Wednesday, September 26. Up early today and out of the Hotel Madrid. I am seeing the beginnings of a huge influx of new pilgrims . . . those on big buses, buses that carry HUGE suitcases for each peregrino, while the peregrinos themselves walk with tiny day packs and fresh clothes. I have seen some evidence of this in the past two days, hotel and hostal lobbies crowded with large matching suitcases, resting next to people with walking sticks. How can they possibly be peregrinos? But we see that they are some version of that.
Until yesterday, we have seen very few pilgrims on our path, but things are going to change now.
Ria and I have mapped out the possibilities for today’s “Stage” as set by the Brierley book, and see that if we start in Pontevedra, we won’t get to a place with any sleeping accommodations before we fall down exhausted. There IS one Albergue 11.5 km from Pontevedra, but it houses twenty two people in two bunk rooms, and there are clearly many more pilgrims on the path at this point. The albergue has no restaurant, no bar, no food of any kind and is not in a town or village, apparently. Our book suggests carrying sandwiches from a bar few kilometers south of the albergue, so we will have something to eat after a day of walking.
If there is “no room at the inn”, our next option is another 14 km up a very high climb, and back down again in a wavy vertical plane to Caldas De Reis. So we figure backward and catch a ride to a place in the middle of nowhere, the supply bar called Meson don Pulpo. That will give us a 14km day, a version of my daily goal. Ria could probably have walked the entire stage, but she has done this trek before, and wants to take her time as much as I do. Or almost as much . . .
When we arrive at the Meson, we see enormous buses off-loading perhaps 50 school children on a day trek (a nice idea, by the way), as well as a coven of mostly Irish tourists with their clean shirts, brand new day packs and shoes, ready to hit the trail. I’m sure they’re not staying at the albergue in the middle of nowhere, but then neither are we. So the droves begin to walk.
I feel as though I’m back on the Camino Frances . . . no more quiet little Portuguese Way. It’s an easy enough path today, but a different environment, in addition to the new crowds. I begin to see vineyards . . . not the huge ones that are part of the Camino Frances across northeastern Spain, but smaller, family owned vineyards with very low production numbers.
This means that despite our book’s dearth of stopping places, all of a sudden there are little “vinotecas” popping up ever few kilometers. And there are a few more hostals on what seemed to be an accommodations desert. But we already have made our plan, and I’m sure there are plenty of other pilgrims who can fill those new spaces.
I’m quite surprised to see a group of blind people, perhaps half a dozen, with sticks, one German Shepard, and one or two “seeing” guides. I cannot imagine doing this without SIGHT! It’s tricky enough with decent eyes.
I think I passed at least four new and local wine bars, pouring their products for peregrinos! The last thing I want to do is taste wine on and off all afternoon on a semi-long, hot hike, but the newbies gather to taste at every opportunity. Perhaps those with the tiny backpacks bought bottles of wine to take back to their hotels or put in their already huge luggage waiting for them. I guess I sound pretty snarky right about now . . . not very Camino-like, right? And still I say, “To each his or her own Camino!”
Other enterprising locals have cropped up, much to my delight. A man in a food truck with drinks and ice cream. A woman with a fruit stand in the shade of her own property.
And while I haven’t seen my beloved cows, as I usually do on the various Caminos, I do see just few horses . . .
I arrive late afternoon in Caldas de Reis, check in at the Lotus Hotel, and meet Ria at a cafe near a small old Roman bridge . . . were the Romans EVERYWHERE?? Then dinner across the bridge at a nice restaurant called Numero2. Ria invites a German couple to join us, since they are waiting for a table and we are seated at a table for four. The man, Werner, I think, had worked in Boulder on and off for a few years and they considered moving there, but decided against it. Too clearly meant for the “white and affluent.” I mutter something about “the People’s Republic of Boulder” and he laughs.
This couple retired a few years ago, sold their house in a large city in Germany, bought a smaller one on the Danish border and equipped themselves with a small motor home, in which they have been doing a great deal of traveling for the past three years. Sounds like they are having great adventures. They met 50 years ago, have been married for 46 years, and are long-time ballroom dancers. Do you know that one of the largest tango gatherings in the world is in FINLAND???
So they go to the festival and dance what I’m sure is a beautiful and long-time practiced tango together. I’d love to see it and them!
We have plenty of time to talk because the restaurant’s service is the s-l-o-w-e-s-t service I’ve had anywhere on this trip. When Werner’s food comes, long after the rest of us have finished eating, he tells the waiter he thought he would have to wait until breakfast to eat this meal. The waiter just laughs, but obviously doesn’t see the sarcasm and irony in Werner’s comment.
By that time, I have made my excuses and was probably already asleep. A hot day. Getting closer and closer to the finish line . . .