The sunrise in this part of Spain is officially 8:53 am. Where we would have started at 6:30 in the past this would now represent walking in the dark for far too long. Rain adds another dimension of complexity everyone seems to be aware of. Most pilgrims now start rolling out of bed around 7:00. By the time everything is packed up and you are leaving the Albergue it is 7:30. Breakfast or the first cup of coffee is usually found close by. Finally, after everything is completed you are walking toward Santiago just before 8:00am.
And so it was today. Dawn was only pushing on the sky when we started out. There appeared to be some cloud cover, but it was difficult to tell if rain was a threat. As a precaution I wore my rain pants once again. These thin pants also add a certain amount of thermal protection, very welcomed today.
Almost immediately after breakfast Susan, Bene, and I started walking independently. We have started doing this more frequently of late, in part keeping with Susan’s request. Perhaps there is a component of us subconsciously preparing ourselves for the 24th when we will be going our separate ways. This will be an especially difficult time for me. I have become very, very attached to these two, and my Family.
As I mentioned previously many people start their Camino in Sarria and walk this final portion of The Way. It is perhaps less of a commitment to “try out” a simpler, or less demanding portion by walking through this part of Galicia. Others they may only have a Limited amount of time from their responsibilities. The last 100 km can obviously be walked in a shorter amount of time.
The trail during this final stage is dramatically easier but I would still caution people it is not without difficulty. We stopped for lunch today we met up with Tomas, Sean and Maria. Everyone asked “did you see the sign some pilgrim had left warning others about the slippery rocks”? Almost everyone had seen the warning, and almost everyone had still slipped. I think Bene was the only one to break the skin on her knee. (Message to Bene‘s family…. she is just fine. It is a tiny scratch….not worth removing the leg I’m thinking)
I missed the warning sign and failed to slip….draw your own conclusion.
Despite being a gentler, less demanding path we can see many people who are new to the Camino developing first week problems. Blisters, knee problems and equipment issues are in abundance for theese new kids on the block. I don’t feel any jealousy or superiority to the new pilgrims. There is no reason to feel walking a greater distance gives me a place above others. I am grateful I have had the opportunity, and the time to walk from St. Jean and to receive what I feel is a greater benefit.
There are fewer small villages today and the areas are still quite rural. This is Sunday so very little is open, most Spaniards are not working. Remember, Spain is suffering 26% unemployment as well at this time. I find it quite odd services for the pilgrims are not in abundance. In the past we have come across independent business people selling home made cheese, bananas, yogurt, and drinks on the mountain, or at the side of a road….. and they appear to be doing a solid business. There have been many times where I would pay more if I could just get something to eat or drink. I am reminded of one particular section in the Meseta; 17 km with nothing available.
This region of Galicia appears to be a sport hunters paradise. Cars and trucks with trailers hunting dogs are seen quite frequent, especially on the weekends. Today two men with shotguns crossed the path in front of me with their dog. I heard them shooting at something a half dozen times very close by. The assumption is they are hunting birds, not pilgrims. Too many pilgrims made it past these guys….no one could be that bad of a shot.
When we finally come to the end of our 24km day we have entered the small city of Melide. (Pop. 8,000) The municipal Albergue is closed for the season so we check into a private Albergue literally next door. Just as we are paying and having our credentials stamped Tomas comes down the stairs.
He tells us there is almost no one here and he is glad to share the empty Albergue with us. Use as much hot water as you would like, pick any bed, spread your stuff out…. these are luxuries we have seldom enjoyed.
After we are cleaned up and started our laundry we decide to grab a snack. With everything closed (Sunday) our options are few. Several doors down is a small hotel with a restaurant. This will do nicely.
We order a lemonade, two beers, and a red wine along with a plate of French fries to share. We say hello to a woman who comes into the restaurant alone and invite her to join us. Soon her friend joins us as well. Both women are from the Boston area and decided to walk a portion of the Camino. Nancy and Connie turned out to be delightful new additions to the “family”. After more drinks interleaved with running back to attend to the laundry (twice) we head out en mass for a specialty in this area. Octopus with paprika, or “pulpo” as it is called in Spanish.
According to the Brierley guide the “go to” place is back at the beginning of road into Melide. So off we go. It is starting to rain and the lady serving us for the last couple of hours is just finishing her shift. She offers to take Bene to her place. We can borrow three umbrellas and return them the following morning to the restaurant. Acts of kindness like this are not common, but not uncommon.
Luckily the hour to eat dinner for the Spanish starts at 8 or 9 pm. We are starving at this point and want to be in bed by 9 at the latest. This restaurant is open and we get a full bench table. Dave, another American and his Camino daughter Katherine, a nurse from Slovakia join us. As Katherine and Tomas are from the same country we put them together on one end of the bench. (Susan is disappointed no sparks fly…what is it with women always trying to be match makers?)
Heaping plates of octopus pieces are delivered to our table. This has been pan fried in olive oil and appears to have copious amounts of paprika sprinkled on top. It also turns out to be very tasty, or at least the first hundred pieces are. Tomas also introduces us to a new way to enjoy bread and olive oil. Simply put olive oil on a plate and sprinkled salt on the olive oil. Dip the bread in the oil and enjoy. I have been craving salt almost every day on the Camino…. this is a delicious variant on the olive oil/ balsamic standard.
While we are eating Angela comes in with a group of Korean friends. It’s always nice to see her….she is always so positive.
We have eaten an absurd amount (for 10 euros each) we decide it is time to head back to our beds… some of us octopus burping all the way.
Our plan is to walk another 24 km tomorrow…the forecast, rain.