You can fly, drive, go by train or ... walk
After a good night's sleep (it IS my sleeping bag :) after all), I wake up early, and go get dressed in the cold bathroom. Everybody has already left, except Kate who is to stay the day here and therefore can sleep in. I get my glass of hot milk from the Meson o Tapas, the waitress is very kind and lets me take it to the albergue. After a quick breakfast in the silent garden and Dana observing me curiously, I take off into my first day on the Camino. My plan is to make 22 km to Portomarin.
The day is just fantastic! The sun is shining and the birds are singing, the nature is lush carrying all shades of green and colours of flowers.
The air is filled with manure smell - yeah, I'm walking among fields of gold .... aehm, I mean no, not precisely gold, but these green fields will most probably produce organic food, so bare with it :) . Suddenly, I get a text message from my sister: an old friend with whom we have been having loose contact for 30 years now, happens to be at the Camino, too, right now. I text Sabine, and she texts me back that she's taking the Pamplona - Logrono part. So we won't meet, since she's at the beginning and me at the end of the Way. But we keep staying in touch, with Way-to-go-messages in the mornings and My-feet-are-killing-me messages in the evenings. So funny, that we happen to be here at the same time!
On my way I'm mostly by myself, but today seems to be buisy.
I meet a group of seniors from Australia, several groups on bikes, many smaller groups of mostly Spaniards. And they all have one thing in common: they don't carry backpacks. Mine, meanwhile, is killing me! Soon I learn, that most pilgrims send their backpacks to their destination with a taxi, and take only a light bag along. I have to check that out.
I take a break at a road side cafe. There are many along the Way, and here you meet all the pilgrims you don't see while walking. What I like about the Camino, is that you are allowed to walk your own pace. Every now and then you meet other pilgrims, walk a while together, have a chat, maybe even stop for a rest together. But that is all optional. Nobody expects you to keep up with anybody, nobody expects you to talk or keep your mouth shut. There seems to be an unspoken rule that everybody on the Camino is free.
A Free Bird! As I continue walking, I feel complete and utter happiness and freedom. Then Roger Glover starts to sing into my ear „Burn me up slowly“, and my aching back seems to shout „You ARE burning me up slowly!“. I have to do something about my backpack. But the happy feeling is stronger and I sing along out loud, well, nobody's around to faint anyway.
A pilgrim's fountain
The Way goes through little villages and the manure smell is omnipresent. I'm mostly alone again, except for another woman. I keep getting ahead of her, and then she keeps getting ahead of me, and so we continue walking, silently nodding at each other with a smile. It's mostly dirt roads, and some of them are remains of ancient roman corredoiras: built of big granit stones they are now broken and stick out of the ground randomly.
It can be pretty tricky to cross them, mostly the road beneath them is flooded or muddy, and you gotta watch your step not to slip and fall. The Life of Riley now sings conveniently „I think I'm gonna get in trouble“, though I believe they had some other trouble in mind.
Someone left their socks
In the village Ferreiros I stop for lunch and have another Galician speciality: Empenada, a pizza-kind of cake filled with tuna and vegetables, yummy. I take a look at my watch and realize I needed 4,5 hours for 14 km, and it seems too much. Well, I'll blame it on my first day. And that friggin' backpack.
The road continues through mud and more corredoiras. In the sky the dark clouds that had popped up at some time are left behind me, but ahead of me I can see a herd of cows coming my way.
Now, I'm not afraid of no cows, but this stretch of road I'm/we're on right now is fenced by stone walls on both sides, no way to edge out. As I continue walking, I see that my road drives out to a crossroads, and the cows - huge cows, by the way - continue their way in the other direction. The lead cow stops to take a long look at me, I guess, I do look weird with my big backpack. As the herd passes, I stop at the crossroads to take a look at a cross made of wood and with little stones tied up to it by wire. I will pass crosses on several spots along the Way, and they are mostly decorated with stones or pieces of cloth left there by the pilgrims. Here I also find a card with a prayer written on it and the website of Elie and Ed from Seattle. I noticed this card because Elie and Ed left it on several other spots along the Way, too.
Huge cows at the crossroads
The villages I pass now are really small, consisting of only a few houses that mostly seem abandoned, and I barely see any people.
The nature is spectacular! Then, while passing through yet another village with abandoned houses, I come across a Guiness sign attached to a wall. And I can hear music. The opening in the wall leads me to a terace, and it's Elvis singing! Is the King alive and kicking in rural Galicia??? No, the King definitely is NOT alive, the music is coming from speakers. I'm at a beautiful looking bar, and there are people relaxing on the terace. I decide to stop and after a look around I think it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. I find the landlord inside, and, alas!, he speaks good English. Jose explains this is an albergue and invites me to take a look. I do, and then decide to stop here. It's another 5 km to Portomarin, but I just like it here! I'm free, remember :) ? The albergue La Bodeguina de Mercadoiro was opened only 2 years ago, and is therefore not listed in my guide. After I settle in the beautiful room which I have all to myself (there's just another elder italian couple in the room nextdoor), I wash all my clothes from my sweaty, exhausting day's work, and then just walk barefoot in the grass.
Crossroads pilgrim's cross
What a relieve!!! The sun is shining, it's warm and I sit on the terace and drink my tea. All the other guests are gone, and I invite Jose to join me. He's a very nice young man and quickly we click (I believe that is the right english expression for when you immediately get well along with each other?) and start chatting. As some friends of him arrive he goes to greet them and I just enjoy the calm and the sun. Later another pilgrim comes in, David, and leaves after a chat and a piece of Santiago cake. People come and go, and soon another pilgrim arrives and stays for the night. When I go into „my“ room to put some clothes on, I see he has occupied the other bed. I can't help but think, why the heck he would take this bed when there are other free beds in other vacant rooms. But Jose-Luis turns out to be a polite and nice young man, and soon we start talking, for his English is very good. My Spanish is more than poor, I took a Spanish course, like, 10 years ago, but little has sticked in my brain.
A corredoira with granit stones
A 100 km left to go
In the evening, the Italian couple turns in early, and at the bar I stay with Jose, Jose-Luis and Guillermo. Guillermo is a neighbor, an artist who has his workshop just down the road called Peter Pank, and for the first time I am really sorry that I don't speak Spanish, because I would have so loved to talk to him. Lesson learned :( . But Jose and Jose-Luis interpret very nicely and soon we find ourselves talking and laughing and joking and I learn a very important Spanish word ;) It is getting late but nobody seems to want to leave, and Jose pulls out - guess what - homemade brandies. They explain it's a tradition, and it is considered as bad taste to reject an offered drink.
Right! And I don't even like alcohol. But I like the company, it turns out to be a very fun evening, and, it's safe to say, my favourite Camino memory. Gracias, guys!
With Jose-Luis and Jose partying away
It must have been already midnight, when Jose suggested to make a Queimada. He opened his albergue only 2 weeks earlier, and this would be the first one and he wanted to share it with us. He explained, that the Queimada is an ancient traditional Galician drink and ritual. Strong brandy, sugar, lemon and coffee beans are placed in a special ceramic bowl and then lit up. The spirit burns for about 10 minutes, and after that is served in ceramic cups. While the drink is burning, a spell is being spoken in old Galician language.
The tradition goes back to times when people believed in the supernatural (not that we don't now, do we? ;)), especially demons and witches. At nights, family and friends would gather to prepare the Queimada, and with the spell chase away witches and evil spirits. I objected „But we are supposed to be pilgrims. Can we do that?“, *wink, wink*, for which Jose-Luis will keep teasing me for quite a while. It was such a fun night! The boys didn't forget to mention that the Quiemada had to be drank all to the last drop, to make the spell work. Nice try, boys. .... But it does taste good, btw :) .
I went to sleep happy to have been part of something special, and to have met new friends.
A pilgrim's chapel in Morgade