The rain is soft but cold and it has been coming down all day. Yet the spirits of everyone I meet are friendly…convivial, even.
I am descending a very long slope when I see what must be a local person in front of me. It is a woman and her 4 dogs. Yet as I draw nearer, I can see that she has a partner, a man who is pulling a small cart with a kind of canopy over it. On the back of this makeshift wagon is the signature souvenir of a Camino traveler: the scallop shell.
Curious, I approach the wagon and see that it has a Pug in it. It has grey hair, and the man tells me he is too old to walk with the other dogs with his wife so he must pull him on the Camino. The woman is nearby and she has 3 more Pugs and a French Bulldog on a leash. They are from Switzerland, and have been on the Camino for weeks. The idea of those little legs moving so far boggles my mind. I wonder if the dogs, too, will get a credencial?
I began this morning in rain, and it has misted all day. It is cool, which is good for a long walk.
I have been walking with a pair of German women today, Tina, and Veronica. They are best friends and have been walking the Camino only since Sarria as have I. I met them when I stopped at a rest area to grab some water and a bite to eat. Tina offered me chocolate and asked about my knee. Almost all of the travelers I have met on the Way are genuinely concerned about the well-being of the others who share the road with them. I stay at their pace a while but cannot keep up.
Today has not been as scenic as the first day. There has been a lot more travel on regular roads and through cities. I do not feel in the mood to take pictures as I don’t feel like they’ll be good anyway.
Yet my spirits are still good and I am feeling like the journey is very worthwhile. I have not forgotten what happened on the first day.
My knee hurts very badly now on the downhill sections and I am limping noticeably. I have taken Ibuprofen but that was hours ago. I have been walking since 9 and it is now nearly 3. I am ready for a rest.
I catch up to a girl who is taking a picture of a cow nudging its newborn calf. I too take one, and we begin walking together. She is about 22 and is Catalan, from Barcelona.
It amazes me how many young people can travel like this. To me, it is very expensive. But these students and young people do not mind staying in budget hostels and eating whatever comes their way. And in Spain, the unemployment rate among young people is said to be 50%. What else can she do? There is no work for her.
I trudge into Palas de Rei running on empty. I remember when I was a young man and could easily walk 20 miles in a day carrying a big load on my back. Ah, those were they days!
I check into the Casa Benilde, an excellent family run hotel. You can tell that the innkeeper here really cares about their guests. They have already moved my luggage into my room, and they have a valet show me to it. When I leave for dinner, the owner (I believe) makes sure I have an umbrella, since it is still raining.
I sit at the bar drinking some wine because they are not yet serving dinner. It is amazing to me that even with thousands of famished tourists showing up on their doorstep everyday wanting something to eat immediately, the stiff-necked Galicians stick firm to their traditions: the restaurant is closed from 3 until 7 (at least).
However, there are exceptions. Order a glass of wine, and many times a hot piece of pizza or potato casserole will accompany it (for less than $1.50). They will also serve a large salad or even pizza sometimes…but remember-the restaurant is NOT OPEN!
I finally sit down for dinner and am joined by two Austrian girls travelling together. Angelina and Julia are from Vienna and are as friendly as are all of the Germanic peoples I have met. We have a few glasses of wine and say goodnight but plan to meet for breakfast in the morning.
As I am about to return to the hotel, Gail, a woman whom I had barely met on the trail, brings me some medicine for my blistered toes from the farmicia. That is the kind of comraderie that is hard for me to imagine.
Thanks, Gail from California!