Horses to the Barn

Day 32 (30+K)
Palas de REI – Arzúa

Dave left before us…in the dark (without his hat and a headlamp). We followed 30 min later…in the dark as well, with a headlamp. Today had an ominous feel. There is no escape from the rain and becoming completely wet. Miserable is the soup de jour, or in this case, sopa del día. It is one of those mind over matter perspective days that you just need to get through. As with everything in life, it could be “worse”, but it isn’t, so we walk. Many less hearty peregrinos hesitate, worry or frett about walking in the rain. They ” sleep in”, or “fold” and take a taxi to their next “scheduled” destination. We, on the other hand are like horses to the barn. We can see the end and figure there is no other way to get this over with, than to “walk it out”. We laugh at the ridiculousness of our reasoning as we slog through the pitch black morning, timidly lit by our now only working headlamp. Within the ½hour we wonder aloud how Dave ever made it this far, without a headlamp. Night vision, at least a human’s, is nearly useless for the current conditions. When we catch up with Dave, he is examining what appears to be a Camino “marker” in the darkness of this stormy morning…he’s been there 10 minutes. We reunite and continue down a dark tree lined corridor of running water over rocks…beautiful! Again, the “practice” of dodging puddles has been abandoned in favor of the most direct route. We are soaked through and through, it’s only 9am, and we have planned a 30km day. I feel like I’m being slowly pickled. It doesn’t get any better than this! We can’t help but notice, for the most part, that we are alone, as very few other peregrinos have decided to brave this fair weather.
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We pass a Templar church and former pilgrim hostel from the 12th century.    Legend has it, that nearby the church, water began to flow like a “fountain”.  At night the water would “glow”, and by day it would have a “pleasant smell”.  The town’s people got curious and dug into the ground at the ” fountain” and “found” an “image” of the Virgin Mary and brought it back to the church.  Each night the “image” would return to where it had been removed from.  The town’s people decided to “sculpt an image of the Virgin on “stone” and place it above the entrance (thympanus), where it still sits today.  The people think that because of this, the Virgin has “remained” inside the church.  To think that for over 800 years people have been walking this Way to Santiago and Finisterre, is amazing and eerie…and they didn’t have rain gear. Back then, they were probably smart enough to wait for the weather to clear before they set out each day… If at all. Turns out that our decision to not continue heading to Casanova yesterday was a good one, as all the albergues there were closed (on vacation). As usual God works in mysterious ways and will provide…if you heed the promptings. At long last there is a break in the weather and we duck into a “bar” for sustenance and to “dry out”. Dave changes to drier clothing, while Paul and I “stew” in ours. I’m sticky wet, and I smell like a gym bag, (and not a woman’s gym bag), so there’s no point in “sprucing” up till we get to a albergue in Arzúa. We pass through Melide. It is famed for its preparation of Pulpo (octopus), but it is too early to find it remotely appetizing, having already sampled the Galacian “treat” twice before.
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We continue through the sparsely populated countryside once we exit Melide.  The trail rolls and weaves through ancient wall lined hamlets, whose homes are older than our oldest buildings in the United States, by hundreds of years.  

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Ancient oak and chestnut trees stand guard as we pass. The spikey pods of chestnuts line our path. Soon groves of eucalyptus and pine begin to appear.

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Medieval bridge over the rio Iso. Across the bridge is the Albergue Xunta

After crossing a still intact and magnificnently functioning medieval bridge over the rio Iso, we pass by one of the oldest pilgrim hostels still in use and existence. We check it out, and consider stopping and staying here just because of its historical significance, but don’t, as we have one more “climb” out of Ribadiso to enter the outskirts of Arzúa.  We check our guide for the town’s albergues and hostels, hoping that they are not filled as it is relatively late in the day. We see refreshed peregrinos seated outside private albergues sipping café con leches and large beers. They look at us like, ‘what took you so long?’. One, we did NOT take a cab, and Two, we have walked 30+KM today!…that’s what took us sooo long. We strike up conversation with a Hungarian gal who says she’s on her way to the municiple albergue. We walk and talk all the way there. We are in luck. They have room, and in fact our own room (with 12 other beds).

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View from our albergue's upstairs window

Currently we are the sole occupants. We quickly get to work washing and then drying our uniquely smelling wardrobe, and nap in the warmth and comfort of our lower bunks. Soon more peregrinos trickle in and we do passive aggressive battle with one peregrino that insists on opening the windows and releasing the warmth of our room (which we promptly close…to the delight of the others in the room). He has even unplugged the working heater adjacent to our beds to charge his phone. I am still recovering from mild hypothermic symptoms with some residual shivering (even after a “hot” shower) and his behavior is annoying me so much, I consider stabbing him (just kidding) or bitching him out (not kidding), but then realize that neither would be very Christian like.

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Sue and Jerry at the Cathedral in Santiago

Tonight I get a message from Sue, they have just made it to Santiago and are wondering when we will arrive. We tell her congratulations, and that we expect to be in Santiago in two days. She makes reservations for us where they are staying, at The Last Stamp albergue near the Cathedral. Excellent! I can’t believe we are almost there. I am ready to be done. I am over being wet and smelly, and my foot is still hurting. I’ve either got a case of planar fasciitis or a stress fracture. Neither of which is a good thing. Only one thing to do. Get a good nights sleep and walk as far as I can tomorrow.

Buen Camino!
Be Strong! Austin Strong!

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