April 24, Rodondella
Wow, day 7, that is incredible! It doesn’t feel like we’ve been traveling that long, sadly, it means we are getting closer to the end. I will be excited to reach Santiago, but am afraid I will be a little depressed to return home and back to the daily grind. I feel different here, more self aware, and more self assured. While I am traveling with Paul to celebrate our anniversary, I have found that I am doing this for myself. The lessons I have learned and the wisdom received are for me. I don’t want to lose the way I feel here. Today we walked 19.1 miles. We weren’t sure going into the day if we’d make it all the way or choose to stop. We started walking early and needed our headlamps. We walked with Roger, from Great Britain, who didn’t have a light. It poured down rain most of the day. When the sun rose, Roger chose to stick with us and we had a new friend. His energy at the age of 62 is inspiring, he pushed us today. It was difficult, but I am glad we got to town early cause the three of us had time to get frozen yogurt (once the shop re-opened after siesta of course). Roger gets a kick out of old fashioned American things from the movies (like diners and drive in movies). It was hard to find an open café today because we started so early. We finally found one late in the morning and stopped for a café con leche and walked through the rain very far until we found a promising place for lunch, they weren’t serving lunch yet, but they ended up making us some giant warm sandwiches, which, given the day and our conditions was the best thing ever. I was pretty worn out by the end of the walk. We are resting for a bit, then we plan to have dinner with Roger.
Roger!!! Our favorite pilgrim by far. I loved this guy. Roger is a fireman, he has done the Camino Portuguese before and his energy and level of fitness was insane. He had incredible calves and walked super fast. When we saw other pilgrims the next day, they were talking about how fast he was too. Since we had a goal of a long hike, I wanted to wake up really early. We weren’t sleeping great at this point, or for much of the trip for that matter. Paul didn’t want to set an alarm to wake up, in case we happened to sleep well that night, but said I could check on him if I happened to be up any time after 4:30. Since we were in bunk beds with strangers underneath us, we wanted to be quiet, so we carried our stuff out to the main area and packed up there. While we were packing our stuff, we saw another pilgrim with the same idea we had who was packing and he said, “I almost killed that bear last night!”. This is how I met Roger (Paul met him the night before while he taking a shower- some albergues had better privacy in the shower than others). Roger was referring to a man who was snoring incredibly loud and Roger didn’t sleep a wink that night. Roger missed the turn off for the albergue in the town that we had slept at the day before, so he just kept walking. He ended up walking 60 kilometers that day. Paul gave Rogers some extra ear plugs and since it was so dark out we offered to walk with him and our headlamps. Nothing was open for breakfast, but we had bought some juice and breakfast stuff at the supermercado the night before. We offered some to Roger which he refused several times before giving in and eating a granola bar. He was so concerned about interrupting our honeymoon that he kept saying that he would “give us our privacy” (in a thick English accent) once the sun came up, then it was “I’ll give you your privacy” when we get to the next town, then it was after we stop next. We loved walking with Roger and we told him that he could spend the whole day with us if he wanted. Which, I am so glad he did. It was a very rainy day, and we stopped a few times to put all of our rain gear on and take it off. Roger had a rain cover that was too small and he walked with an umbrella, the sight of it was funny. We walked through forest in the early morning, and then through a residential area. It was rainy and probably 5 am with no one in sight and we had to struggle to see the yellow arrows pointing the way. We walked down one residential street and a an happened to be in his front yard and he shouted to us in Spanish that we were going the wrong way and pointed to the direction of the Camino (we had missed an arrow which meant we missed a turn). We hadn’t gone too far out of the way and I thank God that man was there. It was mostly residential in the morning but as the sun started to rise we finally found a sign for some cafés. Breakfast at last! Nope. We walked towards one and saw a lady in a bathrobe who looked as if she had just woken up. She was telling us something in Spanish, but between the three of us we could only make out something about 9:30. Well it wasn’t close enough to 9:30 to stick around and wait so we walked on. There was a had been a sign for another café that was off the path a bit, which didn’t sound good because I didn’t want to walk any more than I had to with a goal of 19 miles, but we wanted to get eat and sit down for a minute that the three of us decided to go walk to up to it – yes it was a decent climb up hill, which also made it less appealing. We got to the place and it looked deserted, there was no sign of life and no posted hours so we didn’t know if it would be worth waiting around for. So we walked back down to the trail – downhill wasn’t fun anymore by this day. It was almost harder for me than uphill. Paul didn’t like going uphill this day, I didn’t like going down (actually, by this point I didn’t like either and was done with the charming cobblestone roads- not so easy on the feet). Soft, level forest, or vineyard roads were the best. When we finally reached an actual town and saw the first café, it was such a welcomed sight. It felt surreal, like we were in a movie, the way we dashed in their, threw down our wet packs, and shed our dripping layers, saying “lo siento” to the woman who was working for the puddles we left on the floor. Three café con leches were drunk in record time. In Spain, you get a snack when you order a drink and we scarfed those down. Roger was grateful for the company and he quickly ordered us another round, on him. After resting for a bit, we reluctantly put our wet stuff back on and walked on.
This was the ugliest day of the trip, and not because of the weather. It was a walk down the longest industrial road ever. This road never seemed to end and it was so boring, as the guidebook has warned us it would be. Walking with a new friend made it so much better. Paul and Roger talked all day and I was grateful for the opportunity to hang back a bit and not talk. I was hungry again by the time we got to the endless road of factories, but there was not a café in sight. It made me want to open one right at the midpoint of the road (don’t the workers want a coffee and a snack). I know every pilgrim that would walk by would stop, there hadn’t been a café for a very long time or a bathroom… I had to pee so badly and there was no place to hide as it was factory after factory. When we got to what I had thought/ hoped would be the end of the road and realized it was just a curve, I couldn’t take it anymore. The locals had been so kind to pilgrims so far and I was by no means dangerous looking, so I went up to one of the businesses that had an office not far off the road, got buzzed in and tried desperately to ask the woman at the front desk for a baño as I dripped on the floor. Of course I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I gathered that she told be to go outside and around the building and that I would find a bathroom there. All I found was the side of a building, in the rain and a security camera. I was so disappointed. So we walked on. I was so uncomfortable with my full bladder and could think of nothing else. I finally stepped behind some concrete at a construction site and found relief. After we got off that awful road, we came to a bridge that crossed the over the train tracks, it was actually a short length across, but had a giant ramp up to it. As we walked over it, Paul and Roger questioned why we couldn’t just walk over the tracks and had to take this short bridge with a giant zigzag ramp as if to answer their question a train whizzed past underneath us so fast in an instant with no warning. We laughed as that answered that question.
We walked for a very long time before we got to a town with food again. It was still rainy and per our guidebook there was only one café at this town. We were so happy to come in, take off our dripping stuff, and boots (ok, that was just me, but I had to). I had waterproof boots, but my socks still left moist footprints on the floor. It must have been obvious that we were looking for more than a café con leche because the first thing out of the young guy that was behind the counter said was they weren’t serving lunch for another hour and a half. Well we had to finish our 19 miles, we didn’t have an hour and half. I thought my heart would break, but I couldn’t even deal with it and I headed off to the bathroom. When I came back up from the bathroom, Paul and Roger said that the guy could make us a ham and cheese sandwich. This was the happiest I’d ever been to be offered a ham and cheese sandwich! This was a huge warm sandwich that was more like some other kind of pork and it was soooo good. I milked it and ate so slowly. I was still eating when a loud group of Portuguese pilgrims came in which made us want to leave, they were nice and the leader of this group spoke some English, the crowd and the volume just seemed a bit of a shock after it had just been the three of us and the rain all day. I took the rest of my sandwich with me and we walked on again. We passed a frozen yogurt shop on our way to the albergue in Rodondella that both Roger and I thought sounded amazing. It was siesta, so the shop and everything, but the bars were closed so we decided to check in and shower and go back at 5pm. This albergue was huge, there were different rooms and had bunk beds that were pushed together in twos. I was excited that I could actually sleep next to Paul and Roger took the top of our bunk. There were a lot of Pilgrims in each albergue at this point, a lot of Pilgrims start in Tuí as it is a long enough distance away to qualify for the compostella. The Portuguese group from the lunch place was there and it turns out that one of them is the snorer that kept Roger up the night before! We got our frozen yogurt looked around the town for a bit then went back to the albergue to rest before dinner. The three of us decided to try tapas and found a place that was open. They let us know that they didn’t serve dinner until 9pm, but could give us a small offering from the tapas menu. We needed to eat so we said ok. We couldn’t understand the menu, but knew we were ordering seafood. At one point the man brought raw dead fish out on a plate and seemed to ask Roger which one he wanted, we had no clue what was going on and inadvertently ordered all three. The man later returned with a plate that had the same fish fried, including two that had teeth and still had eyeballs and had its tail in its chompers along with a platter of octopus that was not fried like calamari and had the suction cup parts. This wasn’t filling at all, as we were too weirded out to eat much of it so we went looking for more. We found a pub that looked good so we went in and were told that they weren’t serving dinner yet, but we could see people eating. I don’t think we were asking for the right thing and between us and the people that ran the dining places, we couldn’t figure it out. We ended up at a pizza place where we talked for a while and learned more about Roger’s life. His wife passed away 5 years ago and when we asked him if he was interested in dating again, he said that he didn’t think it would be fair to whoever he was with because she would never be his wife. Oh gosh, this was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard. We walked around and stopped into a pastelería. Roger has a sweet tooth, just like me. We had our fill of delicious pastries and called it a night.This day would have been a lot rougher if it weren’t for Roger. I am so glad that we met him. We gained a new friend this day, but also lost something, a diamond from my engagement ring (boo). I guess I gave back to the Camino, maybe I am meant to return many times to “look for it” and repeatedly find myself. When we went to bed, Roger said that he’d be leaving early in the morning and that we’d have our privacy and when we got up, he was gone.