Yesterday morning at the San Marcos xunta in Monto del Gozo, excitement was in the air among us pilgrims as we sat in the entrance area donning our boots, hoisting our packs onto our backs and grabbing our sticks for the final journey into Santiago.
One young pilgrim, all set to leave, her face beaming with happy anticipation, stopped at the xunta door, pulled in a deep breath, turned to her friends and said, "Let's go!"
I believe she spoke for us all.
As all pilgrims were required to be out of the xunta by 8 am, we left in a more or less spread-out group as the sun was just beginning to rise, all of us headed for the lights of Santiago, 4.5 kilometers off in the distance.
Now, in the movie "The Way" the pilgrims are shown climbing the crest of a hill to see a breath-taking panorama of the great cathedral of Santiago open below them.
That scene was totally video-shopped.
The approach to Santiago is about 2 1/2 miles through a busy urban area, the sidewalks full of pilgrims,
...still following the scallop shells, now in the sidewalks, to our symbolic destination, the cathedral of Santiago,
...And the streets are lined with tour buses.
Tom and I stopped at a bar along the way for some breakfast, our usual, tostadas, coffee for Tom, tea for me, and orange juice for Tom.
Which reminds me that I don't want to end this chronicle without giving a shout-out to the orange juice of Spain.
Now, I'm not an O.J. fan, but I can understand why the pilgrims, including Tom, were loving the orange juice in the bars along the Camino.
Called zumo natural, the juice you get in Spanish bars and restaurants is made in a machine generally located behind the bar. When a glass of zumo is ordered the server tosses several oranges into the machine and presses a button, which causes the machine to commence mashing and squashing up the oranges until a stream of juice sufficient to fill one glass has been caught in the pitcher below.
I've been told by those who appreciate their O.J. that it doesn't get any better than this.
After breakfast we continued on to the old part of town towards the cathedral .
When we arrived at the cathedral area we headed to our final destination of the Camino, not the cathedral, which is, as I mentioned, our symbolic destination, but to the Pilgrim Office,
...to receive the final stamp on our credential - pilgrim passport - and our Compostela, or Field of Stars, as the official certificate of completion of the Camino is called.
At the Pilgrim Office, when your turn arrives, you'll apporach the desk and hand your credential to the clerk who will verify from your passport that you have walked the required distance.
Meanwhile you'll fill out some paperwork which includes a box to check as to your reason for walking the Camino. The choices you can check are for religious, spiritual, or touristic or sport purposes.
As, even after having had 50 days to think about it I still wasn't exactly sure of my real inner reason for having wanted to walk the Camino a second time, I just checked the third box, touristic or sport.
Now, I'd heard a time or two from pilgrims along the way that if you're not doing the Camino for religious reasons then you'll be denied the Compostela when you arrive at Santiago. I didn't be'ieve that, though, and had considered it to be just another rumor among the so many one hears along the Camino.
However the clerk in the Pilgrim Office, when she saw that I'd checked the "tourist and sport" box, informed me that only pilgrims who did the Camino for religious reasons were entitled to the Compostela and that I'd have to buy myself a different certificate of completion - there's no charge to pilgrims for the Compostela - if I wanted one.
Not that the piece of paper is all that important, really, but I changed my mind and said I was doing the Camino for religious reasons,, which was fine with my friendly clerk.
However the clerk next to us, who'd apparently overheard the conversation between my clerk and myself, was perhaps not convinced of my sincerity. He asked me if I’d prayed while on the Camino. I told I’m I had. He wanted to know if I’d attended Mass while on the Camino. I told him I’d done that, too, as I’d been to the albergue Mass said by the Indonesian priests. Satisfied, the clerk said I was, then, entitled to the Compostela. But I had to check the correct box.
So I did.
And I received my Compostela.
It was a wonderful moment.
Today will be our last day on the Camino and we should enter Santiago by this afternoon.
Yesterday morning while we and our fellow pilgrims at El Albergue de Boni were packing up and getting ready to leave Tom and I started chatting with one of our dorm mates, a young Spanish organizational engineer. He said that he’d quit his job and was walking the Camino to have some quiet time think about what he should do next with his life.
“I’ve come up with ideas,” he said.
This youngster’s story was another variation of a common theme among pilgrims along the Camino: successful professionals who’ve quit their jobs after eight, fifteen, twenty years and have come to the Camino to find their souls.
A few days ago we talked with an Australian pilgrim, an advertising executive who’d worked in her field for twenty years, quit her job and was trying to decide whether to return to advertising or seek a new vocation. After five weeks on the Camino she was still undecided. “And now I’ve only got four more days ‘til Santiago to figure it out,” she sighed.
I hope she did. I hope everybody who came to the Camino to find something finds what they were looking for. As for me, all day long as I walked along the words of an old “Mr. Rogers” song kept going through my head:
Look what I found without looking.
Yesterday we managed to walk a whopping 23 kilometers from Salceda to Monte del Gozo.
After about an hour outside Salceda we came to a bar we remembered from our last time on this stretch of the Camino as being the most charming little place,
….where we’d had the absolutely best plate of sunny-side-up eggs and fries. We decided we wanted to re-live the experience.
So we did.
Later along the way we met up with some old Camino friends with whom we stopped for chats and photos.
We also met a young pilgrim couple from London who’d been doing the Camino since Leon with their cute three-year-old son in tow
I asked them what kind of stroller they had that could roll over the rocks and mountains. They said it was a mountain stroller with super suspension.
Who knew there were mountain strollers?
Several hours later it was time for lunch, so we stopped at a nice café in the town of Lavacolla where the barkeeper, a friendly Galician lady, told us naughty legends about the origins of the names of the towns of Lavacolla and Monte del Gozo and where we had our standard delicious cheese, tomato and olive-oil sandwiches – the cheese in Galicia is extraordinary – and split an also delicious ensalada mixta,
...with tarta helado –a slice of ice cream layered with chocolate shell – for dessert.
In spite of all the calorific fortification we’d taken on during the course of the day, by the time we reached the San Marcos xunta – as the municipal albergues in Galicia are called – at Monte del Gozo at the too-late hour of 6:30 pm I was dragging, sagging, and making a real effort not to start ragging.
The San Marcos xunta, located only about 4.5 kilometers from Santiago, has 800 beds at 6€ each spread out over about a dozen buildings on a campus that resembles an army post.
Though on the inside the buildings resemble college dorms.
Only one building was being used when we arrived yesterday, and about half the rooms, which have four bunk-beds each, were occupied, and mostly with young pilgrims;
…here sharing a community meal in the xunta kitchen.
The older pilgrims tend to spend their last night on the Camino in one of the hostels or hotels in the area rather than in the 500-bed xunta. Perhaps this is why when the friendly, jovial xunta hospitaliero saw these two tired-out, bedraggled-looking old pilgrims come schlepping in at 6:30 pm he led us down the long hall past all the occupied rooms and gave us a room all to ourselves.
Or maybe it was one last schpritz of Camino Karma.
Though we can hardly believe it, tomorrow - or maybe the day after, if we end up being slower than planned - will be our last day on the Camino. We're hoping to be in Santiago by Friday.
When we think back to the towns we passed through at the beginning of the Camino, St. Jean, Valcarlos, Espinal, Pamplona, Lorca, it seems like years since we were in those places; and yet at the same time it feels like the end of the journey has arrived so suddenly.
I guess maybe all life's journey's and progressions seem that way.
Yesterday we walked 16 kilometers from Casa Milia to Salceda.
Along the way in the town of Ribadiso we passed the xunta - the municipal albergue, as they're called in Galicia, - which was built by the Franciscan monks in the 15th century as a pilgrim hospital.
In 1527 the monks rented the building to a private individual after exacting a promise that the building would always be used to serve the needs of pilgrims.
Five centuries later that promise is still being kept.
We were hoping to spend the night in a really nice, off-the-beaten-track albergue outside the town of Salceda that we happened upon on our last Camino, but apparently since then the place has been discovered; by the time we arrived there were no beds left.
So we walked on to Salceda and kept our fingers crossed for some good Camino Karma and a couple of beds in the only albergue in town,
Karma came through and we got beds in El Albergue de Boni,
...a wonderful place, thanks to the friendly, welcoming, helpful hospitaliero, Boni, owner of the albergue, whose generosity of spirit and love of his calling is evident in the little touches - that mean so much - found at his albergue.
The dorm rooms were spacious,
...and each bed a small shelf next to it for us to put a few night things on, flashlight, watch, wallet, instead of having to put these things on the floor or on our beds. This little shelf was especially nice for the pilgrims on the top bunks as they don't have access to the floor and usually have to pile all their stuff on their beds. And in the wall next to each bed there was an outlet for charging electronic devices, a huge convenience. Also, in a room where another set of bunk beds could have been shoved in, Boni chose instead to put a shelf for pilgrims's backpacks, which usually clutter up all available floor space.
Next to the boot rack was a box of newspapers for pilgrims to use for stuffing into wet boots to help dry them out..
And the WIFI worked great.
And our laundry came out dry.
And the showers were gender-segregated and nice and had soap holders in the stalls.
And, for in the day room there were several massage therapists available to give aching pilgrims 10€ massages.
The massage therapists were quite busy all evening.
"Isn't this a great place?" We pilgrims kept marveling to each other.
It was a great place thanks to our wonderful hospitalier, Boni,.
....who has himself walked the Camino seven times.
Yesterday I achieved a milestone of sorts. A Wretched Stone milestone.
As I mentioned earlier, on this Camino I'd somehow managed to conquer the Wretched Stones of Galicia that had paralyzed me with fear on our last Camino.
That is to say, I'd conquered most of the Wretched Stones.
But I knew I stll had one more rock-monster challenge to face; This would be the bridge made of four rocks across a stream, the last two of which rocks are narrow, uneven, and somewhat wobbly and which so filled me with fear that I stood frozen in the middle of the bridge, unable to move forward despite the encouragment and extended hands of the pilgrims already on the other side. Finally a man with an artificial leg who was selling trinkets on the other side of the bridge got up from his little table, limped and pushed his way through the crowd, stepped onto the rock bridge, grabbed my arm and yanked me quickly across the rocks to the shore.
It was my most embarrassing Camino moment, but I had to admit the guy's method was effective.in getting me over the rocks and across the bridge.
But this time, having overcome my fear of all the other the Wretched Stones along the way, I believed that the danger of the rock bridge had been, likewise, all in my head and that when I again came to it this second time I'd simply breeze across.
Though I've had vague fleeting notions for the past few days that we'd soon be Yesterday morning I wasn't I really wasn't even much thinking about the rock bridge, though I had a vague notion that we'd cross it soon.
At one point yesterday morning while hiking through forest land we heard Celtic flute music off in the distance which got louder as we advanced until we came upon the forest flutist playing next to his donkey.
And the just a few steps beyond the flutist and donkey, there it was:
In retrospect I should have just kept walking, just marched across that bridge as I’d rehearsed in my mind, but I hesitated, backed up a little to get a good walking start, hesitated again just to make sure I was ready, took a moment to summon up my courage, then quickly set out across the four rocks. And stopped dead when I reached the end of the second one. I couldn’t make myself set foot upon the third.
Tom, who was already on the other side, started back to fetch me but I didn’t want to be fetched, I was afraid of losing my balance and pulling us both into the rocky stream below.
“Just give me I minute,” I said. I can’t do this, I thought.
“Put your sticks down one at a time on the middle of the rock, then you won’t fall,” Tom called.
Now, I don’t know whether putting my sticks down on the middle of the rock kept me from falling any more than holding a feather in his trunk made Dumbo able to fly, but in that moment being told by Tom that I wouldn’t fall if I just kept my sticks centered made me believe it and, keeping my sticks centered, I ventured onto the bad rocks, kept moving and was across in about three seconds.
While I was still doing a victory dance for having made it across the rock bridge in, really, less than two minutes and without having made a major scene, Tom and I noticed another pilgrim now frozen on the spot on the bridge that had stopped me.
Tom went out to her and helped her across,
...and then she helped the next fearful pilgrim across.
Pilgrims three, rock bridge zero
Then the next pilgrim to cross the bridge was a young Israeli girl who perched on the bad rocks casually snapping photos of the stream.
“My goodness, weren’t you scared out there on those rocks?” I asked her.
Besides crossing the wretched rock bridge, we also walked through a fragrant eucalyptus forest,
….saw a cow-pilgrim mixer,
...and stopped at a little bar for our current favorite lunch, tomato, cheese, and olive oil bocadillos....
We walked probably 8 or 9 kilometers yesterday
…..though we’re not exactly sure, as the place we stopped at, a hostel called Casa Mila, was a little off the map.
We’d found this place rather by accident on our last Camino when, walking through a forest late in the day and having already passed two albergues that were full and the next town several kilometers away, we came upon this sign, pointing to a narrow path that veered off the Camino.
Wondering whether we were as foolish as Hansel and Gretel to be following a sign through the forest, we followed it anyway as it was getting dark and we were getting desperate.
We came to another sign,
...that led us to one more sign,
Then we were in front of a big stone house that looked empty.
“I don’t think there’s anyone here,” I told Tom, but he strode up to the door, me following behind him, and knocked.
We weren’t exactly expecting a wicked witch to answer the door, but neither were we expecting the cute little grandmotherly lady wearing a kitten apron who answered the door and seemed as happy to see us as if she’d been expecting us.
We ended up loving the place.
And so yesterday we decided that, to make up for the nasty albergue we’d ended up in the night before, we just had to go back to the lovely Casa Milia, even though it meant walking a short day.
So we made our way through the forest back to the lovely Casa Milia.
View from the front door
..... Where we were warmly welcomed by the same sweet hospitaliera and her friendly grandson who helps her run the hostel.
We got a double room with the most heavenly comfortable beds.
It turned out that Tom and I were the only guests in the hostel, but the grandson told us that starting the following day the place was booked solid through the weekend with pilgrim tour groups.
Camino Karma, thank you again.
Remembering the amazingly delicious food we’d had on our last stay at Casa Mila, we were especially anticipating dinner.
….which even better than we’d remembered.
The first course was a pot of fantastic vegetable soup, all the ingredients of which came from the hospitaliera’s garden.
The next course was rabbit, raised and prepared by the hospitaliera, and served in the most unbelievable sauce, every bit of which we soaked up from the platter with bread and the delicious roasted potatoes served on the side.
For dessert I had home-made flan and Tom, encouraged by the hospitaliera’s grandson to try this local delicacy, had cheese and quince, which he declared delicious.
Along with our coffee and tea the hospitaliera brought out a bottle of a strong raspberry liqueur that she made herself and poured a shot for Tom – I declined - into a tiny iced glass.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Tom.
And for the 81€ we paid for our room, dinners, laundry service and delightful breakfast this morning,
...it probably doesn't.
Tom and I can usually pull our two-headed turtle act together enough to decide each evening how far we want to walk the following day and where we want to spend the night.
It's not unusual, however, for us to have great ambition about how far we'll walk in a day - 20, 21, 23 kilometers - and then by the end of the day fall several - or sometimes quite a few - kilometers short of our original goal.
It's not necessarily because we're too tired to walk any further - though sometimes we in fact are - that we stop shorter than we'd planned; we usually stop because it's gotten too late for us to go on.
Our philosophy on the Camino is that you don't want to arrive at your albergue much later than 5 pm or else you risk the albergue being full, and also the hospitalieros don't appreciate you to handing them your laundry to wash when they're bustling around trying to get dinner together.
In any case,it always seem to take us most of the day to get wherever we end up staying for the night. Part of the reason is that I'm a slow, slow walker, always stopping to look at things, to turn around and look at the view behind me, to gaze at the cloud islands, to snap picture after picture.
But the other reason it generally takes us so long every day to get to wherever we end up is because we blow so much time during the day chatting with our fellow pilgrims. We can easily blow an hour in a bar talking. Especially Tom. Tom loves to talk to people and people love to talk to him.
And so we've decided that even though we're the slowest pilgrims on the Camino, interacting with our fellow pilgrims is for us an important part of our Camino.
Of course, we can never participate in kilometer braging.
Yesterday we'd grandiously planned to walk 23 kilometers from Palas de Rei to Portela, but, per usual, we stopped after 15 k's in the city of Melide.
It rained all day yesterday so the Camino Tortoises and Camino Rocket Men and Women came out:
But we were mostly happy trampers, anyway.
Along with the Tortoise and Rocket People we also saw along the way:
A giant Camino scallop shell,
....a troll bridge,
....and several sightings of the little pilgrim xunta guy:
When we arrived at Melide we decided to stay at an albergue called O Cruceiro that we'd seen advertised along the way. It looked nice from the outside and its ads claimed that it was a brand new albergue.
Once we got a look at the dorms, expensive at 10€ per bed, we concluded that this place probably was brand new a hundred years ago. The dorm rooms were dark and dreary and smelled not great, the WIFI didn't work, the bathrooms also smelled and the showers leaked so that the bathroom floor was a pool, the washer and dryer didn't function well - and there was only one of each for 40 pilgrims with wet, muddy clothes, which caused such an atmosphere of laundry anxiety in the dorm that I finally pulled our laundry from its spot in the queue and just washed a couple pieces by hand and hung them up in the drying area where there was water dripping from above, probably from a hole in the roof.
After we hung up our wet clothes in the wet drying room we felt like we had to get away from the laundry drama and general dreariness of the place, so we left and sought out someplace else to be. Down the block from our loser albergue we happened upon a cute restaurant called Chaplin,
....where we had a great meal and then sat around and chatting with other pilgrims, then just sat around more until we really had to return to our albergue. The gracious, friendly server not only didn't mind us hanging out all night but took our photo.
In the course of our evening at the restaurant we ran into one group of pilgrims, middle-aged American ladies, whom we’d been “Buen Camino-ing” along the Camino for weeks but with whom we’d never really stopped to speak. This time we did chat for a moment, mostly about how good the food at this restaurant was.
Then one of the ladies said to me, “Aren’t you the couple who loves pastries? It seems like every town we pass you in you’re going into a pastry shop. And weren’t you the ones who were leading pilgrims off the Camino into a pastry shop in that one little town that was supposed to have the best pastries on the Camino?"
Sigh. Guilty as charged.
Something strange has happened to the Wretched Stones of Galicia.
They're not there anymore.
Not that there are no tricky spots now and then
...but we're halfway though Galicia and I have yet to meet up any of the terrible, terrifying patches of giant jagged rocks that on our last Camino left me paralyzed with fear, unable to move without the group encouragement of Tom and every other pilgrim who happened to be around me.
I remember the Wretched Stones being everywhere last time. Now they're nowhere.
Now, I'm wondering whether all the hundreds of thousands of pilgrim boots that have walked over those stones in the two years since I last walked the Camino have worn them away, or could it be that something inside my head has changed? Or did I just build these rocks up to be such huge monsters in my memory that the reality now makes them seem insignificant?
Or maybe they'll spring up on the path before me tomorrow.
Yesterday we walked about 17 kilometers from Gonzor to Palais de Rei.
It was another morning of walking alongside cloud islands.
I love the cloud islands. I can't resist stopping to gaze at them, then I can't stop gazing at them. I feel like I want to keep looking at them forever, mesmerized by the illusion of islands and oceans.
But then by late morning the clouds have drifted off and the mountain tops are no longer islands, but mountain tops once again.
We hit a brief spell of rain in the afternoon, and so I transformed into a Camino tortoise,
....and on we walked,
....and saw the little pilgrim Xunta guy a few times. I love him, too.
In the city of Palais de Rei we stayed at the albergue Castro, a beautiful modern new building with a bar on the first floor, a restaurant in the basement and elevators to the bright, spacious dorms on the second and third floors where the beds were 9€ each..
The internet was lightening-fast - it's been a bit of a challenge finding working WIFI lately - and the bathrooms were gender-segregated and spotless, with soap dispensers, paper towels - almost unheard of in the albergues - and plenty of lovely hot water
We had a delicious 9€ pilgrim meal - complete with the standard bottle of vino tinto - red wine - in the cozy basement restaurant:
As we were finishing the last bites of our dessert a bus full of French tourgrims came piling into then restaurant and the hassled server was bustling around trying to find seats for them all. Tom and I quickly got up from our seats and offered them to the group. When we went up to the bar to pay for our meal the grateful server as a thank-you poured Tom - I declined - a shot glass full of a strong local liqueur typical to Galicia, on the house. And everybody was happy.
The word "turigrino" - "tourgrim" in English - is now part of the lexicon.
The term refers to pilgrims - pergrinos in Spanish - who do the Camino with a tour group. I saw the word on the back of a van of a Camino tour company called Viajes Tourigrino - Tourgrims Trips.
Yesterday we walked about 18 kilometers from Morgade to Gonzar.
.....passing now and then along the way the little pilgrim guy who's the symbol of the Xuntas, as the municipal albergues are called in Galicia,
....and who people can't resist covering in grafitti.
Once again we started out before 8 am and walked in the dark by the light of our flashlights. As our albergue in Morgade had no internet connection we were out on an early-morning WIFI hunt.
After walking about 4 ½ kilometers we found some WIFI along the way in a lovely little albergue bar called Mercadoiro,
…where we had a yummy breakfast of tostadas and slices of almond tart.
Later out on the terrace the Scoutmaster pow-wowed with some of the pilgrims over the guidebook map,
...and we met up with some Camino friends, Shirley, Alex, Fery and Saravandin from Java, Indonesia,
….who had started walking the Camino the day before, the day we met them, in Sarria.
Throughout the day we met up with our four Indonesian friends from time to time along the Camino, and a few kilometers before we reached Gonzar, our common destination, I was walking and talking with a couple of members of the group. During the course of our conversation I learned that all four worked together for an environmental awareness group in Java, that Alex and Shirley were married and that Fery and Saravandin were Catholic priests.
We arrived together at Gonzar where we all stayed the charming albergue Casa Garcia,.
with its lovely courtyard,
....and stone dorm rooms.
Shirley and Saravandin.
In moment of unmindfulness , also known as Camino Brain, I left my watch and my little Spanish-English dictionary in my pants pocket when I handed our clothes over to the laundry service. The kind hospitaliera retrieved my things from my pocket before they hit the dryer, but not befor they cycled through the washer. My dictionary was kaput, but my $9 Walmart watchwatch, miraculously, still works like new. I must have good Camino watch Karma.
As the following day would be Sunday, Fathers Fery and Saravandin hoped to be able to find a way to say a Mass in the albergue.
Since I had the most Spanish among us I volunteered to ask the hospitaliera if we could use a spot in the albergue for Mass.
The same kind young hospitaliera who saved my watch from the dryer was totally receptive to the idea of a Mass in the albergue and told me we could use the dining room. I then went around the albergue announcing in English and Spanish that there would be a Mass the following morning in the dining room.
And so this morning, Sunday morning, at 7:30 am a dozen pilgrims of a variety of nationalities gathered in the albergue dining room for a Mass part in English, part in Indonesian, celebrated with the simplest of elements on a wooden table.
And I though to myself, Maybe this is how the first Christians worshiped together.. Maybe this is how it was meant to be.
For the past two days there's been no WIFI in the hostels we've stayed at so we've been stopping at bars searching out some internet, Still even at the bars the connection can be patchy, so if a day or two goes by without a post it'll be because of internet issues.
Yesterday we passed the 100 kilometers-to-Santiago marker.
I sometimes wonder if many pilgrims carry markers with them for the specific purpose of leaving graffiti along the Camino or if the Camino graffiti is mostly the work of local youth. In any case, the kilometer markers seem to be especially irresistible graffiti magnets .
Yesterday we walked 12 kilometers from Sarria to Morgade through more enchanted landscapes.
.....and a cow traffic jam.
In the tiny village of Morgade we stayed at the beautiful little albergue Casa Morgade, which we'd really liked last time when we stayed there.
We decided to spring 29€ for a private room with a shared bathroom.
We had a typically delicious 10€ pilgrim meal in the albergue dining room. One of our dinner partners happened to be a young pilgrim from the west of Ireland who agreed that Galicia did strongly resemble his homeland down to the same bright shade of green landscape and the Celtic bagpipe and drum music we sometimes hear wafting from inside the touristy shops in the towns, only lacking the high mountains of Galicia
I also mentioned the "O' " one sometimes sees before words here: the town of O'Ceibro, our albergue in Sarria was called O'durmiendo, and the names we've seen on signs along the way:
I've never been to Western Ireland but I know it must be a beautiful place.
My friend Bob commented on Facebook that he thought he had Celtic ancestors who once lived in Galicia and that a form of Gaelic was still spoken here. Yes, Galicia does have its own language, called Galega, still spoken by many Galicians. And it says in our gúdebook that "Galicia shares many historical and physical similarities with other Celtic regions, particularly the west of Ireland."
Though Ive never been to Ireland, Galicia looks to me like what I imagine the Irish countryside to look like: green and verdant, narrow lanes along ancient stone walls and crumbling stone barns, rugged and magically beautiful.
We've met Irish pilgrims along the way who've told us that Galicia does, indeed, remind them of Ireland - right down to the pervasive smell of manure in the air. I'd say there are almost as many farm animals in Galicia as people. Maybe more.
Yesterday we walked 14 kilometers from Samos to the city of Sarria.
From here to Santiago we can expect the Camino to be crowded with day-tripping, backpack-free pilgrims who've come with tour groups to walk the last 100 kilometers to Santiago, as 100 kilometers is the minimum distance required of a pilgrim to walk in order to receive the Compostela, or certificate of completion of the Camino.
In Sarria We found a really lovely 9€-per -bed albergue called O'Durmiñento, where the friendly, helpful hospitaliero's little poochie had his own spot on the livingroom couch.
We shared with three Italian pilgrims a wonderful 10€ community dinner cooked by the hospitaliero's mother.
This morning when we stopped at a bar for breakfast it was clear that the last-100-k crowds had already descended upon the Camino when 15 people at once pour into the bar.
Now we're off to join our fellow-pilgrim herd, on to Santiago.
Yesterday we came across a couple more messages left along the Camino for the pilgrims.
And this one on a post next to a field:
For the second time a hospitalara has recognized Tom and me from our last stay at her albergue. The second time was the other day at the albergue La Reboleira at Fonfria where the hospitaliera told us our faces looked familiar and was very happy when she learned that we had indeed been to her albergue before and had now returned. When I asked her how she remembered us from among all the pilgrims she'd seen over the past two years she said there was something about our faces.
The first time a hospitaliera asked us if' we'd been to her albergue before was a few days ago. That hospitaliera didn't charge us for our beds, only charged us half for our breakfast, gave us a big candy bar for the road and refused a tip, saying we should instead say a prayer for her her and family when we get to Santiago. We will.
Yestéday we walked 19 kilometers from Fonfria to Samos among the cloud islands,
.....along mountain paths and highways and through small towns.
In the town of Samos is located the oldest monastery in Spain, built in the 6th century A.D.
The monastery has a very basic albergue - a bed and a shower, but no heat or aything else. Most of the pilgrims we talked to who were staying in Samos were staying in the monastery for the experience, but Tom and I decided to skip the experience and stayed at an albergue across the street from the monastery,
...the albergue Val de Samosa. It was a lovely place, 9€ per bed,
...and we were the only pilgrims staying there -seems everybody else was at the monastery - so we had the whole albergue, plus the bathroom and laundry service, all to ourselves. It was great. At least at first.
Our hospitaliera told us to go to the bar next door to our albergue for dinner, but when we did the poor distressed barkeeper told us that the cook didn't show up, something about an issue with her children, and so there was no one to fix us any food. The barkeeper told us to try the hotel down the road.
So we walked about a kilometer down the road to the hotel, where the server very apologetically told us that dinner wasn't served until 8:30 - our albergue closed at 9 - and it was only 7:30. But he offered to rustle us up something from the kitchen, and we gladly accepted his offer.
He brought us a big pot of delicious caldo gallido, a spinach and potato soup that's a specialty of Galicia,
...followed by a huge platter of equally delicious stew,
....with home-made flan for dessert. Our dinners, bottle of wine included, were 11€ each.
By the time we were finished with dinner it was already dark outside - the sun rises at 8 am here and by 8 pm it's dark again - so we walked back to our albergue in the dark, empty streets of the town.
When we returned to the albergue the place was only dimly lit inside. Soon after we returned our hospitaliera left the albergue to go home, so we were all alone in this rather dark stone-walled albergue which in daylight seemed cute and rustic but now seemed kind of creepy. It occurred to us that two pilgrims alone in a dark, creepy albergue would make a great scenario for a horror flick.
However we woke up this morning safe in our bunks with all our body parts intact, and as soon as the sun came up we were back out on the Camino with our brethren pilgrims, so it was all good.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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