t want to walk the entire way, 26 km, and there are no buses through Miraz. One of the hospitaleras offers to call a taxi for the morning, and Teresa and Marco say yes. So does Danielle. So I will share. We will be dropped off 8 or 10 km down the road, picking up the arrows and shells again. Another perfect plan for the parameters of my “good health” walking days.
Time for sleep after we walk from the restaurant back to the Albergue in the pitch blackness. The cars scream around corners in this little burg, so small that the population isn’t listed on the internet sites I searched. I’d guess perhaps 200-300 people MAX, and I wouldn’t be able to tell where they were hiding. But what I know is that these cars don’t think about pilgrims walking through their town, though I’m not sure why not. Miraz is on the pathway of the Norte. We nearly get flattened, all four of us. Francisco and his women are still eating. Lucky for themat this point. And lucky for us that one of us can scream to the others at the last moment . . . “GET OUT OF THE WAY!!” The quietest of us, Danielle, then turns to the car and shouts (to no avail), “SLOW DOWN!!!” Right. We make it back to our albergue-home in four upright pieces. We wouldn’t want the taxi driver to lump all our parts loosely in his trunk tomorrow.