Camino de Santiago Day Thirty-Two: Melide to Santa Irene-Anticipation

1 05 2018

Suzy woke me at 7am. I’d been up a little during the night. I think it was too quiet honestly! For some reason it took me awhile to get sorted. It’s like Groundhog Day every day. Repacking everything in the pack exactly the same way to ensure that it’s weighted properly, but sometimes you forget to put something in a bag and you have to start over. The small ziplocs have given up, they’re getting tired and stretched out and refuse to seal sometimes.

We shared the room with some younger pilgrims that have become good friends on their journey. Their easy banter and flirting made me wonder how this trip would have been different for me 20-25 years ago. As we all stuffed our packs I mentioned that we wouldn’t have to do this too many more times, half with relief and half with regret.

After just a coffee and a juice it was off. Somehow we were leaving around 9, again. Why change now I suppose. On the way I had a pinch in my boot. How can I still have boot issues on Day 32? But it had to be fixed before we headed out. No reason to ruin my feet now.

There were a few points today where we were given options on our walk, we chose to cross this stream which seemed like a snap except for one narrow rock and one that wiggled, it would have been much more scary day one.

I didn’t need any more cow photos but realized these might be some of the last ones I see. I’ll miss this I thought…a beautiful day outside where my only job is to keep one foot in front of the other and keep going. I bought some chestnuts at an Oasis stand.

There were many bikes today so we had to be extra vigilant. I don’t listen to music and I can hear well but sometimes the noise of a streak or the road makes them hard to hear. Most of the time they don’t have bells and it’s impossible to look behind you with the huge pack on. You literally have to turn 180 degrees are you’ll tweak your neck or knee, so it’s hard. A girl on a bike hollered something in another language as Suzy and I walked side by side and I veered towards the right to let her pass but it turns out she was trying to pass in between the two of us in the center of this more narrow part of trail. She skidded to a stop and glared at us and sighed with a huff. Most of the other cyclists were more professional and polite but it’s still scary when they speed past you on the steep descents.

There was a lot of climbing. On and on today. And a lot of points where the trail brought you around a bend only to find you could have taken the stairs directly up. We stopped at a restaurant Cafe Milpes for lunch overlooking the valley and they thankfully had padron peppers. There’s a lovely fountain here with icy water where you can soak your feet but I’d only do that if I was done for the day. For me too risky to take off the shoes when they feel good and risk swelling and reinserting them in the boots. Crazy all these things I learned about my body. Our friend Richard walked by and we waved, funny to see him behind us again.

It was a lot of walking so two hours later we had another brief stop at a cafe to rest our bodies and watch a rooster strut around. Almost everyone from our room in Melide was also at the bar taking a break. Richard walked by again, we laughed we didn’t know we’d passed him again! Later in the day we passed him a third time and as we were trying to locate our Albergue in Santa Irene he passed us once more. I guess this is what happens daily with many groups as they stop and start but it was fun to see this leapfrogging.

As we passed another bar Sarah from back in Ages yelled to us from where she and her mother were resting for the night, it had been weeks since we saw her. She said she listens to my song a lot which made me happy.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect today for walking. It started of very cold but was sunny with mixed clouds. When you stopped to sit in the shade too long you’d get a chill but I was able to warm up quickly and enjoyed wearing a camp shirt over my tshirt to protect from the sun. We strolled through some eucalyptus groves enjoying the cool menthol smell that invigorated us. Another incentive was the continual mike markers that count down our distance. We are getting so close. My thoughts went to my ancestors and people lost to me over the years.

I also thought about all the people who helped me make this trip both with emotional and financial support. Now that I’m almost there how could I possibly remember to thank everyone, and not forget anyone? I made a conscious decision to wait a day to thank everyone individually. I will have time in Santiago to deliver the intentions I promised I would and to pray for all those that helped me and those I am thinking of but I must walk in alone. Even if Suzy is beside me we walk in alone.

We began to approach Santa Irene and ran into a friend and got distracted on our route losing our markers for a bit, finally we headed into the town and under the bridge my phone died, turns out despite all our confusion and some stress the Albergue Santa Irene privada was right there. It’s a beautiful very old house with a living room like grandma’s but more like a fancy grandma. The wood burning stove is super cozy and their kitchen is funky but with a very cool old stove in it. Although the sleeping area is a bit chilly there were plenty of blankets and it’s dark and cozy with the feel of an old stable.

With only five people here Suzy and I relished our last Albergue experience, tomorrow she gets a hotel and I get a private room. We shared a bottle of wine and talked about some of our dearly departed loved ones. Turns out she too was in that mindset during today’s walk. Tears were shed.

One of the guests opted to say not a word to us and go to bed but we enjoyed a delicious communal dinner with a couple from Italy. There was a piping hot soup with noodles and chorizo and hake (called Merluza) a whitefish. After dinner we had a digestif, the herbal orujo and retired to bed.

As we went to bed it felt a little like that excitement of Christmas Eve. You wonder what you’ll be gifted and what awaits you. I don’t know what to expect and I’m trying not to expect much. I don’t want to be disappointed and I want to remember Tomas’ words that it may not be an immediate eureka moment at the end of the Camino, it could be later.

I’m also kind of wondering what thoughts will be with me as I arrive. I have a friend who died, died just enough on the table to be brought back to life with the paddles. He told me that in those moments he saw the bright white light and saw every face of everyone he’d ever encountered. His dear mother and father who were deceased but also the faces of all the guests he’d hosted at his restaurant. He said it was incredible because it all happened simultaneously and without time. I wonder if I could be so lucky to believe that all these ideas and intentions I have for my loved ones past and present, for this universe and the world and the healing it needs, for those who I want to thank and pray for… could it all just be there with me as I enter, not written on any list but could all these thoughts come with me like balloons in a big bunch in my hand and be released into the air when I arrive. I hope so. I also hope to receive a sign that they’ve been heard. I hear it may rain today so a rainbow would be nice too.

I forgot to add that the Italian man looked up my ancestral name… Schiapapria…

He said it loosely translates to stone cutter or stone mason. I can’t help but wonder if there may be an ancient connection to the Knights Templar and the Masons. Maybe this is my mission to learn more about my past and my history to better understand my present.

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Camino de Santiago Day Thirty-One: Gonzar to Melide-Reunion

1 05 2018

In the middle of the night I woke to hear someone snoring like crazy, sawing logs so to speak. Seemed almost peaceful. But then I heard the snorer that must have woke me. There was a huge sigh followed by a choking sound as his airway no doubt shut. One second, two seconds, three seconds, four and “Archt!!!” He inhaled. Then there was an exhale like the purr of a cat that grew into a growl and finally erupted in a huge almost Big Bird type wheezing and then words, unintelligible but words erupted from the man. And repeat. I kept thinking he’d died. The echo off the stone walls made it impossible to determine where it was actually coming from, or I would have sacrificed a sock to throw at him. I eventually fell asleep again but luckily lightly or else I would have fallen out of the top bunk which had absolutely no guard rails or wall on either side to remind me not to roll over too far. At dawn many left quietly and I got up slowly again. I glared around trying to determine the culprit but to no avail. Likely he slunk out in the veil of darkness.

With a line for the two bathrooms we opted to wait out the rush, coffee wasn’t available until Isa arrived at 8 anyway. The older woman arrived a little earlier and was nice enough to cut the chill of the cold morning by making a nice wood fire in the stove.

The last of the pilgrims began to evacuate the dorm and one was a woman we’d seen the night before but hadn’t talked to. Erika originally from Austria now lives in Canada and this is her 16th Camino and her 90th year on earth. I mean how amazing. Very unlike some of the Camino alums we come across, she was very soft spoken and didn’t offer information not requested. I’m so sick of some of the braggarts who are on their 7th Camino and want to tell you exactly how to do your first. I’m sure they’re well meaning but some offer too much telling you where to go, where not to go, what to do and doing so incessantly as if they have nothing else to say. The whole idea, for me at least, is that each Camino is distinctly different. Suggestions are welcome but there is no need to have someone completely guide you. I’ve seen too many Camino experts with their friends telling them exactly where they should stop and not allowing them to folios their hearts and just walk. I don’t know, maybe I’m just very sensitive to it but I wonder how can you enjoy a Camino through someone else’s eyes like that. I’d rather bring a newbie along and see what they see and let them lead so as to live a new Camino next time. There have been so many times when Suzy and I shrugged off a suggestion and just followed our instincts and witnessed magic.

This woman was so humble and sweet and was traveling her very last Camino to say goodbye to her favorite hospitaleros and eventually meet up with some friends along the way and in Mallorca. She can’t walk as well anymore so now she takes cabs along the areas that are too steep. She does this walk with a cane. She was so inspiring. She too is doing the Camino her way.

We were so warm and cozy and fuzzy in this sweet room with the fire roaring but we had to head out into the cold. We bid them farewell and headed on a little late at 9:15.

The crowd was much smaller as we reached the trails. My toe is miraculously healed 100%. I think it was a combination, two days of the thinner Darn Tough socks, moving the water bottle to the opposite side of the pack, less heat in general out on the walk and one or two nights of applying Savannah Bee royal jelly bee body butter on my feet and covering them in the Swiftwick socks for a few hours. I think bee products are amazing and I’m so glad I’d stashed these sample packets I found at the Fancy Food Show in my pack.

It was misty but not raining heavily as walked along. Upon entering Ligonde we saw a woman selling cheese from her kitchen window. She invited me to enter her driveway to take a photo of her cows and hens. The extra minutes as they often do resulted in a day of “coincidences” although most that walk this route will agree that you run into who you’re supposed to, there are no accidents.

As we merged back into what had become a larger group we suddenly saw Claudia! She said she’d gotten a lot of peaceful days alone for quiet contemplation. she said most of the folks we knew are around us now as we funnel into Santiago.

We were on the lookout for our friend Jean who we’d met in Valverde del Virgen and then saw later on. He’d told us to come to Ligonde to see him. We almost missed him as we were talking to Claudia but Suzy caught sight of the small alcove where they were serving coffee and tea to pilgrims for a donation and offering a cozy warm place to rest.

We saw Jean immediately as we entered and it was incredible the feeling of elation we all had upon being reunited. I mean we only spent about 3 hours total together in a lifetime, but these Camino connections are intense. We were invited to have coffee and place a pin on the map of where we were from. We met some other Americans from Arizona and then As wee were to leave Jean asked us for one more song. He told us he was so pleased to meet us and that we were a ray of light for him. So of course we obliged. One of the other volunteer hospitaleros, Alke, offered us a cowboy guitar rather than the Spanish one they had ready to play and I started to play my song “Carpe Diem”.

It goes “Well I can’t tell you where I’m going, I don’t remember where I’ve been, storm clouds seem to be blowing, I’m walking straight into the wind. I feel just like an apparition, a pilgrim in purgatory, on the way to the next Mission, seeds to sow and crops to reap…”

I noticed more and more pilgrims coming in, my audience was growing! But then i realized it wasn’t my sultry crooning that had attracted them but rather it was pouring rain, New Orleans style rain, outside.

Suzy played a song and then Alke played some songs by David Crowder. Jean showed me where they’re living and eating and I for some reason got choked up when he said, “Maybe you’ll come live here in your next lifetime.” I think he meant later in your life but is just learning English, but it still struck me somehow and I started crying thinking of how sad I was to leave this life and these new friends of the road. We waited a little longer and put on all our rain gear and said our goodbyes and stepped out into the rain. And suddenly it was gone. As we passed some other pilgrims going down a rocky stream bed made worse by the rain they marveled at the fact that we were completely dry.

We hadn’t really eaten lunch so we stopped at a place called Formiga with big iron ant statues in the garden. By now it was nice enough to sit outside so we did and I got a plate of chorizo and local Ulloa cheese and a wine. I went back for another wine and as I was coming back outside was amazed to see Friedrich and then Sina!! It had been so long and we all embraced so excited to be back together. They’d said they’d gotten faster and done some really big days. They also said our other German friends are close maybe behind or maybe ahead. And luckily we finally shared our info, we’d seen them so often we hadn’t thought we’d need to reach out to them but now we know we can. They joined us for awhile and then it was off again, we were going farther than most.

About a minute into our walk it hit, hard driving hail!! It pelted our faces and then became freezing cold rain. This the last day of April and ridiculous weather! I was soaked but luckily it stopped another 1.5km later and we got to dry out. There was one more stop before our last few hours at Albergue Santo Domingo which would have been a nice place to stay but we wanted to cut this down to get to Santiago on May 2.

We rolled into Melide through a boring industrial park, then a forest, a small town and finally boring suburbs and checked into Albergue San Anton which was nice. Very clean quiet smaller rooms.

Soon after our showers we headed off to where we’d seen some cute wine bars. I was in horrible pilgrim attire, I mean really bad. Suzy said I looked homeless which technically I am out here. I had on my saggy grey leggings, a black tank and button down shirt, a purple puffy jacket, pink pashmina and the clincher Crocs sandals with socks.

There were three main wine bars and we went for the middle one. There were a few families in there and a baby was crying so we thought it looked like a nice spot. We ordered two vino tintos and the calamares and were offered two pintxos of jamon. We did notice there was a guy with a jamon leg slicing it in the window but thought it must be just a special promo.

We sat there and enjoyed watching the bar fill up. The owner burst in with multiple large format bottles of wine, mostly Rioja, some magnum bottles some even larger than that, some were even 5 liters! We thought he was just doing a photo shoot but he then started opening all the bottles! We asked what we needed to do to try them and she said just order. We got two glasses of the Pago de Capellanes Ribera del Duero 2013 and then a Ribera Sacra made of Mencia. They were delicious! We still didn’t quite comprehend as more and more people flooded in and they started walking around with more pintxos of tortilla and also small empanadas. We had initially thought we’d go get a glass and another bite at another bar, but the staff was in the weeds (restaurant talk for swamped) and we had now eaten enough for dinner! It was so weird how busy it was being Monday after all. Finally we asked what was going on and discovered this was all special for their one year anniversary and we’d just stumbled upon it. So amazing the timing and our luck. We couldn’t stay forever and the bar was so full the owner needed to clear the bar stools so we headed back to the Albergue to gather our laundry in time for our 11pm curfew.

Today was all about reunions with our friends from the trail, so rewarding to know that they too were wondering about us and where we were. This crazy little family of ours born out of seemingly random timing and coincidence, many of these people will become lifelong friends. Even if we never find them again many will live in our hearts forever and be in our thoughts whenever we think of this time in our lives. It’s so special. It makes me sad to see the end, but I’m hopeful that we will have one more big reunion in Santiago.

We are going big again tomorrow. We want to get to Santiago soon.

20.1 miles today, 47 flights according to the iPhone. Dog tired.