Sunday, October 16, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 26--Fonfria to Aguiada

I started day 26 with breakfast alone in the albergue. As I was eating I met the couple from Bavaria again. I hadn't seen them since I almost stopped for the night in Las Herrerias, but in the end decided to go on. They were always a pleasure to talk to, and seeing as they were in no hurry along their Camino, I ended up staying and taking in their Camino and life wisdom for a long time that morning. They gave me their contact information in case we didn't see each other again and I was off for the day! 

After a cold night, the sun came out and produced one of the few clear days in Galicia. 

All the small towns we walked through in Galicia stank of cows. 

My joke went that the Galician cows smelled bad...but sure did taste good. 

Not bad views, eh? 

Even better was that the morning was spent walking downhill for a change.  

This was exactly the kind of Galicia we saw--old timey farmers + beautiful misty hills

Walking through tunnel after tunnel of wildflowers you couldn't help but pick some as you went. 

By the end of the morning I had a nice little bouquet going : )

OK, so at first the downhill was a nice break from the climbing we'd been doing the last few days. But...downhill, especially with loose gravel, can be dangerous when you have tired muscles, bad ankles and a pack on your back. Even worse, I woke up that morning to realize my miracle cure--athletic tape--was all gone...I went to tape things up and only found a couple of inches left on the roll. So, there was lots of pain involved in the decent and then...

deep in thought, I got a bit ahead of myself. Literally. 

Bam. All of a sudden I was on the ground. My first fall of the Camino (surprised?)

Once you start falling, going downhill with a pack on, there's no stopping you. 

There was some blood, but nothing much damaged.

And some more beautiful lookouts to ease the pain. 

I came into the small town of Ramil after this tank. Like in many of these small towns, a grandpa was waiting at the edge of town. He struck up a conversation with me as I walked past. I stood there leaning on my walking stick, listening to him, for a while. I wasn't catching much (was he speaking Gallego?), but it was nice anyway. A couple of German pilgrims walked up and the woman tried to take our picture. 

She tried to play it off like she was just trying to take a picture of the flowers in my hair, but grandpa was  not ok with her just snapping his picture without asking. I had to translate back and forth between the two off them and tried to soften both the English and the Spanish so this could be resolved and I could move along. 

But there was no moving along quickly from Grandpa. Once he had me in his grips he didn't want to let go. He made walking sticks for pilgrims, but saw I already had one (a nice one he said). He kept telling about the trees around him though--that they were hundreds of years old. The big one was an 800 year old chestnut which had been struck by lightening. 

He told me I should take my picture with it and made me give my camera to the German woman. He instructed me where to stand and as I smiled for the picture... 

Picture #1

...before I knew what was happening, Grandpa came running at me with one of his walking sticks:

Picture #2

I didn't really know what to do with that. After taking pictures of all the trees the way he wanted me to, I was finally on my way...

Outside of Triacastela the Camino split again. Your two choices were either, 1) A relatively ugly trail but a stop in a city with a nice monastery and singing monks  or 2) remote and beautiful countryside the whole way. Like all decisions, I had a hard time deciding, but finally went with the remote and beautiful countryside. I almost got lost leaving town (and almost had to go through the other route by default!), but finally made my way onto the trail I wanted. 

Before long I had to wait for this farmer to move his cows so I could pass. I don't think he had seen too many people that day (week?) so we both stood and leaned on our walking sticks and shot the breeze for a while. He told me his life story of how when his father died he had to move from the city to the countryside to take care of the cows when none of his siblings would. He also told me that I chose well--that this branch of the Camino was beautiful. 

The farmer then left me with something about not drinking out of some certain fountain along the way, but I didn't really understand what he was saying. 

Walking stick, flowers in my hair, bandaged feet, Camino arrows: Walking west!

It was a beautiful afternoon of walking, which more than made up for the fall that morning. I spent almost the entire day all by myself, and it turned out to be one of those epiphany type days.

Ah, after feeling like a mountain goat hauling myself up the afternoon hills, it felt so good to stick my feet in a cold stream right off the Camino. A little further downhill I came to a fountain and the tip I got from the farmer and the cool stream I soaked my feet in came together--the drinking fountain was water from the same stream I had put my feet in. 

We walked through so many of these green tunnels in Galicia. 

By this point the Camino had flattened out,  but my legs were so ready to be done for the day. 

It was a long day of walking, with lots of long chats--with the Bavarians at breakfast, the crazy old man with the trees, and the farmer with his cows--which ended in a really nice hostel in Aguiada. It felt homey, not only because it offered us a nice homecooked meal, but because it had...couches! I dont know why, but it made me feel so at home to be able to curl up on the couches in their living room. 

I had a great dinner together with the other pilgrims at the albergue--some Germans and Austrians and a Frenchman--which I remember included two things: lentils and orujo (a strooong liquor). Ha, there were other courses, but those were the more memorable ones!

To make the evening even better, Camino friends Juanma and Maica showed up at the hostel. I thought they must have gone on ahead to another town because I never passed them along the way the whole day. Somehow we missed each other, but they were a nice sight at the end of the day. 

We all coated ourselves with icehot and hit the sack!

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