Feeling refreshed after a days break we aim to head off early but still only manage an 8:50 depart. The mist has rolled in again an we can’t see the footbridge that crosses the reservoir 200m beyond. The morning is cool and the walking uphill so all in all really lovely. As we rise through the clouds we”re greeted by sunshine and beautiful vistas. Our first stop in after 2 hours walking is for coffee, cheese and bread. Just before our lunch stop at Gonzar we meet the yanks again who exclaim they thought they were the last ones on the trail that day. We assure them there are plenty more behind us and settle down to our lunch of …. you guessed it …. wine, more cheese, bread, tomatoes, tuna and chocolate. Yum. Fortified we head on for another 3 hours of walking into Palas do Rei.
We spy our first Eucalyptus trees today and there are plenty more to come.
Of course I suggest a taxi to the next town (or maybe several small towns on) and I have to say Pete doesn’t put up much resistance. Actually he’s in boots and all so to speak. So Melide is our stop. The hostal is good and our perigrino dinner one of the better ones with a traditional soup as entree and octopus as the main. The lady who owns the place is delightful and looks after everyone like a mum.
So another 13k on and only 2 days of walking to go.
It’s an interesting experience. As I’ve said before the little towns are so beautiful and some of the countryside is exquisite but overall there are some very ordinary stretches of landscape both rural and urban. Once a spiritual walk to be offered remittance of sins in this life, it now seems to be something quite different. The pilgrims are made up of a whole range of people from driven types who have to walk each step of the way and who knows what for – just to say they’ve done it I assume – to party goers who enjoy the camaraderie of the albergues and the ability to live really cheaply.
As Europe’s Premier Cultural Itinerary and a Unesco World Heritage Site it is littered with garbage from the pilgrims and that part of it is really disappointing.
As for the food – everyone has told us what wonderful food there is in Spain and indeed we’ve had a few excellent meals but all in all it is pretty ordinary. Still bread, potato, bread, stale bread, potato, egg and potato. We’ve travelled over 700km across the top of Spain and passed hundreds and hundreds of acres of crop especially corn and asparagus and have only had tinned versions served up to us. We order a salad at every meal and it has been the same for 700km also with no variation – quite amazing – iceberg lettuce, tomato, tinned asparagus, tinned tuna, tinned corn and the occasional egg … but at least it’s not potato. And don’t get me wrong, I love potato, I just thought with all this walking a few kilos might have slipped away, but alas not the case.
Dee and I have discussed the Camino on a few occasions mostly focusing on why it is so popular, why it is widely viewed as one of 3 great modern pilgrimages and what types of people inhabit the walk.
I suppose when I had researched the Camino (not extensively), my impression was that it would be a fantastic journey of self discovery. When I met Dee, or some time later, I mentioned the Camino and Dee had heard something of it (vaguely). Some time later i proposed we walk the camino, Dee suggested an abridged version, the trip grew to include a broader coverage of Spain. My initial zeal (not religious but scorpionic stubbornness) took some time to be replaced with a more realistic view of the Camino. As time has passed I have come to view the walk, the heritage site, with some contempt. I wonder if it is the same contempt with which most European peregrinos view the pilgrimage. Dogged determination to walk every step and pollute as much as possible. I fear the Camino has become a badge of courage, something to impress friends with over drinks or dinner, rather than a true spiritual journey. True, many people we have met have been generous, open and willing to share this part of their lives with us, yet my overall impression is that the camino has become a premier party walk for the young and some “must do” experience for the middle aged and older.
Have I regretted the decision to walk? My answer would have to be no. Dee and I have experienced physical hardship and obstacles that would test the best of relationships. I am amazed at our ability to communicate, give and take, and continue with humour and love. We are very lucky to have each other, to be such great mates and understand each other’s needs even if Dee continues to hold the power of veto. It is Dee’s unwavering common sense and good nature that has seen us through.
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