Monday, October 31, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 29--Palas de Rei to Castaneda

Day 29--Getting so close to Santiago! Can you feel it?!

I left Palas De Rei...

...danced with the statues...

...walked past yet another traditional corn crib...

...hiked through green field after green field of smelly cows...

...and through shaded tunnel of trees after shaded tunnel of trees. 


It was a beautiful morning and I snapped quite a few pictures as I went just to try to capture and remember the experience. 

Another typical cross in another typical Galician small town. In some parts of the region you can definitely tell that Galicia still remains one of the poorer regions of Spain. 

Yes, another cemetery!

The church of Santa Maria de Leboreiro (a 14th century UNESCO site), where I stopped for a looksy and a stamp in my pilgrim credentials. 

Back outside...clouds were starting to roll in...

Getting close to the city of Melide

I stopped in another little church and found this pinned to the back of the church

In Melide, there is really one thing you cannot leave town without doing--Eating pulpo (octopus). Spain is famous for their octopus, and within Spain the region of Galicia is the most famous for octopus. Within Galicia the most famous city for octopus is Melide--and in Melide this bar is the place to eat it. So you see, we had to stop!

They boil the octopus in giant vats, snip it into discs with scissors, drizzle it with olive oil and then shake spices over top. It's served on traditional wooden plates and eaten with toothpicks. Juanma had a bowl of wine (the traditional way to serve it there), and we finished up with an order of pimiento de padron: small, local green peppers which apparently sometimes are super spicy, and other times not--Which leads to the refrain: 

"Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non" (Gallego), or, 
"Los pimientos de Padrón, unos pican y otros no"(Castellano). 

I had lunch with Maica and Juanma and ran into my Korean friend Bonnie (which got the song "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean" stuck in my head all over again). Her friend also needed our help translating a text she received from her boyfriend that was written in Spanish--taken literally, it said roughly: You are the garlic of my life

Cute, no?

Anyway, I'd had octopus before and wasn't a fan. Squid I like, octopus not so much (the texture of the tentacles weirds me out), but, I will say, this was by far the best octopus I've had. I ate almost all of it--except the tails. That was too much for me. Luckily Juanma was ready and willing to eat my rejects! : )

After lunch we passed by the 15th century Capela de San Roque. Supposedly it had some nice Romanesque features (Maica's favorite) and a nice ceiling, so we wanted to have a look inside. 

The reason it happened to be open was that there was a baptism going on inside. The family was all gathering and taking pictures...and we totally crashed it!

The frescoed ceiling

Romanesque capitals

Juanma checking the map. 

We were talking about where each of us planned to stay for the night and all decided that we would make it an easy 23 km day and stay for the night in Castañeda, if we could. I say "if we could" because there was only one private hostel there and it only had 4 beds. In the end Juanman let me use his cell phone to call them and we all reserved beds for the night. 

When we got there (unfortunately not before it started raining!) we rejoiced in that we might have a quiet night. None of the 3 of us snored and the 4th bed belonged to an older Italian woman. It was this night that I officially put off the notion that women snore less than men. The italian woman's bunk was underneath mine and I swear she shook the bed growling like a bear the entire night. On the plus side--for the first time we had clean sheets AND blankets on our beds! Que lujo!

With nothing else in town we sat around the cafe attached to the hostel, ate (I had a big steaming bowl of Caldo Gallego, typical Galician soup of mostly cabbage, potatoes and white beans) and chatted with whoever came in. As we planned out the next day's journey, Juanma and I joked about the refrains/riddles he was always confusing me with. Maica, stopped me mid sentence and said basically--Look Lauren. Enough. Get it right!

Turns out Juanma hadn't been laughing all this time solely because he thought his refrains were funny--it was also because I was unknowingly butchering them! For the first time since he taught it to me way back in Santo Domingo (yeah, day seven!) I got it right. I wrote it on the paper table cloth and took a picture of it for future reference: 

Bonus points to anyone who can tell me como le entra el agua al coco!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 28--Portomarin to Palas de Rei

During the night I was woken up by a young guy, who we reasoned must have been on his first night of the Camino, who told me Someone is snoring. I just put my earplugs back in and went back to sleep. Of course someone is snoring! I think the kid went around waking up everyone till he found the snorer. Who started snoring again 5 minutes later. : )

Getting out of town was for some reason a bit tricky for me, and, much to my chagrin, included a high skinny bridge. I had a (perhaps irrational?) fear that I would drop my walking stick off of the bridge.

Finally outside of town we hiked past a couple of factories. Oh man they smelled bad!

There were plenty of more pleasant sights as well, though. 

I had made really good time during the morning, so when I came to this cross and spotted a nice bench under a shady tree nearby, I stopped. I took of my boots, slathered on the icyhot and rested while pilgrims passed--some going on quickly, but others stopping and making the sign of the cross, laying their hands on the crucifix or praying. I couldn't really figure out the significance of the cross until a girl from Seville came and sat next to me after touching the cross and praying. She told me a bit about it and we talked for a while, sharing piquilabi

She eventually went on (although happily we kept running into each other, and she later ran into my retired friends also from Seville--all parties quickly realized they were people I'd told each of them about), but I sat under my tree in a pensive mood and wrote in my journal for a while. 

Turns out that this cross is one of the oldest of its kind 

More cows! So smelly! 

Look closely at the first sign: This was the first road sign I saw with Santiago on it. Getting close!!

Yep, the Camino was still showing us every single cemetery it could. 

Then, mostly because I showed bad pilgrim form and hoped that the newbie pilgrims would get a bit of the hardship we'd endured, it started raining. We all threw on our rain gear and went on our way. 

It rains pretty much every afternoon in Galicia, so it wasn't too big of a deal. 

Until it started hailing. 

We saw this shed...

And hung out inside for a while. (This picture makes me laugh!)

We finally made it to town and checked into one of the very worst hostels of the Camino. It was pretty bare bones. Yet again we had no shower curtains or doors...but this time the dorms had communal bathrooms for men AND women. Our jaws were hanging when they told us. (It seems especially odd for such religious pilgrimage, no?) Anyway, we made it though, with most of our modesty intact (thanks in part to the paper sheets they gave us for the beds, or in my case, by arriving at the hostel after just about everyone had already had their shower) but honestly, you kind of stop caring about most things after 28 days on the trail!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 27--Aguiada to Portomarin

Day 27 of the Camino--and it felt like we were getting close! I loved this day on the Camino.

I woke up, slathered on Icyhot, mummified myself in athletic tape, and said goodbye to the lovely hostel in Aguiada. It was only 5 kilometers to Saria, so I figured I'd have breakfast there.

The five early morning kilometers into Saria were beautiful and even the giant staircase I had to climb to make it into town couldn't get me down.

{As an aside: I absolutely loved these flowers, which were everywhere for weeks.}

{Buenos dias, Saria!}

Saria is the main starting point for pilgrims who only walk the last 100 kilometers of the Camino (which is the official amount you must walk to receive your Compostela in Santiago). On one hand I was a bit apprehensive of Saria and these new pilgrims--I'd heard that the hostels can get really full, and that the fresh and often noisy new pilgrims can drive the long range pilgrims crazy. On the other hand I was really excited to make it to Saria. That meant I was getting close to Santiago!

{Camino mural}

When I made it to the town's church I put down my walking stick and bag to have a peak inside. The bells were ringing for mass to begin, so I pulled out my pilgrim's passport and gave myself a stamp from the church and decided to be on my way. Standing outside the church doors putting my bag back on an older woman asked me if I was a pilgrim. I told her Pamplona when she asked me where I started and she was visibly amazed. Que valiente!, she told me. Then she stopped another woman coming in to tell her that I had walked all the way here from Pamplona. Before I knew it they were both oohing and awing over me and my pilgrimage. I was amazed at how amazed they were, but I have to admit--It made me feel really good.

I kind of wondered if the people closer to Santiago would be more hardened to the pilgrims. I imagined that the more pilgrims you saw each day, the less you would care about them. I was wrong though. Maica had told me that the people in Galicia were special--that they spoke with a lot of cariño (care/sweetness)--and (like usual) she was right.

As soon as I made it down the stairs of the church I ran into an old man who was eager to talk to me and wish me a buen Camino as well. Saria was turning out to be even more lovely than I imagined!

In a great mood I climbed up the hill where I saw two other pilgrims clack, clack, clacking their walking sticks ahead of me. Wait a minute...

I left my walking stick in the door of the church! While this meant that I had to double back and climb the hill again, I took it as a good sign--I had been in a lot of pain the day before and that morning, so if I climbed a hill without even missing my walking stick, I must've been feeling better. Or it least in a great mood. : ) I saw Grandpa still standing outside the church, and we chatted again a bit before I climbed back up the hill and stopped at an old cafe along the mainstreet to have a cafe con leche and piece of tortilla de patatas for breakfast. More lovely people--the water was a young Peruvian girl who called me amiga and cut me the largest slice of tortilla I've ever seen. As I finished my breakfast I noticed a familiar backpack at the cafe across the road--It was my friends from Sevilla!

After breakfast I made my way up the hill that is the city, stopping every few steps to take a picture. As I stopped and went I kept passing and being passed by a street sweeper. As I stopped to take a picture of a little church he asked me if I'd like my picture taken. How nice!

So much cariño!
I love nice people. 
And street sweepers.

{An old prison}

111 Kilometers to go!

There was a monastery on the outskirts of town. A biker I'd been passing tipped me off that there was a nice stamp inside. In a good mood, and not in any particular hurry, I stopped. They were doing some sort of construction/renovation work, but I smiled and asked nicely and they let me poke around.  

The nice cloister 

One of the guys in charge told me that I could go in the church if I wanted to: 

So, in light of the wonderful morning, I sat for a while and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and for the rest of my journey, and for all the lovely people I'd met along the way. 

Just outside the monastery, as I crossed an old stone bridge, I met a man on a horse. He greeted me and asked if I would mind taking his picture. Afterward he took off his hat, bowed his head and disappeared again. If it hadn't been for the camera I might have doubted whether or not he was real. 

It was all countryside for a while after that. As I approached a church I caught a whiff of perfume. There was a small group of older ladies walking in front of me. I had been trying to decide if they were walking the Camino or not, but they smelled too good to be pilgrims. Perfume was not a luxury anyone carried with them on the Camino, and well, pilgrims are kind of stinky. It struck me so that I couldn't help mentioning to the women how good they smelled (I'm so awkward, I know!). Turns out they are driving the Camino as their husbands walk it. Every once in a while they stop and take in the sights. Also, they all happened to be from Santander--the city in northern Spain I lived in! We went in the church together, then they were off. 

My faithful companions waiting outside the church

From there it was more beautiful countryside dotted with Romanesque chapels

A WOLF! Except it turned out to be just a dog. A scary looking dog. Which turned out to be friendly. (But don't think I wasn't ready to throw rocks)

Taking a rest. 

I carried that reusable shopping bag with me the entire time. It's purposes were endless. Mostly I used it as a weightless purse in the evenings for carrying valuables around town. It was also great for sitting on when the ground was damp or muddy. Despite it's merits my friend Maica cringed every time she saw it or heard it crinkling as I walked through cathedrals. 

These old fashioned corn cribs are ALL OVER the Galician small towns

KILOMETER 100!!!!!
Oh yes, I had my own little private dance party when I got there! : )

Crossing the bridge into Portomarin. It was scary. It was a big and sturdy bridge, but my-oh-my was it high. 

And of course. At the end of the day there was always a giant staircase. 

The main church in Portomarin

Same church from a distance--it's kind of a unique looking church for Spain

A small Romanesque church in town

After having a look at the churches around town I accepted Juanma and Maica's offer of an afternoon coffee. We sat in a cafe where I unwittingly won the affection of our Moroccan waiter (ha, those middle aged Arab guys love me!). He tested my French, Arabic and English, and ran down the street after us (to Juanma's delight!) to get my contact information. Sigh. 

We stopped at the grocery store to stock up on snacks and to get a few things to cook dinner. We got back to the municipal hostel and started to cook. I went to get a pan out of the cabinets to find: 

That's right. Not a single pot, pan, knife--nothing. Inconvenient. 
But also hilarious.

It took some ingenuity to get dinner cooked, but we met a lot of nice people (even Puerto Ricans!) and had a great evening of conversation. 

Oh, and you know what else the hostel was missing? Shower curtains. Because the restrooms were separated between men and women it wasn't such a big deal, but it became apparent that, paradoxically, the closer you got to Santiago...the more things that were missing from the albergues!