Saturday, October 3, 2015. The beginning of Week Six and I can hardly believe the time is going so quickly. It surely didn’t fly past in the first three or four weeks this time.
I get up in the dark of early morning and the hospitaleros have breakfast for us. Coffee, tea, juice, and of course, bread. The taxi has been ordered for four of us and should arrive at 8:30. After I have my food, I go outside to the boot rack to get my shoes, and Francisco is there. I have watched him with Loli, and wonder whether there is a romance in the works. I say, “Can I ask you a personal question?” He nods, “Of course.” Is he married. No, divorced. Is Loli married? No, divorced. I smile my thoughts. He smiles, too, and shakes his head.
He says no, many people are looking for romance on the Camino. Many aren’t looking but find connection. Most often that connection is only in this suspended time, not to continue after Santiago. He says some people shed many tears in Santiago for the love they have found in another person that can’t really last in the real world. Different countries, different languages, different lives. He says he and Loli are just walking friends, and he knows that. I tell him they just look so good together. He smiles again.
He hugs me and tells me I am a very interesting woman. A very interesting woman, he repeats, and he will e-mail me when he gets home so we can stay in touch. I would love to do that with Loli as well, but with a complete language barrier, I can’t imagine how it would work. Francisco is fluent in English, so between the three of them, Karen, Loli and F, they can do a sort of rolling conversation, with Francisco as the go-between. Computer conversations without translation would be near impossible. But I will be happy to have met him.
Our taxi arrives at 8:15 and the driver is very happy to carefully tuck four backpacks and four pairs of sticks in his trunk. We are headed for Marcela, and will walk to Sobrado dos Monxes (someone asked me whether there are really only two monks, and I say I don’t think that’s what the name really means, but what do I know?).
The mist is nearly to the ground and the sun is coming up. Perfect. We leave the taxi just as the mist has lifted from the road, so we can barely see where we are going, but the sun is shining through mist and clouds, trees and a mountain ridge outline. Absolutely gorgeous.
It is a beautiful walk, and the mist continues to rise. I get to the first bar in about two and a half hours, and Danielle is just leaving, She has decided she will walk to Arzua today, another 22.5 km, since she has come more quickly toward our planned destination and it’s not even noon yet. If I see her in Santiago, that will be great, but I won’t see her on the road again.
The sky is clearer now and the scenery, though somewhat similar to my last few days, never gets boring.
The country road is lined with chestnut trees, and I remember from two years ago that their fruit is encased in bright lime green spikey balls. Break open the ball and there are the chestnuts (roasting on an open fire for someone at Christmas time).
In the autunm, and especially after rainstorms, this is what the road looks like.
I’m still headed for Sobrado dos Monxes, and I’ll get there soon, I can tell.
There is actually a lake to my right, and it’s a fairly big one, perhaps as big as Terry Lake in my home town. Not like the Great Lakes of my childhood, but an unexpected calm scene. People are bicycling around a path, not for the Camino, but for weekend enjoyment after the morning showers. A very pretty sight. I am only a few kilometers from Sobrado now, I think.
Ria is still at least a day ahead of me, and I know we will meet at our lodging in Santiago on October 9, if not before. She too is meeting new people, and seeing a few of the ones from earlier walking days. This is part of the beauty of walking alone, of not needing to be completely connected to anyone on the Camino. The ripples of old and new faces, languages familiar and mystifying, following arrows and shells. Where are the arrows and shells in our daily lives? Wouldn’t that be grand? To get up in the morning and know you only have to look for yellow arrows to get you through your day?
I easily arrive in Sobrado and at the early edge of the village, I don’t need an arrow to see where I am to sleep tonight.
As I enter the main plaza, it is clear there will be some sort of festival today. Tents are being set up because it is supposed to rain for the next three or four days. Music is beginning, and some young guys are shooting off rocket fireworks on the inside of the monastery tunnel.
Great . . . we should expect noise tonight. I turn a corner and at the first bar, I see Teresa sitting with her glass of wine, wondering where Marco is. She has texted him but has had no answer yet. Then he calls. The monastery will close in 15 minutes for the next two hours, and if we want to register for our beds, we need to hustle. So we do. Through the old archway and down the cobblestone walk to the far entrance of the monastery, where another plain-clothed priest is waiting to show us where we are to go.
Show our pilgrim passports, get our stamps, pay our 6 Euros and enter a stone two-room bunk bed space. Looks like a prison, and I’m glad my little group will be there to keep me company. Francisco and his crew are not far behind me and they will check in later in the afternoon. This must be the way juveniles in holding facilities feel, but for the tiny fact that we are all free to come and go, and those children are not. But the facilities are pretty grim. Oh, well, I can pretend it’s 1615, not 2015. Just for one night.
Teresa has already scouted out a decent restaurant for us, and after we sit at the bar again, go back to the cell, er, room, take our showers in another part of the building and get into clean clothes, we are ready for dinner. Again, Francisco, Karen and Loli are at the next table. Groundhog day.
Sunday, October 4, 2015. Sobrado to Arzua. A longer day at 22.2 km, but I’m feeling up for it, and two years ago, on the Camino Frances, I walked many days of this length with no trouble. The up and down is fairly mile most of the time, and even with the rain, I’m ready for this stage. At the end of today, I will have joined the path for the Camino Frances . . . familiar territory from two years ago. That means I will only have two days or two days and an easy morning before I arrive in Santiago de Compostela. It is really almost unbelievable that after all the early struggles, illness, body pains, hesitation, discouragement, and more than a bit of guilt about buses and taxis here and there, I am nearly there. I am not surprised that this journey, with its unique struggles, has brought so many new views, new people, and yes, new insights, into my life.
And I am struck by the fact that I have again walked across a country, on a different track since the last time two years ago, mentally, emotionally, physically, and geographically. I will have now spent a total of three months in Spain in the last two years, and a month in the southern half of Spain when Tanner was here for his junior year abroad in 2000-2001. A total of four months in a beautiful country with which I have no real heart connection, as I do with Italy. I’ve spent nearly a year in Italy if I count all my time since the first trip Neil and I took in 1996 or ’97, but I learn about an area very differently when I travel faster than my feet can take me all by themselves. Spain has become familiar to me, despite my only tiny feeling of connection to it in many ways.
So . . . the walk to join the crowds of peregrinos that converge in Arzua. It’s raining this morning as we all trudge out of Sobrado dos Monxes, covered with our ponchos, looking like upright camels. But after a few hours the sky clears enough to hope it will at least be dry for the rest of the day. And the woods are still, as always, lovely.
At some point, I begin to feel (unfortunately) that familiar sense that I have missed a turn or an angle or something. I get out my often useless book, and it says I was to take a right fork at Boimorto. I saw the sign, for Boimorto, but didn’t pay attention to the shell, and apparently just walked on by. So now I am on another N-road, one that will take me to Arzua, but I’ll be on this road facing the traffic for another 13 km, I think, possibly more.
Oh, well, at least the road signs still point to my destination, and my less than adequate maps from the book show me that perhaps eventually, I will cross paths with the lost arrows and shells, allowing me to curve my way along the country roads, rather than the N-road. After more than an hour of asphalt walking, an old couple nods to me, wishes me a Buen Camino, and when I ask about Arzua with a gesture in the direction I’m headed, the old man holds up both sets of fingers with one thumb tucked in, nods and says, “Nueve kilometres.”
After another hour or so, I see a shell marker, embedded in a typical Camino concrete post. Left, it indicates, and left I go. Probably would have been shorter and easier if I had just stayed with the N-pavement, but my habit over more than five weeks is to go with the waymarkers. Country lanes, and then the hint of Arzua suburbs. Another hour or more and I’m at the town’s edge. When I approach the center from the north, I instantly recognize the street that crosses my path as one I walked in 2013. Yes, that’s the coffee shop where Ria and I had a croissant, yes, that’s the farmacia that said it opened at 10:00 a.m., but was closed when I got there at 10:30 last time. Ah . . . success . . . again.
So many albergues now, and so many pilgrims. I find the municipal albergue, where I know Marco and Teresa will be, and though I thought I’d try a private albergue now that there are so many to choose from, it’s just plain easier to walk up to the old stone building that says, “Municipale” and register there for a 6 Euro bed.
Just walking into the bunk room smells different, feels different . . . my thought is that these are someone else’s pilgrims, not my pilgrims. And too many of them. Uncharitable isn’t what I feel, just a shock wave of unfamiliarity. I pick a bottom bunk, get my stuff organized, gather shower things . . . pack towel, clean underwear and shirt, soap, shampoo, the usual suspects for a grateful water-cleansing. I see Marco and Teresa in side-by-side bottom bunks,napping.
A German man tries to have a nice conversation with a girl sitting in the bunk above Marco, and Marco shouts at the man in a whisper. “SSHHHHH! PEOPLE ARE SLEEING.” The man is stunned, and finally stammers, “But, but, but it’s the middle of the afternoon.” And Marco says again in his loud whisper, “PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING.” The man stops his conversation.
Later, when Marco and I are across the street having a bit of wine, I say, “You know, it’s not very nice when you do that in the daytime.” And he says, “The man was talking so loudly!” And I reply that Marco’s whispered scolding was louder than the man’s conversation. “Be nice, Marco. It’s not 10:00 at night.” Marco sighs, but I don’t think he will do that again this trip.
Teresa joins us for wine, then they go to check out the bus stop where they will catch the Santiago bus tomorrow morning before they fly home the day after that. I stay at the bar and write, and they come back in an hour so I can join them for dinner.
At the end of the day, I hit the bed, acknowledging to myself that it’s almost the end of my Camino this time. Tomorrow I will stay in Santa Irene, as I did last time, and have a home-cooked meal there. The next day I’ll decide if I will walk all the way in or stay 5 km outside Santiago so I can get to the old Center in the first half of a day, rather than the last.
Still can’t believe I’ll be there so soon already. And I’ll leave this write with a sign I saw a day or two ago. Guess I’ve completed all of these things.
Built two houses, remodeled and added to three more. Married twice. Had three babies. Planted many, many trees. Walked TWO Caminos. Check . . . done!