July 18, 2010 Vilar do Barrio to Xunqueria de Ambia

Yesterday I had Wi-Fi so was really glad to be able to Gail my updates. Today, no such luck. I wrote my iPhone emails to Gail at the albergue in the little farm town of Xunquiera de Ambia. There were not many services there, but at least there were some bars and restaurants and the huge church in this cute little town.

Before dinner last night in Vilar do Barrio I stocked up on fruit, water, and cheese for the next day’s walk. On the recommendation of Manuel, son of the owner at the casa rural where I stayed, I had eaten dinner at a tiny restaurant without even a sign outside. The owner/cook/waitress was a 70ish year old woman who made a very nice enselada mixta and a big bowl of caldo galego, my first time trying this Galician classic soup. It’s made simply of potatoes, greens from a peculiar Galician plant, and various spices. Simple but tasty. She was disappointed I didn’t eat the entire bowl, but I was just too full. For that plus bread and wine she wanted to charge me 8€, but I insisted on 10.

After waking from a good sleep I packed and headed out the door for a short day’s walk. I had debated pressing on to Ourense, but given it is Sunday I decided a shorter day and potential church mass would be best.

The day alternated between sunny farm roads and shady pathways, punctuated by sleepy towns. Sheep in the meadows talked loudly to each other while their shepherd looked on. Cows, dogs and cats walked the roads, the dogs and cats, unlike the cows, being nice enough to use private toilets. Cow droppings are one of the charms of Galicia that it takes the most time to adjust to.

Just after I set out I was passed by a group of seven Spanish boys of 15-20ish with small backpacks. After a bit I passed them while they stopped to talk, rest, and smoke. After a time they passed me again, and I caught up again during their break. We all arrived at the Xunqueira albergue at the same time, 11:00 — they the hare and I the ancient sea turtle.

Although the albergue was not supposed to open until 12:30 the hospitalera of this modern and attractive albergue allowed me to leave my backpack and head to the 12th c. church for mass.

The church is a gem of Romanesque architecture, dark but simple and beautiful. Filling the walls are several ornately carved reredos, including two with mi hermano Santiago. There’s also a balcony organ that, according to the secretary who gave me my sello, is 300 years old.

I enjoyed the service, but also had one of those church moments that will certainly make it into a sermon. I sat down in a pew, thirty minutes early for the mass, one of six people among the 40-odd pews. A thirty- something woman came in and, among all the available seats chose to sit in my pew, about three feet to my left. In a few minutes another much older woman came in and sat to my right, then another woman joined our merry group between me and the woman on my left. I counted perhaps 20 people in church now, with 20% of us in one pew and ten minutes left until the service was to begin. Clearly I had sat in “their” pew, but rather than get up and move to another pew I decided to become one of “them.” We worshiped, shared the sacrament, and mumbled our ancient prayers together (in two languages). I smelled their perfume, my first in a week. I halfway expected (and hoped for) a lunch invitation, but suspect they had caught a whiff of Eau de Pelerin (no shower yet after 14 km in the hot sun) and left in dismay.

Met Andre, a québécois gentleman, on the return from church. He’s walked all the French camino routes over the years and once all the way to Santiago. Like most long distance pilgrims on the VDLP he’s now slowing down to time his arrival for July 24 in Santiago.

Shower followed by update writing. Laundry later. Cervesa at the nearest restaurant next. Hot day outside. Windows in the albergue closed to keep out the hot air. A kissy young couple from Seville who’d been at Lubian and who witnessed my defeat at Campobecerros, are taking their siestas on (blessedly) two bunks on the other side of the room. At 14:45 I left to explore the town, find dinner, and prep for tomorrow’s walk into Ourense. Dinner was a joyous affair with Andre and many other pilgrims in a restaurant a few hundred yards below the albergue.

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