Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Camino Frances Day 12

The albergue in Melide was one of the best I’ve stayed in this Camino - yet I experienced the worst night there. It was because of the rowdy guests from another room. They were bantering way past midnight and one lad went inside our room to hide from his friends. This despite the lights out already. It went for about 3 times until an exasperated German lady gave a scolding and rose off her bed to lock the door. I’ve heard that Spanish pilgrims tend to be a raucous bunch but what happened that night was definitely over the top. I wished that the incident were more of an exception than the rule for juvenile Spanish pilgrims.

The albergue had two floors, I hobbled down to have a glimpse of the kitchen in the morning. With only limited choices in the vending machine, I decided to just take my breakfast on the first bar along the way, which in hindsight was a bad idea -the next bar had I checked the app was 5 kilometers away.

I referred to the Google map to seek the exit from Melide. After passing by several narrow streets I finally found the side road designated for the Camino route.  Robi was about 25 kilometers away. I proposed that he walked a shorter distance that day so I could catch up with him on Day 13 and we could walk the last leg of the Camino. The plan was for us to meet up at O Pedrouzo. This meant that I had to walk 33 kilometers for the day, a little more than my usual daily average.

My blisters had gone much much worse now. The day before I can still fool my mind to disregard the pain. But this time around, the pain kept on hounding me. Incessant, unyielding, seeking attention. Every step was excruciatingly painful. If only cutting off my feet was an option. The morning was chilly yet perspiration beaded on my forehead. Every godawful step required willpower. Maybe the pain would go away. “It’s all in the mind, I challenged myself”. And yet it didn’t.

Emotional pain was one thing. Experiencing physical pain was an entirely different matter. I would have chosen emotional anguish over deep-seated physical pain any time of the day. Every step was tormenting, yet I know that each one will be bring me closer to salvation. “Only two more days to go”, I coaxed myself.

My pace was slower than usual. A couple of pilgrims overtook me. I didn’t mind. I just needed to survive the walk that day and it would soon be over.

Pained, hungry and exhausted, I was so glad to see an unmanned fruit stand in the middle of the woods. After what seemed like ages,  finally an available food supply. It’s signage” El Pequeno Oasis” was apt. I got two bananas and an apple, and dropped the appropriate amount on the coin box. The fruits alleviated my hunger but not the pain of the damn blisters.

Thirty minutes later I spotted a coffee shop. Normally I would have gone ahead already but I thought of giving myself a cheat break if only to have a break from the painful walk.

I was glad to meet David in the cafe, a Mexican roommate in Melide albergue. His route was the Camino De La Plata which was the first time I heard about it.  The route he followed was mostly for nature-loving folks as the path were in the untouched parts of the Asturias region. I would eventually learn that this path was one of the most challenging Camino routes.

David seemed fascinated by a beehouse in front of the cafe; he took a picture of it with his handy digicam. I asked him to take my photo with my reliable phone. He went ahead after he had his breakfast. I lingered a bit to massage my soles. By now my blisters had grown into big bulging bubbles. If I had only a sharp safety pin with me I would have gloatingly pricked them if only to avenge for the suffering they had brought me.

The foursome group I met in Triacastela, O Cerebreiro (who also stayed at the Melide albergue upon my recommendation)  took their breakfast at the shop. The British guy noticed my pained look and offered a blister strip. I used to think he was haughty but his gesture totally debunked that. I profusely gave my thanks. I plastered it the wrong way though and so the walk was still painful when I resumed.

The next two hours had been pure torture. I did not pause to take any pictures along the way. My mind was just set to reach Arzua, eight kilometers away which had a pharmacy. I was dead set to buy blister strips and ibuprofen.

Around 1130 I paused at a clearing just after I ascended a path. Each step felt like my foot was being stabbed. I was longing to see Arzua already. A pair of pilgrims who were Asians passed by, they looked familiar although I can no longer which part of the route I have met them. I asked if they knew how far Arzua was. They must have sensed the look of desperation on my face and asked me what was wrong. When the guy learned about my blisters he offered an ibuprofen tablet. I ran out of water already (maybe that explained why I felt so exhausted) so I just swallowed the tablet. I took a photo of the exact scene so I would not forget that point of the walk where I almost passed out.

I never got to see the Asian guy again. I wished I did. I owed him that painkiller he gave me. It did alleviate the pain. After 30 minutes I have finally hit Arzua. I immediately went to the pharmacy and brought ibuprofen and blister strips. I grabbed a liter of water, bread and salchicon from the nearby supermarket and sat on a bench. While I took ibuprofen only half hour earlier I took another tablet. I decided that extra dosage is needed to counteract the torture.

Miraculously the pain subsided and I was on my way again. I was surprised to see David on the path again. I got ahead of him earlier because he was taking his time in taking pictures of the surroundings (this explained why he perhaps took the Camino Primitivo. This route meets Camino Frances in the Melide to Santiago leg). I asked him to take a photo of me. Surprisingly the shot captured a smile that belied the ordeal I had earlier that day. As David’s pace was faster than mine I bade him farewell with the usual “Buen Camino”.

I passed by a house where some thought-provoking quotes were posted. I took some shots. At this point the foursome group caught up with me.

I passed by a phalanx of pines trees that looked creepy even in mid afternoon. If I were a horror movie director this would definitely be one of the shooting locations.

At 330 I stopped by a road-side café. There was a weather-beaten old man with a black dog and a peculiar pilgrim passport. Instead of the usual stamps he had signatures of pilgrims- he had done the Camino a couple of times already hence was no longer interested for the stamps. Pleased to know that I came from the Philippines he asked for my signature.  He had not gotten any from a Filipino before. I was pleased to oblige.

According to the Google map, Pedrouzo was still 8 kilometers. It would be past 4 pm soon and I was aware of the risk of being on the road during sundown. But I needed to catch up with Robbie who already sent me a Whatsapp message that he had already checked in at a municipal albergue in Pedrouzo. He actually placed some of his stuff on a bunk across him to reserve it for me.

I saw that the last leg for the day would fall along the highway, so even if I failed to reach the albergue by sundown, there would still be light from the road. So I violated my 4 by 4 rule and went on.

The thought of meeting Robi soon, made me walk faster, the blisters still hounding but the pain had subsided considerably.

Thankfully just as the last thumbnail of the sun disappeared on the horizon I found the albergue.

I was overjoyed to meet Robi again. I never would have thought that I would catch up with him again and yet there we were reunited in O Pedrouzo. We had pizza, fries and beer to celebrate our reunion.

At the end of a challenging day we had only 20 kilometers left to walk.

Santiago De Compostela was now within our reach.


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