Day 38: Santiago to Negreira or… Le bouquet final

November 6, 22km

It was delicious to leave the city this morning. But even as I wanted to get on the road, I also needed a change in rhythm to make the new beginning – the beginning of the end. So we slept in, breakfasted in our Albergue (Fogar de Teodomiro) and then had a coffee and slice of the local pastel de queso under the skirts of the cathedral. We slipped out of the city like thieves and what a relief, what a delight to be so quickly back on tree-lined paths and walking by veggie gardens and fruit trees and the late Autumn planted fields. Letizia and I said to each other, this is different! And so it was. It was like the pilgrimage itself had been left behind, the pomp and hurrah of the arrival, the shell of the pilgrim identity somehow put aside, and now just a quiet walk to the ocean. We don’t have a map or guide for this section so can’t gauge arrival times or plan which pueblo to lunch in or anticipate the ups and downs of the track.

There’s a young blonde-haired pilgrim wearing hippy clothes, Keens and a heavy pack up ahead, and walking the slow walk of the stoic pain-bearer. We fall into step. She’s Kelly, a Steiner teacher from New Zealand and after a month walking has just mysteriously developed a new crop of blisters. Sometimes it’s like that, we nod at one another with a smile that isn’t a smile. We share a lovely walk together for I don’t know, probably about half an hour, having the kind of conversation that arises out of a common though not personally shared experience. That is, shwoom, right to the heart of it. So much doesn’t need to be said, so can be left out in favour of the juicy bits. Delightful.

Pilgrims two in the Gallego forest

Later on L and I stop for lunch in a little bar. The Gallego spoken here is like a song and makes me cock my head to listen. There are heaps of new pilgrims on the road today, a young Japanese guy, a Spaniard being a bit cool, two other guys looking Germanish and Kelly and her companion. They all look like they’re in their 20s. L and I remark that we’ve gone from being the ‘chicas’ – ie. The young women, and not needing any further differentiation – to being more like the aunts 🙂 . Later on we come up by another new pilgrim and greet each other. He says in Aussie twang (it was a twang) where are you from? And I say, the same place as you, I reckon. And I’m not far wrong! He’s grown up in Geelong and lives in Willagee (a suburb just up the road from Fremantle). He’s walking the camino to ‘undo four years of mining.’ It reminds me to be grateful to not have had such a burden: isolation, dehumanising conditions and too much money.

The albergue in Negreira is a slightly annoyingly km or two outside the centre of town, but it’s a nice one. Of the dormitory I’m like, what’s different about this room? and realise the beds are not bunks. We’re among the first but pilgrims trickle in all afternoon until, amazingly, it’s full. L, Renato and I, more Italians, French, Austrians, Spanish, Israeli, Japanese spotted earlier, Danish-Iranian… and yep, apart from Renato, honorary Nonno of the crew, Letizia and I are the only ones over 30. It’s a different vibe completely with this bunch from the Camino Frances and it’s a bit of work to just let it be what it is and not miss the friends and wish it was like the ‘good old days.’ These are the good old days, says David Whyte. L is lying on her bed with earbuds in which I’ve never seen her do. I’m pulled here and there in different conversations which are tiring and repetitive. But then, ah, we meet the delightful Isabel, cheeky, quirky journalism student from France but with perfect Mexican Spanish, peeling chestnuts and expertly cooking fried tomato and cream pasta sauce. She’s walked the Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo and has had a rugged, solitary, bright journey. There’s something recognised and shared between us.

We were desperate for greens so bought broccoli, a leek, and a massive bunch of some kind of green leaves to cook up with garlic and oil and eat with bread and great wadges of a creamy local cow’s cheese. The greens turned out to be ‘amargísimo’ – very bitter – but I ate mine anyway and Letizia’s too.

Tired. In bed with blindfold and ear plugs. Party going on downstairs. In the morning crumbs, wine stains and badly-washed up pots in the kitchen. Put on boots, fill waterbottle and shoulder backpack. Outside pilgrims have left washing ‘to dry’ and it is stiff with ice.

Love, Wildgoose.

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