Thursday, 14 July 2016

Camino Frances Day 11

The idea that I had only 80 kilometers more to go prodded me to wake up early. For this day I had planned to walk about 28 kilometers to reach Melide. I learned from Robi the night before through Whatsapp that his stop was Melide. He was now about a day’s hike ahead- I was resigned at this point to the fact that I would only be able to meet him again in Santiago de Compostela should he decide to stay there for one more night.

I left behind a pair of short pants whose buckle got damaged during the walk. Any other day, I would have brought it with me but in this hike where every ounce of load was crucial I had to make a tough call. I put it inside one of the drawers in the kitchen along with a pack of extra earphones  (the cheap ones handed out in Renfe trains), hoping a pilgrim could find them useful.

There were only 4 or 5 of us in the albergue. When I stepped out most pilgrims were still on their beds. Pilgrims do not say “goodbye” to each other. The greeting “Buen camino” served this purpose.

Though it was already half past seven in the morning, it was still dark. This time I made sure that I was following the right route and used my cellphone to shine on the path. The cobalt blue sky had a marvelous view of the moon and two planets forming a nice alignment. With the heavenly bodies behind the silhouette of an oak tree with sprawling branches, I was reminded of a line in Desiderata.

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be.”

I started the Camino with a lot of emotional baggage. I was hoping that the walk would clear my mind a bit and give me a glimmer of hope however my future would unfold. In the comforting chill of that breaking dawn, I felt a different kind of peace as if my burdens had suddenly become light.

I trudged for about 30 minutes, hoping to spot an open café on the next stop which according to the Camino app was 1.5 kilometres ahead.  To my dismay it was closed. Most likely because it was already off-season for hiking. The busy periods are actually July to September with the number tapering off in October. Some albergues and establishments no longer operate after October.

I trod on and my best bet was Eirexe which was 5.6 kilometers from Hospital da Cruz. The night before, Robi requested if I could pick the clothes he left inside the dryer of the Municipal Albergue in Eirexe. I told him that I would try my best as albergues aren’t open until after 1 pm. True enough it was still closed when I passed by- around a little over 8 in the morning. I was half-glad because it saved me the trouble of additional load. Sorry Robi.

Fortunately the bar right across Eirexe albergue was open so I finally had my much needed breakfast - a bocadillo de jamón, a cup of colacao and banana. I bought a couple of chocolate bars as takeaway.

The blisters on both feet had gotten worse. I winced with each step I made. It probably explained why I only took a handful of shots along the way.

There weren’t any major architectural interests along the route. I passed by a cemetery which was called Cemiterio De Peregerinos. I wondered if it was so named because it was along the main route of the Camino or because the graves were indeed only for people who had done the walk. There was not anything special about the graveyard yet I stood there for a few moments. Perhaps to pay tribute to brothers who have once followed the path- the same one that I now was taking. Or maybe a quick acknowledgement that we are all travellers in this world until death comes at our door. The concept of death seemed to be a prevailing theme in this walk.

As if fate, or the universe, or the Supreme Being or whatever supernatural force there was that could not be seen by my eyes, read the ramblings of mind, a sign flashed before me.

I knew Camino to mean the way. But it was my first time to read it in the context of the popular biblical passage.

The walk though painful was a bit manageable maybe because the blister strip given by the Dutch girl the day before was providing a good cushion. At least on my right sole. The other blister on my left foot was worsening . It has worsened from a mere annoyance to pain. It felt as if a stubborn corn kernel was stuck inside my sock pressing upon the sole of my foot every time I made a step.

Despite this I still enjoyed this part of the route heading to Palas Del Rei because of the archway that the trees flanking the road gave. Normally I would see the arch giving clearance to the vehicles. But in this region, the archway provided clearance to the pedestrians as well. Which made sense because the pilgrimage is a whole-year event, thereby the formation would naturally give way to the daily foot traffic.

After passing through one arch I felt an enormous sense of freedom as I saw a wide meadow and the next town that seemed to await my arrival.

Admittedly I was disappointed with Palas Del Rei. While the name meant “Palace of the Kings” I did not see any fortresses similar to the one in Ponferrada or eye-turning architectural structures for that matter.

As this day was a Sunday there were only a few restaurants available. I went inside one where a big menu sign outside indicated that they were serving “Bacalao Con Tomate”, one of my favorite Spanish dishes.

I paid around 16 euros which was a bit pricy by peregrine standards, but I thought that today was my splurge day.

I passed by a church and had my passport stamped. The caretaker asked me to sign in a log sheet. When he learned that I was Filipino he told me that the priest who was about to officiate the 12PM mass used to work in the Philippines. I decided to stay behind for a while, meet the priest and hear his mass. I was quite delighted to see two signatories on the sheet who also hailed from the Philippines. Sadly I never got to meet them on the Camino.

After Palas Del Rey I haven’t captured any interesting structure along the walk. The path would either be along a road or would cut across the fields under a canopy of trees.

Once I passed by a road with an ambiguous signage. I could not understand whether the sign indicated me to take the tunnel or the one ahead. Fortunately I took the one that lead underneath the bridge which thankfully was the right one.

I couldn’t recall if I stopped by any café in the afternoon but most likely not because it was a Sunday.

As I was entering the boundary of Melide, a black dog accompanied me. It walked with me for about 10 minutes. I chuckled at the thought that it might accompany me till Santiago. I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this scene, but it felt as if my dad sent the dog to accompany me at least in this part of the walk.  

When at last the dog stopped and stayed behind, I felt sad as if saying goodbye to a friend whom I will never again meet.

I guess goodbyes are part of the rhythm of a pilgrim’s life, much like the next scene that greeted me. A pilgrim neatly placed a pair of worn out shoes at the foot of a cross in a town square. A tribute to a pair of companions who have reluctantly decided to stay behind.

I passed by several hamlets and an old bridge before reaching the town of Melide around 4:30. Robi recommended me to stay in a private albergue that offered a promo of 6 Euros per night  (which in summer was charging 10 euros). It was great place actually.

I had my dinner at a place that served Kebab. It was located a hundred meters away from the albergue. On the way, I started to hobble horribly once again. I walked 28 kilometers for the day which meant I had a little over 50 kilometers left to walk. The blister pad had served its function for the day and I had it removed. By now the two blisters on both feet had swollen.

Little did I know at that time that the blisters would unleash their full wrath the following day.

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