An oasis of calm on the last 100km way to Santiago


The Camino will provide – a commonly spoken phrase on the Way of Saint James.

I write this post this evening on Monday June 23rd, as I sit at a long wooden table being prepared for evening meal. There is a child playing with his Sega, a cockerel announcing its presence after the storm which came with ferocity and which I luckily missed, and also the sound of the film next door being screened – which I chose not to watch – and which will be coming to its end shortly.

Today felt like a labour of love; the walking seeming excessively demanding in the humidity and heat. I felt negative with regards to the walk ahead; the final 100km before Santiago. 100km before the symbolic death of the pilgrim, before he or she can walk glorious in rebirth towards Finisterre. I expected omens. I expected something bad to happen. I expected to rush through the kilometres, hoping to avoid the monotony and anticlimax of the commercialisation of the final steps towards the tomb of Saint James. I reflected on the events of last year and the fear inside grew. I began to draw myself over to the dark side; I saw shadows where there were none. I didn’t expect the storm and I didn’t expect the rain.

I also didn’t expect that I would experience one of the most special evenings of my Camino so far.

This morning’s walk was mostly in forested pathways and also lacked the amount of pilgrims which I witnessed in large numbers last July:

Walk-to-Portomarin

Holy-spot?

There were though reminders of how well-trodden this section of the Camino can get:

Scallop-shell-souvenirs-on-way-to-Portomarin

Camino-vending-machines

Transport-of-rucksacks-in-Portomarin

The first town out of Sarria is Portomarin and I stopped here for a small break:

Arrival-to-Portomarin

It’s a lovely little town, but pilgrims were complaining that all the albergues were full up; that people had made reservations in advance. Please note btw that it is only possible to reserve in advance private allergies and not Municipal ones.

The walk out of Portomarin is also beautiful:

Walking-out-of-Portomarin

I walked on into the afternoon, along the dusty paths, and under the oppressive heat and humidity:

Onward-walk-from-Portomarin

I stopped off in the little village of Gonzar, where I’d stayed last year outside in the albergue spill-over area. It was also completely full here at both the private and Municipal albergues. Everyone seemed to have a look of concern on their faces. Was it going to be like this from now on? Would they also need to begin phoning ahead to make reservations in advance? Luckily for me I have my independence with my sleeping bag and I walked on, hungry but full of energy. There were a few donativo cafes on the way in the morning so I wasn’t completely walking on empty. Still though, as I walked into the village of Ligonde I hoped that before the end of the village that there would be a donativo cafe of some sort so I could top up my energy levels – I only play guitar for money in the big towns and never in the small villages – I was down to my last few Euros again. The approaching black clouds and rumblings of thunder were also beginning to be a cause for concern.

My hopes were met with a beautiful donativo refugio (Fuente del Peregrino), which at first I thought was only a donativo cafe:

Arrival-to-Fuente-del-Peregrino

I was invited in for a coffee and biscuit(s) and soon learned that it was also possible to sleep here, which I immediately signed up for. The place is run by a Christian organisation; lovely people and they don’t try and push their faith down your throat so much.

The evening began with a lovely exercise; we were each given a piece of paper where a pilgrim from the previous evening had written down a personal thought or wish. We were asked to read the message to ourselves and to think of the pilgrim. Each of us was then given pen and paper and invited to write our personal thought or wish down, to be read out by tomorrow’s pilgrims. It was a beautiful exercise and made me think about the continuity of the Camino and my place within it:

Writing-down-thoughts

Posting-thoughts

We then as a group read out a Pilgrim prayer, something which I wasn’t so fond of, and then it was announced that they were about to screen next door a film about the life of Jesus (if I want to see a film about Jesus then I’ll do it on my own terms and besides, I’d rather watch The Life of Brian).

Writing this now in the morning in Palas de Rei, I’m reflecting on the evening’s events and feeling fortunate that I wandered into Ligonde and stopped at the refugio. After the film finished dinner was served and this consisted of a pasta dish, followed by a cheese salad, and then a cake desert:

Evening-meal

After dinner as we all sat around the table we were invited to speak about any stories we had of the Camino – the atmosphere was very friendly – and almost all of us chipped in with an anecdote about a tale on the road to Santiago.

Upstairs holds 9 beds, but as I was part of the over-spill, I was located downstairs in the entrance (and where the film was screened) and where they can hold a maximum of 6 additional pilgrims:

Overspill-sleeping-at-Fuente-del-Peregrino

I slept a deep sleep and in the morning showered (probably the best shower of the Camino) and then took breakfast.

I definitely recommend staying here.

It had been raining a bit over night but by the time I left this morning the rain had stopped, but there was still a heavy morning mist hanging in the air and helping to contribute to the general green tone of the countryside:

Galicia-morning-mist

You meet many people on the way and sometimes it means only saying a hi! to a familiar face. This morning a pilgrim from Hungary stopped for a while to chat to me as I walked along the way with guitar in one hand and water bottle in the other. I noticed that he was carrying two heavy and awkward-looking bags in his right hand and asked why he was doing so. His reply was that he was carrying them for his wife and child who had died and I almost cried for him on the spot (he must be carrying them to Santiago to lay the memories to rest). We all walk the Camino for our own reasons; some of us carry more baggage than others but we are all walking to Santiago with our own special story.

Well, I’m sat outside the Biblioteca at Palas de Rei and waiting for it to (hopefully) open at 10:30am so I can work online for a while and then I will walk onto Melide, where I plan to play for money so I can eat some Octopus this evening – a speciality of the town – and try and Skype with my children.
Another update: the Biblioteca finally opened at 10:45am and they don’t have @. I am instead in the Britania bar which has excellent coffee and excellent @.

It looks as though it will remain a wet day in Galicia, despite the early signs that the mist might lift. Onwards to Melide!

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Categories: Walking into Spring and Summer [My 3,109km walk from Prague to Finisterre | 2014]Tags: , , , , ,

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