Camino Magico

Silleda Travel Blog

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My lovely friend

This post is a dedication of sorts. I have walked throughout Spain with only one person in constant phone contact with me, my ´brother´Paul. He has been more than just emotional support while I have been in Spain; he has also been my encouragement and believer while I was preparing for this journey. He never wavered in his love and support of me and his magic has been with me since we first met over coffee in a café in Chapel St, Melbourne. Paul, you will know what I mean!

How did we meet in the first place?. He used to sit in the front window at ´80 Spaces´writing in a journal. I would watch, curious. One day I noticed that his key ring was from Santiago in Spain! I immediately started a conversation and found out that his mother is from Santiago de Compostella.

Life outside Cea
I had recently returned from my first Camino so it was like a sign for me to meet Paul.

From that day, our friendship has grown so much that Paul now shares my home with me and I call him my brother. While I have been wandering his madre´s homeland, he has been selflessly taking care of my home and my ´family´(Sumi and Chichi, mis gatos). I could not have walked without the peace of knowing he was supporting me in every way. Thank you Paul for the magic you have shared with me these past years and for the many more we will share as ´family´.

And now I return to my last few days of walking. Only 3 days to go but the next two required stamina for 35 km each and had many hills to cover. I left the ´bread capital´of Galicia (Cea) quite early, in the dark; as I knew I had several Kms on the road and could not possibly get lost.

Horreos (grain stores)
All was well until just after sunrise. I was on a small laneway which was supposed to take me towards the carreterra 1 km away. Suddenly, the path stopped abruptly and was replaced with orange plastic roadworks tape. Beyond this was a gaping ravine maybe 50 metres deep, preparation for construction of the new high speed railway line. Unfortunately, the Camino had not yet been repositioned!

It was easy for me to decide what to do (other than backtrack!) as I could hear the cars on the Carreterra not far away. I marched off confidently in the direction through a freshly mown field and entered a ´construction´zone with enormous pieces of machinery and lots ot slippery shale. I could see the edge of the works site and the road would be below it. I smiled at my cleverness.

The scene of the climb
But as I approached, my smile diminished.  I realised that to get to the road I now had to descend a vertical 4 m drop of razor sharp and slippery shale rock. Madre mia!

In true peregrina fashion, I just made it up as I went along. The first thing to go was my mochilla as I clasped my hands in prayer and rolled it over the edge. It plopped to the narrow side of the carreterra waiting my arrival. Now I HAD to get down. I surveyed the nearest 20 m and found a section with a slight slope. I then backed on to it and feet first I slid to the road, only slightly worse for wear with a few grazes on my hands. Back in touch with my mochilla, I was cheerfully on my way; one impossible thing under my belt before breakfast!

The rest of the day walking to A Laxe (say ´Lashay´) was through some of the most lovely Galician forest yet.

Bar Alonso - close
The trees are enveloped in lichen and the ancient stone fences guiding the way are smothered in lime green moss. It is a land for fairies (hadas).

By the time I reached the first open bar, it was early afternoon so my café stop became lunch with a giant tortilla filled bocadillo. Sitting at the bar with a Cerveza con Limon (Beer and Lemon fizzy, like a shandy), I noticed a program on the TV about Santiago. It was being shown live and I could see the pilgrims entering the Praza do Obradoira. This is the grand plaza in front of the main stairs leading up to the entry of the Cathedral. It is the first place you stop and stand once you arrive and a place for many tears, hugs and smiles as pilgrims from all over the world reflect on their achievements. Just seeing it brought back emotional memories of my previous entry.

The closest I seem to get to a siesta
Here I am, sitting in a bar on a Saturday afternoon with all the farmers and these hot tears are pouring down my sweaty sunburnt face. They smiled a knowing smile and left me to my private moment.

They rest of the day was spent in reflection for me. I suddenly realised how close I was to Santiago; and one by one I recounted my adventures, friendships and loves along the way. By the time I arrived in A Laxe, I was emotionally and physically spent. As I neared the top of the stairs in the modern Albergue, I bumped into Birthe and Alan, the Danish couple I had said goodbye to before I headed back to Salamanca. How wonderful! We caught up on journeys and I retired for a long siesta.

I awoke to find another sola peregrina in the bunk next to mine.

Beatriz and her baston
This was the moment I met Beatrix, my new best friend (NBF, thats for you Mitch). She was carrying the most amazing Baston (staff) I have ever seen. It is 2 m tall and made of two lengths of a smooth tree branch. From the top there are wonderful strong feathers, like those of a cigueña. With red twine, beautiful cloth flowers are attached amongst the feathers. Halfway down the length, she has tied small lengths of plaited twine. On the end of each is a twig with one side shaved off and the name of a pueblo lovingly engraved. This is the story of her journey. Each twig tells a story of people she has met and adventures she has created.

Beatrix soon found out my name and exclaimed loudly, ´Ahhh Grrrace, I finally meet you´ (broken English). I was curious and she explained that she had met Raul (remember the boy from Holland) in the second week of her Camino and was following his notes left behind in the Albergue journals.

Walking at 5.00am (Beatriz)

[Note: most pilgrims leave a small note behind in Albergues, sometimes with a comment on the Albergue, sometimes with a story about new friends and at times with a message for friends following behind. I always left my messages with a tiny sticker Australian flag and people would look for my flag at each stop - so I found out!]

She had seen notes from Raul to grace and then seen my notes with the flag and started to follow my journey. Now she had finally met Grrrace! Now do you understand Camino Magico?

It was instant rapport between us and I straight away decided to speak only in Castillano as much as possible. We made an agreement to rise early to walk to the final destination before Santiago - Outeira. By early, I mean 5.00am! it was a stunning morning, still warm from the previous night and the moon we had expected was hiding behind clouds.

Meditating in the forest 6.30am
Undeterred, we wove our way (with a little help from headlamps) though the farm laneways and into one of the amazing Galician forests. It was here that Beatrix told me about the hadas (fairies) that small children believe live under the Robles (chestnut trees). The sun still had not risen and it was half light. She stopped suddenly ´aqui, paro!´´(I will stop here).

It was time for us both to find our own perfect Roble and nest amongst the soft helecho (fern) at the base. We each needed some private moments in this perfectly magical place and time to meditate, taking in the sights, sounds, touch and smells of madruga in Galicia (just before sun rises). ¡Que Bonita! (how beautiful and how perfect!). Later that day, Beatrix shared this Spanish saying with me:

´A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda´(For those who rise early, God provides help)

Putting our mochillas on again we completed the next leg through the forest across a ancient bridge; a rushing river hidden 20 m below by dense forest.

The panaderia
The path led us to more lonely farm roads and finally a café stop in Silleda. As we passed a Panaderia (bakery) we noticed workers in the back and cheekily popped in to see if they would sell us some fresh pastries. I had the biggest and most chocalatey (new word?) croissant I have ever seen and Beatrix decided on a Spanish version of cream puff. This was followed by a magnificent café con leche in the only open bar. It was a ´mans´bar, full of stuffed animal heads and photos of hunting trips on the walls. The paint on the walls was yellowed with time and tobacco. The old coffee machine (and older barista) created a creamy piece of caffeine heaven. I cannot describe how wonderful that first sip always is, especially when it is made with love by a craftsman.
How's this for a cafe

Revived, we trekked onwards to Bandeira and Beatrix decided to wait here and catchup with other friends. She prefers a much more leisurely day to me and we said goodbye, knowing we would meet later that night. The next part of the story is really cute. I was tempted to call this post ´Old Man Walking´ in honour of my next NBF.

As I left the town of Bandeira, I was walking side by side with an elderly man who had been to the panadera to buy his fresh pan for the day. We struck up a conversation - typical questions always starting with the predictable ¿sola?. At least now I could provide other options such as ´mi amiga andes mas lento´and ´mi novio es en Madrid´. They seem much more satisfied to know I have ´someone´. Well, we continued to walk and talk, turning onto a Camino de tierra (path) and through a eucalypt forest.

Sunday lunch coming up
Some 2 km had passed before I asked wher his house was. He pointed back to the village and said that he was enjoying talking so much he just forgot! Smiles! Soon after he backtracked and returned home, somewhat late for lunch I would presume.

As this was the second big day in a row, I was pleased to have cloud cover for most of the day but by now it had broken and was getting very hot. I took a well earned afternoon break in a 1-bar pueblo and had a yummy plate of Jamon, Cheso and freshly made tortilla while watching some of the German Grand Prix. I also treated myself to a large glass of Sidre (cider) which is ´on tap´in this part of Spain and very refreshing in the afternoon.

Exhausted, I arrived a the Outeira Albergue to find myself alone except for the short visit by the elderly (82 yo!) Hospitalera.

Sidra on tap
She was divine and later that night after Beatrix had arrived she told us a funny story about her life. Her husband had since passed away and her brother and his wife had asked her to move in with them. She agreed but did not realise that they would use her to do their work (meals, cleaning, washing). She looked us straight in the eye and with a sly smile she said (in Castillano) ´yes, they go off to do their business and leave the donkey at home to do the washing, cleaning and cooking´. It was incredible that she had made a joke of her situation and called herself a donkey. With hugs all around, she left us to turn off the lights and shuffled home down the dusty road at 10.00 pm. Another magic moment for me as I know her joy comes from the conversations she has daily with pilgrims.
The last Albergue

Lights out on the last night in an Albergue.

Besos, Grrrace

MermaidLilli says:
Yes, Raul was his name, the guy I said was with Marketa, Guy and I in Puebla de Sanabria. Nice man.
Posted on: Nov 17, 2008
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My lovely friend
My lovely friend
Life outside Cea
Life outside Cea
Horreos (grain stores)
Horreos (grain stores)
The scene of the climb
The scene of the climb
Bar Alonso - close
Bar Alonso - close
The closest I seem to get to a sie…
The closest I seem to get to a si…
Beatriz and her baston
Beatriz and her baston
Walking at 5.00am (Beatriz)
Walking at 5.00am (Beatriz)
Meditating in the forest 6.30am
Meditating in the forest 6.30am
The panaderia
The panaderia
Hows this for a cafe
How's this for a cafe
Sunday lunch coming up
Sunday lunch coming up
Sidra on tap
Sidra on tap
The last Albergue
The last Albergue
Silleda
photo by: Gracethepilgrim