August 23, 2008 Eirexe to Melide

Even to make it to Santiago on a relaxed schedule would require us to walk 22 km today, so I hoped that Gail’s foot pain would be better today and we could make it to Melide.

We set out with no sign of Christian, but we saw Carol and Jake on and off through the day. Jake, at 20ish years old, was a camino jackrabbit. He was in great shape and able to walk back and forth between us and his mom as though each step was effortless. Carol had a slower pace and we often saw the two catching another cup of coffee (or an ice cream bar) along the path.

We walked downhill through the town of Palas de Rei, stopping only to look for an ATM and lunch. We nabbed a few additional stamps for our credentials at churches along the way, including one at which the priest ran out of his building, waved and shouted at us to come in and see his amazing church, then asked for a 5€ donation for the privilege. The stop was worth it mostly to admire the chutzpah of this entrepreneurial servant of God.

As the day wore on Gail began to reach the limits of her endurance. We finally arrived at Melide, where we’d arranged a rendezvous with Jake and Carol, but we couldn’t locate the hotel they’d mentioned and Gail was desperate to get off her feet. I left her in the main plaza and ran off to find any hotel, securing a great room in the Pousada Chiquitin. Something about this hotel’s combination of location, simplicity and chic modern made me really like it. I ran back to get Gail and settled her into the room while I went across the street to the albergue to do our laundry.

While Gail rested I enjoyed stepping back into albergue life, if only for an hour or so. Even though I was staying at a nearby hotel I was welcomed into the albergue by the kind hospitalera and allowed to use the coin-op washer and dryer. The washer ate my coins and then stopped partway through its cycle, which led the hospitalera and me to get put our arms around it and shake it back to its senses. Sure enough it began to work again and my laundry proceeded to get cleaned.

While I waited for the cycle to complete I went to the albergue kitchen and enjoyed some of the usual enjoyable pilgrim company. As always, pilgrims from all over the world were in attendance and I had a long conversation with a young female Australian veterinarian who was walking the camino from St. Jean Pied de Port. When the laundry was done I walked over to Gail with our clean clothes. She was asleep, so I headed out for a haircut and after she woke up we had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant before calling it a day.

August 22, 2008 Portomarín to Eirexe

Pressing on through her pain, Gail was now becoming a hero. While she walked and while she rested she thought through her own medical diagnosis of what was happening (she’s boarded as an internist as well as an anesthesiologist). Each step felt as though there was a rock between the bottom of her foot and her boot. The pain became excruciating and it was only later that she decided it was probably an less common form of plantar fasciitis in which the forward section of the plantar fascia is inflamed. Once again I offered a taxi for Gail. Once again she was insulted and refused. Bless her heart — she was going to brave out the entire walk!

On the other hand, I was in great shape and thoroughly enjoying each moment of this walk. It was an enormous gift, after all, the completion of a plan I’d had for years, one that had suffered a setback in June with my mother’s illness, but one that was day by day coming closer to fulfillment. We were just a few days outside Santiago now and I longed to visit this city on which I’d long set my sights.

The one thing the that was also clear, though, was that my secondary goal of walking to Finisterre would probably not happen. I’d arranged our flights for what I thought would be an adequate time to include a 3-day walk to Finisterre after Santiago, but I hadn’t taken into account what our actual pace would be. And recognizing the pain with which Gail was walking I felt a walk today to Ligonde/Eirexe would be about our limit. This would stretch our Santiago arrival date out far enough that we would miss the three days necessary to walk all the way to the coast. I was sad, but I also began to recognize that I might walk the camino again sometime in the future, in which case I would add Finisterre on at the end.

We left Portomarin sometime well after Christian, Carol and Jake. With a modest goal of 17 km I reasoned that we could sleep in and give Gail some time to rest. So we set off through the small farms and quiet towns in this stretch. Arriving in the late afternoon at Eirexe, a tiny settlement with only a cafe/bar and a restaurant with a small hotel above, I arranged a room in the hotel. We enjoyed a very quiet night in this fairly remote area, surrounded by the green of the nearby pastures and no road larger than the camino as it ambled along between the two buildings.