Day 13: Ligonde a Melide

We wake up early. It is drizzly. We dawn ponchos and pack covers and keep on trucking. 

A local cafe worker tells us she has worked and lived there for 17 years. 

“It’s beautiful,” I say. “You have so many beautiful plants.”

She shrugs. “Me acostumbré.” I’ve gotten used to it. (Though she smiles as she says it)

We pass through Palais do Rei, which feels beautiful and cosmopolitan after a few days of rainy country hiking. We see a range of stores, bars, albergues and signs of normal Spanish life. It is a city I could see myself living in (um, based on 15 minutes walking through it at 9am in the rain).

We arrive at out destination, Melide, early, around noon. 

“What do you think?” asks one of my travel companions. 

We’re here early. “Let’s keep going,” I suggest. 

“Maybe we stop here,” he answers weakly (ojo: this is foreshadowing)

We walk through the rather deserted centro hístorico (historic center) to find our albergue. 

It is still raining. We find lunch and then stamps and food for the next day. 

Also, for those of you wondering what middle school dorkage looks like, here’s me (dry, to be fair) in my Grandpa’s poncho:

Day 12: Gonzar a Ligonde

We take a rest day. Sort of. 

We start hiking. It is drizzling. The staff at the albergue recommend another albergue up the road. We hike in the drizzlyness. 

When we arrive at our designated stop, we have a coffee. And decide to keep hiking. We hike another 5 kilometers, then take a break at a bar (restaurant). A steady stream of poncho-clad pilgrims walks by, drenched in the rain. 

One thing I am learning is that public albergues open at 1pm and you have to be present to get a spot. At 12:45, we move across the street to wait in line at the albergue which quickly fills up (there are 18 beds and it is a small town)

Right place at the right time, I guess. 

Day 9: Fonfría a Samos

Once again, we deter from the road to go along the scenic route. Someone’s alarm goes off at 5:30, but they aren’t there to turn it off (brushing teeth or somesuch), which is perhaps the downside of 90 person albergues. 

It’s cool and pleasant as we walk downhill and there are even more rivers (with fish!) as we walk through the scenic route. 

We walk all over town and eventually find an albergue. I take a nap and we spend the rest of the day resting and reading from the same table out on the street. 

Day 8: Ambasmestas a Fonfría

In my head, I am always looking for the next mountain and trying to figure out how high it is and how it is similar or different to our last mountain. Must be the American in me. 

We are on the road early. There was word of rain (which happened at midnight). 

As it turns out, we have left early enough that it is generally cool while we are walking. Additionally, we are entering the region of Galicia, which, at least in the mountains, is foggy and misty. Which is exactly the weather we need. 

As a Californian, I struggle with whether or not to use a raincoat (let alone put on a jacket or take off the sunglasses).

We quickly learn that it is important to order caldo (soup). I am also intrigued by the use of “x” in place of “j” and sometimes “s”.

When I ask an in keeper about “Quexo do Cerbeiro”, she explains that it is cheese (queso), not complaints (quejo). She also asks why Americans say “ahhhh” when they are thinking. Don’t the flies go in?

Throughout the day, I manage to drop one book and to lose both my soap and maps. Sigh. 

We walk further than expected and end up at an albergue which apparently sleeps 90. Must be close to Santiago. 

Day 6: Cacabelos a Trabadelo

I’ve been told (and am observing) that one of the many things that makes El Camino so special is the people that you meet. 

2 of the people we are hiking with have to catch a bus to make it to their goal before their flight home. We have café con leche and bocadillos (sandwiches) with them in the shadow of a giant castle and then drop them at their bus (well, we find a bus and then that bus driver tells us where to go). I am sad to see them go, but also know that this is part of their journey. I don’t know that me from 5 or 10 years ago would have understood that in the same way. 

We are mostly walking along the highway and most of our stops in the shade are under other freeways. 

We stop a little earlier than expected in Trabadelo. A nice woman sitting in the shade points us towards El Albergue Parroquial, giving us a detailed history of the building and its owners who basically renovated it from scratch. 

They are a lovely couple. We talk about the albergue and its renovations and El Camino. We sit and rest and do laundry. I do some translating for people who don’t speak Spanish. 

As the evening winds down, we ask for a Coca Cola, which they happily bring to us. I ask them how much and they wave their hands. No charge. In Ecuador, la yapa (freebies?) are common if you can earn the respect of people. The other hikers are surprised and touched by this gesture and their generosity. Such is the way of El Camino, I suppose. 

Day 5: Molinaseca a Cacabelos

We’re still in the process of deciding what makes a “hard” day. Elevation changes? Distance? Weather? To be decided. 

We realize that El Camino leads us through mountains and villages, but also through increasingly fancy suburbs. Towns get closer together. (This makes peeing harder and I am just getting used to being a rural pee-er rather than an urban pee-er. In space, no one can hear you scream; on El Camino, everyone can see you pee)

We meet the funniest bartender yet on this route; she actually sweeps some of the regulars out with a broom. 

Rest stop oases tend to know when you need them the most. Javi sells cherries by the side of the road just as we enter the town. He tells me to wet the cherries before eating them and tells stories about his family and their various connections to other countries. I pester him with questions: What building is that? (Regional wine council) Where are you from? (Cacabelos) What does Cacabelos mean? (He confirms our suspicions by asking if we know what “caca” is. I fake a “no” and he makes the corresponding gesture which is unfit to print. Also, Cacabelos may have something to do with a river god)

*Wordpress autocorrected “pee-er” 3 different times to 3 different words. #DYAC

Day 3: San Justo de la Vega a Rabanal de Camino

I take it all back. The uphill we have done so far is minimal compared to the uphill to Rabanal. (To be fair, it is still less than most of the uphills on El Camino) 

That being said, we are now in the phase of “Multiple Days on El Camino”, so we’re no longer as fresh as Day 1. On the upside, certain patterns and routines are emerging. We take cafe con leche at basically every stop and are constantly snacking. We are starting to recognize other hikers and pilgrims and know some of their stories. We look for all the taps with potable water and start resting in the shade more. (I charge my phone/camera every time we get to a cafe)

It’s Sunday (I think), so we see many churchgoers, including some who process around the town (complete with fife, drums and tambourines and 2 men dressed in clothing that would easily pass for San Francisco hip. 

Hostels and hotels are not albergues, based on both the prices and the funny looks people give us when we trudge in with our backpacks. 

The albergue we stay at in Camino de Rabanal has tea at 5pm and the church next door (stone, historic) has a pilgrim’s blessing at 9:30, after which we go to sleep.