Santa Irene to Monte De Gozo

Tuesday, October 6, 2015.

Breakfast this morning at the private albergue in Santa Irene, and then it’s ponchos again.  Laurie (now this is the new Laurie . . . soon I’ll see Fort Collins Laurie, Laurie D.  I think this new Laurie is Laurie W.)  and Salvadore leave at about the same time I do, and we walk together most of the way to Monte De Gozo.  Laurie has LONG legs, so she goes faster, while Salvadore and I mosey along.  The rain stops after three hours or so, and everything is easier after that.  I’ve decided I definitely will stop in Monte de Gozo today, about 18 km from Santa Irene, and less than 5 km from the Cathedral in Santiago.  I want to “walk in” rested, and it’s supposed to be fairly nice tomorrow.  At least no rain for a day or two.

This stretch isn’t fabulous visually, but there are a few sights that catch my eye:

Don't kow exactly what it is, but I liked it

Don’t know exactly what it is, but I liked it, especially against the oncoming blue sky

Someone's very weil-made little altar, with a figure inside the wooden cage

Someone’s very well-made little altar, complete with arrow and a figure inside the wooden cage

Salvadore and I walk a bit behind Laurie again, but I know we are heading toward a good place to get some food.  Just before we turn off the road, we see this man . . .

Someone on a very slow

Someone on a very slow “camino” He must be 90, but walks at a slow, shaky but steady pace, and his own stick

I head toward the Casa and restaurant, but Salvadore checks with the man to see if he needs help.  A very considerate gesture, but the man looks like he’s doing fine, and he probably walks this road every day.  He pretty much tells Salvatore this and thanks him, I imagine.

And as I approach the Casa de Santiago (?) , I see this familiar sign:

A familiar sign . . . but now many of them, leading all the way to the Cathedral in Santiago

A familiar sign . . . but now I will see many of them, leading all the way to the Cathedral in Santiago

Finally, I get my large salad and some orange juice, and oh, yes, some Tarta de Santiago.  An excellent lunch.  Several small groups of pilgrims stop here for the last real meal before the final little push to the end.  Laurie has heard about a Polish albergue in Monte de Gozo and she is determined to find it.  No one seems to have heard about it but a week or more ago, she met two older women, sisters, who are headed there, and one of them has a daughter who will be a hospitalero there for awhile.

We continue our walk, and along the side of the path, I see what seems to be an empty cardboard candy box, red and white with a bluebird in a circle in the middle.  I am about to make a comment about littering when Salvadore says he thinks it’s a cell phone.  I stop to look and it is definitely someone’s phone.  So I pick it up, much like I picked up that women’s Keen Sandal on my last Camino.  Not sure how I’ll find the owner, but perhaps someone will walk back to see what happened to it.

Just like the Keen Sandal incident, Laurie has asked a group of women ahead of us if any of them lost their phone.  No, no, they all claim.  No one has lost a phone in this group.  So she continues to walk, but the group is waiting for us as we approach.  “Are you the people who found the cell phone?”  one of them asks.  “I think it’s mine.”

“What color is the case?” I say.  “White and red and blue,” says the woman.  So I hand it to her, she hugs me joyously and with great relief, and wants to have her friends take a photo of us.  Really “Deja Vu all over again” as they say.  Now we are all walking in a group, and we come upon the concrete Camino statue I’ve been waiting for. We take turns photographing one another.


She lost her phone on the path. I spotted it, Salvadore recognized it as a cell phone, and here she is, a happy walker again . . .


Laurie and Salvadore


Here I am. Same statue, different clothing, different year, but a happy peregrino., arms brown like a farmer’s

We are nearly to Monte de Gozo and haven’t seen anything about the Polish albergue.  Laurie is far ahead of us now, but finally, just before the huge old Monte de Gozo albergue is a small sign that points left “200 m” indicating the place we’re searching for.  Laurie has already been there, signed up the three of us, and left her pack and poles, apparently to come looking for us on our way, but she took a “short cut” which completely missed the road we were on, so she and Salvadore played about a half hour or more of hunt and peck, hide and seek before they were reunited in our little bunk room.  And the daughter who is to be the hospitalero is a young woman whom I met in the Arzua albergue two nights ago.  Small world.

So tomorrow we will arrive.  I always remember the quote , attributed to everyone from Robert Louis Stevenson to the Little Prince, but it doesn’t matter who said it.  “Perhaps it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”  Last time I did NOT want to get to Santiago.  Didn’t want my walking to end.  But this time, I’m ready.  Ready to write and stay in my own little room at the Seminario Mayor, ready to find a laundromat to wash ALL of my clothes.  Ready to see Laurie D’Audney, my long-time friend from Fort Collins, who will arrive on the weekend from walking the Camino Frances.  Ready to meet up with Ria again, who has gone to Finisterre and will be back in two days. And I am still amazed that I made it, walking on the Norte.  But here I am.  Yay for me . . .

The monument at Monte de Gozo

The monument at Monte de Gozo

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Arzua to Santa Irene

Monday, October 5, 2015. 

Rain.  Rain.  Rain.  And more rain.  Lots of upright camels leaving Arzua after they collect in one of the only early-opening bars in town.  I get my usual croissant and cafe con leche before I put my own navy blue camel outfit on over the burgundy backpack.  Lines of colored camel-backs trudge out of town, gripping sticks so we won’t slip on the slick cobblestones.  We don’t realize we will soon need our sticks to pole-hop over puddles that get larger and more unpassable as the hours go by.


Multicolored upright camels begin to negotiate the “roads”, soon to be small rivers after all the rain the past few days

At the first bar, about 6 km down the road in A Calzada, about fifty of these camels crowd into the medium-sized room, desperate to get out of the rain and wind, often blowing sideways.  The wait-staff distributes cafe-con-leche and food at breakneck speed, trying to keep up with the orders from the wet masses.

I try to angle for a standing space, and I see the threesome, Karen, Francisco, and Loli.  So happy to see them, as this will most likely be the last time.  I know they will get to Santiago a day before I do, and I don’t think I will run into them again.  Francisco gives me his bar stool, Loli kisses my cheeks and squeezes me hard in a loving hug.  Francisco does the same, and Karen gives her slightly more proper Danish version of a goodbye.

They exit the bar into the gale, and I take Francisco’s seat.  No hurry . . . I’m going 17 km today to a private albergue in Santa Irene, where I have already reserved a single-non-bunk bed in the corner of the sleeping room, just like I did two years ago.

Returning to the trail, I find strong winds and sideways rain, and the roads are becoming very difficult.  Here is where the hiking poles take on a new job.  Getting me across these ankle deep rivers.

New rivers run through our Camino path

New rivers run through our Camino path

For some strange reason, the rain lessens abruptly, as I stop again at the next bar, less than 2 km away.  A darling puppy greets me, licks my fingers, jumps up on my legs, and runs around as though I’m her new owner.  I walk into the restaurant and she almost follows me, but as her paws touch the threshhold, she stops.  Already she knows her boundaries, so she begins to run around the patio area, where today there are only chairs and tables but no people.

The menu lists Caldo Gallego, a Galician “broth” made with kale, white beans, often potatoes, and sometimes cabbage (my favorite part when I can get it).  This is the regional dish I loved most on my first Camino, and but for the waterfront restaurant in Ribadeo, I haven’t had any yet.  I order a bowl, and the man goes out to another part of the building.

Soon an old woman comes out lugging a huge covered pot, and slowly goes into the kitchen behind the ordering desk.  Good.  Soup.  Now.  But not now.  15 minutes goes by, the old woman stirring her cauldron in the back, and I can only see part of her head and upper body, her arm moving a giant wooden spoon in circles.  I ask the man.  “Sopa?”  He makes a “wait” motion with his hand.  “Tranquillo,” he says.  Okay, I’ll relax.

Another 10 minutes, and I look up again.  He nods with the same hand motion.  Finally, he brings me a steaming hot and very large bowl of my Caldo, brimming with cabbage.  Oh, my god, the best I’ve ever tasted.  He looks at me, questioning.  I beam.  Worth the wait.  Wish I had taken a picture, but the rain made my brain soggy.

The sky opens again and another deluge begins,  I don’t see the puppy.  I ask the man, “Donde esta pequeña cane?”  He smiles and nods.  “No problemo.  Pequeña cane in la casa.”  Ah, the puppy is in the house.  Good.  I wondered where she could possibly have found shelter in that wind and sideways downpour.  Now the thunder begins.

A group of four peregrinos enter.  I tell them the soup is delicious.  They order and go through the same thing with the man about the long wait.  I tell them it will be worth it when the soup arrives.  One woman who speaks English begins to talk about a taxi.  Her English is excellent, so she might be German, Dutch, Belgian, Swiss, or perhaps actually English or American.  The bar owner says he’s the taxi and he will take her and her companion to Pedrouzo, about 10 km. away.  I am not going that far, not quite, but if the thunder and rain continue, I’d like to go with them,  just to my place in Santa Irene.

The wind nearly blew some people over as we walked earlier today, and I’m so sticky and wet, I’d like not to get myself soaked.  The ponchos are great, but when the rain is sideways and the wind is blowing, the ponche nearly comes up over your head, and everything is soaking wet.  I ask the woman if she would mind my splitting the cab fare three ways with her and her companion.  No problem.

In about 10 minutes, I show the man the private albergue to which I’m heading, and tell him he can drop me off nearby.  No need to turn around in the middle of the road and get me to the door.  The rain has let up again and I walk the short distance to the familiar building, step in and take my poncho out to a covered patio in the garden, put my boots in a little room with a stack of newspapers so I can stuff my shoes.  I just learned yesterday that newspapers stuffed into shoes sucks some of the water out of the inside of the shoes.  Interesting tidbit.  Almost too late now, since I only have a short ways to go to Santiago.  But still . . . maybe for my next Camino.  (WHAT?)

Same ritual . . . get settled in, connect to the wifi and begin to write.  People slowly gather throughout the rest of the afternoon, and I meet a couple from the States.  She from Minnesota, and he from Mexico, but married to her for 27 years.  Laurie and Salvadore. I hear some of their story, and they hear a bit of mine.  But they won’t be eating dinner here.  They are running out of Euro and this dinner (13 Euro) is too expensive for both of them.

A group of French people sit at one table playing some sort of card game.  For several hours.  At 8:00 we have our dinner and they stay together at their table.  “My” table has an Irish couple, Tracy and her husband, whose name I never got, an Englishman living in Dublin, an Austrian woman and a woman from Spain.  And me.

And set in front of each of us is a plate worth a photo:


Hake (a fish) garnished with red pepper, boiled potatoes (at least they’re not french fries), peas and a sauce. Delicious, but I leave the potatoes


Dessert . . . a peach half (canned, I’m sure) in sweet sauce. Looks like a freshly cracked egg, doesn’t it?

After dinner, same old same old.  A bit of conversation, some preparation for tomorrow’s walk, a bit more writing, and then bed.  I’ve signed on for a small breakfast.  Coffee and bread.  Didn’t want to have the bigger breakfast for twice as much money.  Coffee, juice and bread, cake, and  cookie or some other type of bread.  I’ll get something else along the way.  Maybe a salad again.  So I tiptoe into the sleeping room, where most everyone is already tucked in.  Step up to my platform single bed (like a princess alcove, says one of the women) and try to sleep.

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Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzua

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.

Out of Miraz in the mist of the sunrise

Out of Miraz in the mist of the sunrise

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.

A cow?  What a surprise!

A cow? What a surprise! Isn’t she beautiful?

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.

Chestnut trees above me means fallen chestnut clusters below

Chestnut trees above me means fallen chestnut clusters below


The roads are often strewn with fallen chestnut carcasses in this area

I’m still headed for Sobrado dos Monxes, and I’ll get there soon, I can tell.

I'm not lost oday

I’m not lost today

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.


A lake is unusual on this walk. I wish I had my picnic food now

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.

The monastery and cathedral of Sobrado dos Monxes

The monastery and cathedral of Sobrado dos Monxes

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.


Through this door lies a dungeon albergue

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.

Francisco and Loli

Francisco and Loli

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.


A frequent and most beloved kind of pathway for this Woodswoman


And the rains are nearly uprooting this tree . . . it’s holding on by the roots for all it’s worth

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!

Posted in Albergues on the Camino, Camino Albergues, Camino del Norte | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Vilalba to Baamonde and Miraz

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.

The Ponte de Saa from afar

The Ponte de Saa from afar

And up close . . . mystical bridge carries its own mist,

And up close . . . mystical bridge carries its own mist

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.


A beautiful tree-lined view near Baamonde

Galician rock walls . . .

Galician rock walls . . .

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?

Follow the yellow, no, white brick road . . .

Follow the yellow, no, white brick road . . .

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.

A tiny bit of "home" right here in a village shop

A tiny bit of “home” right here in a village shop

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.

Spider architecture, kissed by Galician mist

Spider architecture, kissed by Galician mist

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.

Marco and Teresa

Marco and Teresa

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.

Karen, Francisco, and Loli

Karen, Francisco, and Loli with her joyful countenance

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.

Posted in Miscellany | 4 Comments

Lourenza, Mondoñedo, Gontán (not Gondán) to Vilalba (amended)

NOTE:  First this wouldn’t post at all, and then posted without my having completed it . . . sigh.  So I think I’ve managed to finish it

Monday, September 28, 2015.  Lourenza to Mondoñedo

After yesterday’s climb etc., today will be fairly short, only 8.5 km, though by the time I am finished following the directions to the Cathedral (and the monastery where we are staying) from four or five local residents who mean well, I probably walk half again that much.  Seminario Santa Catalina.  Since there is no bar on the way, I hope there is a bench of some sort, and I come upon Ria eating her fruit at a nice little concrete U-shaped sitting place someone made for the pilgrims.

A picnic stop for pilgrims

A picnic stop for pilgrims.  Note the fountain in the right foreground.

I reach the proper area of town after a man says in British English:  “Just go straight down there.  Do not turn.  Do not listen to anyone else.  You will find the Cathedral.”  And he’s correct.  The next challenge is to find the actual monasterio where we will sleep.  When I finally find the little door in the giant stone building behind the Cathedral, there is Ria, waiting for the man who is working the reception cubicle to finish whatever work he is doing so he can take her credentials. Priest in lay person’s clothing – moss green crew-neck sweater with white shirt underneath . . . he sits in his little booth at the entrance to the Seminario, waiting for people like Ria and me to come, giving out simple monastic rooms (with bath, thank you).  When I arrive, I guess he figures he can do it all in one fell swoop. He leads us up and up and up to the fourth floor (well, actually, he sends us on the elevator while he must have his angels lift him to the highest floor, because he is there just as we arrive in the ascensor).

The Cathedral is a National treasure . . . truly Gothic with a stunning rose window  . . . quite lovely inside and out. A 13th century cathedral declared a national monument in 1902.  It’s referred to as the “kneeling cathedral” because it is relatively short and has perfect proportions, with frescos among Galicia’s oldest.

The Monodeño Cathedral, from our bar patio

The Mondoñedo Cathedral, from our bar patio

We do our usual unpacking, sorting, showering. The priest checked with one of his monastic spirit guides (probably a woman) to see if laundry can be done for us and yes, it can, so we sort and assemble a “small bag” of dirty clothes and Ria delivers it to the priest in his cubicle down on the ground floor.

A bar in the large and beautiful Praza de Cathedral gets our business all afternoon and evening, though it isn’t open early enough to get our breakfast money tomorrow. We have arranged for desayuno at the monastery, and that little meal didn’t need any wandering to find. Just downstairs from our room at the Comidor, the little man, again in his green crew-neck sweater and white collar and cuffs, was the only other person to have breakfast at 8:00. Does he live in that little booth? But for Mass and all the prayers all through the day and evening?

We visit the Cathedral at 4:00 when it opens again, and it is a simply beautiful Baroque church. Rose window, a gold but not too garish altar, and the simplicity I love in churches. Ria wants to go into the Museum, and the sign on the door says it is open at 4:00, but it is 4:20, and the door is locked, so we give up and wander around the streets instead.

There is a big deal about Il Rei de Mondoñedo, and some sort of tarta (not the Tarta de Santiago) famous in this place. After enough advertising about the tarta, we must of course go back to the bar, have a glass of wine and a slice of this famous treat. The waiter says it’s pumpkin tart, but the filling surely tastes like pecan pie, with that delicious syrupy middle. Criss-Cross pastry dough and one each, red and green, of the candied fruit we love to buy but hate to eat. Ria puts hers on her plate, as I do, but I eat the cherries. Not sure even what kind of fruit the green ones are.

Tarta il Rei de Monodeño

Tarta il Rei de Mondoñedo

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mondoñedo to Gontán (remember, not Gondán)

The walk out of Mondoñedo is uneventful, and though I know there is a bit of up and down, and do encounter one steep hill, nothing seems unmanageable after that long steep stretch between Ribadeo and VillaMartin Pequeño.  More road walking than I’d like, but then I’m back to the farm roads, the cows, and the peaceful walk I always love. Some interesting things along the route, however.

A unique way to stack firewood

A unique way to stack firewood

I have no idea what this was used for, but I have not seen anything like it in Spain or anywhere else

I have no idea what this was used for, but I have not seen anything like it in Spain or anywhere else

About an hour from Gontán, where I am to meet Ria, she texts me and says she has gone on to Vilalba, because it’s still too early for her to stop walking.  This means she will be at least a day ahead of me for the rest of the Camino, but I know we will meet in Santiago on October 9, where she has reservations at the San Martin Pinario.  I made them for both of us at least a week or 10 days ago.

So I walk on . . . and meet John, from Ireland originally, but living in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.  We talk briefly, I reach Gontán’s albergue, and he walks another half kilometer to Abadin, where he has a reservation at a pensione.  He paid a company called Camino Ways or something like that, to plan his trip, reserve his rooms all the way from wherever he started on the Norte to Santiago, and his biggest concern is getting to the designated town on the proper day for each stage.  I’m happy I don’t have that kind of schedule or pressure.

I settle into this albergue, fairly new, and there is a great deal of exuberant talking among several little groups.  An older woman is loudly giving injury advice (and creme) to a young American man.  I will discover later (because I will continue to meet some of these people again and again for a week or more) that the advice-giving woman is Karen (Danish) and the young man is Ivan from Oregon.  He’s done something to his ankle or foot and Karen has a whole bag of injury remedies, for herself, but she is willing to dispense to anyone who needs it.  A sort of domineering person with a great heart.  She has also been walking with a Spanish woman who speaks no English.  Karen speaks no Spanish, but she says they seem to understand one another  The Spanish woman has a bad knee, so Karen doesn’t want her to walk alone.

Well, I see there is another group gathering . . . as I said, the Danish woman with the commanding voice and her sweet Spanish friend Loli were in Gontán tonight, along with a darling little braggart named Sonja. All the men were around her. Kind of had that Amanda Rieux look to her, but younger . . . dark skin, dark curling hair, very exotic and beautiful looking.  She said she was from Colorado but not really. Said she lived in Telluride, Breckenridge, Aspen (oh, all over), and was a massage therapist. I began to ask whether she knows my friend Sharlie’s daughter, who is a massage therapist in Telluride, but Sonja said quickly, “Oh, I haven’t been there for a very long time.”

Then later she said she had to switch from being a hair dresser to being a massage therapist because she couldn’t stand her hair clients always talking about characters on TV when she didn’t watch TV. However, when we were in Vilalba the next night, she went on and on about how Modern Family is SUCH a good show, SUCH a good show. Another person who knows all the shows, but oh, no, doesn’t watch TV.  Amusing.  I’d guess her age to be something around mid to late 20’s, but I’m a terrible guesser these days.  I had Erika pegged at about Ashley’s age, 37, but she is 46!!  So who knows about Sonja.

I showed her the Dance Montage 2015, a favorite You-tube video and she said she was a professional dancer for 15 years. Let’s see . . .  hairdresser.  Massage therapist oh, so long ago in Telluride.  Professional dancer for 15 years.  Lived in all the very high end places in Colorado.  Now in Paris.  Boyfriend?  She talks about the “bourge(oise)” but is living and going to school in Paris at the moment, studying languages. Boyfriend is French. But she loves to flirt with all these men, and there is one who looks like the nerdy perfume counter guy on Love Actually. the one who played Mr. Bean, but this guy is mooning over her. She says she brought all the wrong clothes, didn’t even intend to walk this Camino, etc. in her fashion hipster clothing, black tights under tiny cut-off shorts like Hanna wears on the Gili islands. Hanna wouldn’t wear these things on the Camino.  Strange young woman, Ms. Sonja.

The American young guy named Ivan, from Portland, is very nice, and walks with me tomorrow as we enter Vilalba. Others I can’t sort out, but they will be sorted out tomorrow, I think, and the next day. The group is like a chem slide . . . some staying, some going, others joining, over the next few days.  As I went to sleep, I heard Sonja giggling loudly to the beaming psychic applause of all the men, who spanned two decades in age (at least!)

I must say that though initially I found Sonja really charming, the more I talked with her, the more I listened to her conversations with her groupie group, the more I realized that I was having the first uncharitable thoughts about a peregrino.  Ah, sigh. Wish I had a photo of her, but I don’t.  As she drops off the chem slide and others stick, I will show you some of the wonderful people in the  “Week Five-Six” group.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015.  Today the very next town is only half a kilometer from Gontán,  On the way to Vilalba . . . bus to Martiñan from Abadin, where I had breakfast, if you can call it that. Actually this WAS breakfast, because the nice woman behind the bar actually made me fried eggs.and I get a fried egg breakfast.  Great start for the day.  Weather is good, the walk looks very manageable, and I begin.

The walk is through countryside, with no hills.  How can that be?  No horrid climbs?  No ankle breaking downhills?  As I walk, I begin to notice posters on trees, announcing a new albergue just on the west side of Vilalba.  Looks great.  I WAS headed for an albergue before Vilalba, another one of those that had no food, no bar, no restaurant.  So I’m very happy I have another choice.

I arrive at a place where a farmer’s wife has put out a table for pilgrims.  Peaches, apples, fresh bread, cheese . . . for 1 Euro each.  I buy a bag of eight small peaches to carry with me (sigh, another bit of weight, but still . . . ), and Sonja and her crew gather around the table.  (again, my computer won’t load the photos, but they weren’t great anyway).  While we are all choosing our treats, a car stops and passes out very nice brochures for the new albergue, so I know I will see every one of these people in the town.

It’s as though we had all been airlifted from one sleeping place to the next.  And I sleep again to the tune of Sonja’s flirtatious giggles.

Posted in Miscellany | 1 Comment

Frustrations, Delays, Silent Shouts

Thursday, October 8, 2015.  I am trying.  I am writing.  Neither Flickr nor WordPress wants to download any photos, and I’ve been trying for two days to finish the next post, from nearly 10 days ago.

I reached Santiago yesterday, and am settled at the Seminario Mayor, Hospitaje San Martin Pinario, where I sat after my last Camino, sat in comfort for five days and wrote and wrote.  That is the plan for this next week, but the internet or the websites or something just seems to be misbehaving.

Flickr, which my daughter uses with ease, just gives me this message:  “Bad Bad Panda . . . Come On!  We want to see photos!  (Don’t worry . . . we know there is a problem and we are working on it.)”    Who the hell is Panda?  Why are they still working on their problem after hours of giving me this message?  Why can’t I download more photos to either WordPress or Flickr?  No, I am not at my WordPress limit, and no, Flickr doesn’t even give me an option to download or delete or any such thing.

So know that I will finish, with or without photos, but the photos are so interesting, and I like peppering my words with images.

Just thought I’d give notice that I did NOT die on the Camino del Norte, that I DID finish, that I WILL update, and that I AM writing on my word doc site, which behaves itself nicely all the time.  Just can’t put more than words on the Woodswomanwalking site.

More later.  But all in all, I have had a “Buen Camino.”

Posted in Miscellany | 14 Comments

From Ribadeo to Gondán (well, no) to San Xusto (well, not there either . . . ) to Lourenzá

Sunday, September 27, 2015.  Breakfast is the usual, but I’m ready to walk after nearly three days rest.  Ria and I each pack our groceries because after the village 7 km. from here, there will be nothing, nothing, nothing.  This will be fairly common for several days.  Carry your food, sleep somewhere, buy groceries for the next day if you are lucky, etc.

So when I get to Vilar, with its promised bar (and albergue for those who need it), I see Ria at a picnic table, eating part of her food, and a few thirsty pilgrims hanging around the door of the bar, which is “CERRADO”, closed.  One woman wails, “But I NEEDED a Coke!”  And I, the no-soda person, thinks, “Perhaps there IS a god, and she doesn’t WANT anyone to drink that crap.”

I sit with Ria, have half of my peach, and start the walk again.  Up a forest road, a gentle slope, so beautiful.  At the end of the path, I’m on a road again, probably the N-634, which seems to show up everywhere.  And there at the intersection is a village sign, “San Vicente” and a bar.  Open.  (There must be dozens of San Vicentes in Spain.  I’ve already encountered three of them.  Like “Springfield” – Vermont, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, etc. – in the U.S.)

I walk in and immediately know I’ve missed a turn.  First of all, my book says nothing about San Vicente, and though the book can be wrong, it usually mentions every little burg, especially if there is a bar.  And there is no one even resembling a peregrino in the place.  If I hadn’t missed a turn, this little room would be loaded with those pilgrims who wanted something at the last bar.  I get my water, pay my Euro and leave, headed west on the road.  I ask a construction worker whether this is the Camino  He nods and gestures in the direction I’m heading.  So I walk.  Eventually, west will do it.  And though my book map indicates that we don’t actually go to San Vicente, it IS on the map, and not out of the way, unlike Cudillera exactly a week ago.

Ahead of me is a man, with backpack, standing on the side of the road with his boots off.  As I approach him, he says he has “lost” his daughter.  Ria had told me about a German couple, father and daughter, whom she’d met several times, and this man tells me he was the person who waved goodbye to us this morning from his window at the Hotel RosMary.  His daughter had taken a little 2 km x 2 side trip at the closed bar, so she could visit an organic farm she wanted to see.  He said he would go on, since his feet were really hurting and he didn’t want to add 4 km. to his walk.

He tells me his pack weighs more than 15 kg., which means it’s a bit less than 35 lbs.  I ask what he brought that he now wishes he had left at home.  He begins the list . . . two towels (one microfiber and one regular towel, which never dries), five sets of underwear, tops and bottoms,  and he goes on.  We talk about being “my age”, and he tells me he is 63.  I feel pretty good about that, at nearly 69.  At this point, his daughter emerges from the “correct” trail, bouncing downhill, across the road, and to her father’s side like a tall, lithe mountain goat  She consoles her father and tells him they will find him a bus in A Ponte, just down the hill in a little village.  Since it’s the way we’re all supposed to go, I follow, though they are gone as they turn a corner and I see no evidence of any bus stop in this spit of a community.

I follow the shells and arrows, and now I see a road that strikes dread in my heart.  Remember my book . . . ?  Well, today it says, “A strong ascent follows.”  Yessir, yessir, three bags full . . . make that a dozen bags full.  These authors are minimalists in their descriptions.

What is ahead of me is a climb at maybe 35 degrees.  I just folded my napkin to the proper angle and I think that’s right.  45 degrees?  Neil says I would fall backward if it were really 45 degrees.  Whatever . . . 30 degrees?  Show up in my spot and see how your geometry works.   For nearly four hours.  It is endless.  Well, not really, but I see no end in sight.  Again.  Climbs nearly 1200 feet in about 2 miles and it takes me more than 3-1/2 hours to get to something that resembles “rolling hills.” But now a different part of my feet and legs are tortured, and though I’m rewarded often with beautiful scenery, after awhile it’s just a joke.  I make myself stop, take my pack and shoes off, dig out some of the groceries I brought and make myself a sandwich.  Eat the rest of my peach.  And a plum.  And drink lots of water.  And pee.  And put the shoes back on, pack on back, sticks in hand, and journey forward.  Up.

Such wonderful green meadows, though, in amongst the eucalyptus groves, like something out of Heidi, not like the regular meadows.  Like finely groomed ski hills in the summer. I have pictures but they look nothing like the slope I see in real life.  When things finally begin to flatten out, there are my cows and horses again.

And as a aside, why is it that I am tempted to take a photo of every cow, lamb, dog, cat, horse and donkey I see on the hillsides? I’ve taken plenty of them, but don’t need one of every single swishing tail and gnashing jaw, head down in a trough of water, a pasture of grass, a bale of hay, or just nibbling one another, swishing flies away with their various tails.

As the slope begins to even out . . .

As the slope begins to even out . . . cows!

My book says I’m supposed to get to VillaMartin Pequeña and then VillaMartin Grande, and then to the Albergue in Gondán (as opposed to Gontán, which will come two days later).  Oh, one more thing . . . the book says there IS an albergue in Gondán and that sometimes it is closed. Great.  But Ria and I have already checked and in 2km more there will be another  town with only a bar and an albergue, San Xusto.  There’s our plan.  And we know what planning does sometimes.

When I get to VillaMartin Pequeña, there is a map . . . and a poster ad for a taxi.  I say no to myself re the taxi, since Gondán is so close . . . about 5 km.  I begin to walk toward the VM Grande.  Then I call Ria to check in.  She has tried to text me twice but I didn’t get the messages.  She tells me Gondán’s albergue is abandoned today, and the San Xusto albergue is closed for bed bug fumigation.  She is heading to Lourenzá.  11 km down the road from me.  That would take me at least three hours of walking, perhaps four, depending on the hills.  And it’s 5:00 p.m. already.  I can just imagine dragging myself into Lourenzá in the dark.  I call the taxi.  I make a reservation where Ria and others already have a bed waiting.  Hostel A Union.

The driver asks where I want to go.  I tell him and he frowns.  “Hostal A Union no good.  Peregrinos don’t like.  You should go Casa Gloria.   You want me to call?”  I tell him my friends will be at the Union.  He shakes his head as if to say, “What a pity.”  But he pulls into a lot across the road from the “no good” building.  I ask him to call the Gloria (he has driven me past Gloria on the way to “my” hostal.   The person on the other end of the phone tells him Euro 35 with breakfast.  I tell him it is “tropo caro, ” Italian for “too expensive”, but he does understand.

I see the room they want to give me at the Hostal A Union, and it looks like a room in a bad nursing home.  A window with frosted glass, and a bedspread from your great-aunt Millie’s trousseau.  I shake my head.

When I ask if there is another bed where my friends will sleep, she takes me to the other side of the building, where the bedrooms all share a bath . . . four bedrooms, but two or three beds in a room, and they are full.  I tell her I might go to the Casa Gloria.  Immediately, she brightens.  She does have another private room on the other side, just down the hall from the first place she showed me . . . but of course it’s Euro 30, not Euro 25.  I’m tired.  “Show me.”  And she does.  Bright, a window looking out to the town.  I nod yes, leave my pack in the room, do the paperwork, and order a glass of wine.

I’m sitting at a table outside when I see Ria crossing the street a half block away.  I raise my sticks, as she does when she arrives first at a place.  And as she approaches me, I see three women behind her.  Two I don’t know and the third is . .  ERIKA!  Big hug!  I meet Nicoletta or Nicolina (Dutch) and Jessie (German) with a body full of tattoos.  I’m used to that . . . both of my sons have girlfriends with beautiful tats and Jessie are beautiful, too.

Visiting is short because I’m tired and so are they.  I head up to “my side” of the building.  I’ll see them in the morning.

P.S.  Apparently much later, a woman does arrive at around 9:30 or so.  She got to Gondán and then San Xusto and it was already getting dark.  She began to think about where she could sleep for the night.  A corn crib?  A cow trough?  Under a tree, wrapped in her sleeping bag?  Clutching her pack, sticks in hand for defense against something?  Those are the things I imagined as I walked up that hill.  Would I get there?  Would the albergue be open?  Etc.

Fortunately, a man at the bar in San Xusto drove her to Lourenzá, though I don’t know where they found a bed for her, when the woman told me that side was “completo.”  And I was already asleep by that time . . . grateful I was not sleeping in great-aunt-Minnie’s room.  And I’m very sorry I didn’t take a picture . . .

Posted in Animals, Camino Albergues, Camino de Santiago, Camino del Norte | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments