The hotel was expensive. It was only three stars, but being situated in the centre of a large town meant that the prices were a lot more inflated. However, the breakfast made up for it. After a wonderful and restorative long sleep, we got up and dried our hand-washed clothes with the hairdryer in the bathroom before going down to breakfast. It was a massive affair. A full continental spread. We took our time filling our plates with fruit, eggs and pastries and filled our coffee mugs many times over until we sat full and sated. I watched a young boy discover the French toast and maple syrup. With intense concentration, he poured the sticky syrup onto the toast, letting it stream and flood his plate. His eyes shone with the delight of this unrestrained liberty. Kim was talking to me and could see that I was distracted by something behind her. The boy returned to his table and his brother exclaimed at the sight of the overflowing plate. The older boy leapt up and repeated his brother’s decadence. The adults just shrugged and continued talking, ignoring the boys’ holiday antics.
Finally, it was time to roll out of the hotel. We wandered through the streets and found the arrows with a fair amount of help from the locals. The streets moved sluggishly in the aftermath of the previous night’s party and we were once again sorry to have missed the celebrations. But we now felt much more restored and refreshed and were once again humming with excitement. We were less than 100km from Santiago and each step brought us closer to the cathedral.
The idea of the cathedral takes on almost mythical proportions. I’d only ever seen photos and videos of it. The destination was not a real and concrete architectural structure but rather, I think, a rather postmodern concept – a perfect example for University English Lit. The enormity of reaching it was not in the fact that we reached the actual structure, but rather in our reaching its complex intangible importance. For hundreds of years, it has been saturated in complex and historical importance and we were now part of the human and spiritual flow, moving towards that special destination. It stands outside time and space because of that conceptual spiritual abstraction. And with our flow towards it, we were both individual and a part of a greater historical and spacial reality. Even the act of walking loosens lineal time. The silencing of our phones releases us from the world. In short, there is a freedom to the pilgrimage – a release from everything, including our self-perceptions that then can open a space for other things: reflection and self discovery being a couple of them.
The route followed the shape of the bay and the views are amazing. Sheep wandered the empty streets. We walked through woods and rested on a cement block, eating some clementines and muffins that we had pilfered from the breakfast buffet. A cyclist slowed down at the puddle next to the block to avoid splashing us and, with a smile, wished us ‘bon camino.’
Walking on, we came to a cafe in the woods. We entered and were welcomed with a smile and a call to sit anywhere but the big table in the centre of the room as it was reserved for later. The cafe was charming. There was a fireplace and the furniture looked hand-carved. Kim and I took up a corner with a small, round table and a bookshelf full of books and photos. We took off our shoes and spread out, relishing the warmth and comfort of the cafe. We ordered a brocadillo to share and a couple of cokes and gorged ourselves. While sitting there, a couple from Canada entered. They greeted us as they went to a table at the back of the small room. They were soon followed by German couple. We could hear them chatting about the rain that we had all been caught up in. They must have been behind us the whole time but this was the first that we had seen of them. Kim and I smiled at each other as we overheard them describe the same hardships that we had struggled with on the same roads and paths and with the same sentiments as we had expressed to each other. Soon, we were all up and chatting and taking photos. That was the beginning of how we all became part of a Camino family. We still keep in contact and meet up when we can.
After they all left, Kim and I chatted a while longer with Afrika who ran the cafe with her mother. Her grandmother had also been called Afrika and had written a book which sat on the shelf above us. Inspired by her grandmother, Afrika, spoke multiple languages and had lived in different countries a few months at a time in order to speak those languages more fluently. She was filled with a deep curiosity about the world and its people.
With a heavy heart, we left them and continued walking. It began to rain and we put our rain gear on. We came into a village and found the German and Canadian couples standing under the cover of a laundry fountain – there are lots of these and were once social spots for women washing their family’s laundry. It seemed an appropriate spot to cement our growing friendship. Our new friends were sharing a bottle of wine and offered us the bottle. We pulled our mugs from our bags and joined in the merriment while the rain continued to fall. Finally, the downpour began to abate and the party broke up and we all left, walking at different paces.
Coming into Redondela, we found an albergue which had curtained off bunk alcoves. Kim claimed the bunks on the right while I claimed the ones on the left and we changed into our dry clothes before hunging our soaked walking clothes on a rack. The manager of the albergue switched on a humidifier to help with the dampness. In the morning, we found a stream of water flowing down the centre of the sleeping quarters. On inspection, the source of the river came from the humidifier. Although the sleeping quarters was nowhere near full, the amount of wet clothes had been too much for the humidifier and it had overflowed, sending a small stream straight back to us.The sleeping quarters of the albergue was separated from the reception/ seating area at the front by a door and Kim and I sat here, charging our phones. One of the Canadian’s – Ed – came out and offered to wash some clothes if we wanted. I leapt up and ran to the rack of dripping clothes and pulled off my shorts. I gave them to Ed with a grimace saying, ‘Thank you so much! I hope it’s ok. They need a wash and could probably stand up by themselves by now.’ With a laugh, Ed went off with them, washed them, dried them and left them folded in my bed. What a privilege it was to put on soft, clean shorts!
The albergue’s fridge was stocked with beers, but I fancied wine. I asked the manager if there was a place I could buy some and she called her boyfriend. He soon arrived and briskly walked out with me to a friend’s bar. He spoke rapid Spanish and I tried to communicate that I was looking for vino tinto e blanco. I preferred the former and Kim preferred the latter. The barman realised I wanted to buy bottles and said he could not help me. The manager’s boyfriend then walked me back to the albergue where he phoned another friend and said that he would drive me to his friend’s wine bar. Not wanting to go in a strange man’s car, I asked Kim if she could come with me. She looked at the drizzle, pulled a face and, bless her, said yes she would join me. So, we walked to the man’s beat-up old jeep and he whizzed along the old roads, rocking wildly about until he pulled up suddenly in front of the bar. We staggered out of the car and walked to the bar. The owner brought out 6 bottles of wine: three white and three red. He opened them and poured tasters of each for us before impressively slamming the corks back in with just his fist. Kim and I each chose one of the wines and paid for them and some tortillas for dinner. We returned to the albergue and sat enjoying our dinners and wine. Ed joined us and we shared out the wine and chatted until it got too late and we went to bed. With regret I poured the remains of the wine down the sink, unwilling to carry the weight. It had tasted beautifully of the day’s adventures.