Ten Minutes of the Camino in Pictures

Day Twenty-three: Gontan to Vilalba – Yesterday afternoon as Julian and I poked our heads into the Gontan albergue the hospitalero (host) told us there were already two Americans who had signed in. We found them in back, washing their clothes, and introduced ourselves to Pete and his friend, Pete, of Michigan, USA.

After Julian left and I was blogging yesterday’s post I listened closely to their voices and watched their mannerisms as they cooked their dinner, in order to guess the kind of work they do. I kept coming up with the same hypothesis: they must be either teachers or pastors.

When I returned from the supermercado (supermarket) with my dinner ingredients they were still at the dining table, and as we talked I learned Pete is a political science prof, and Pete is a ….. United Methodist pastor. I could barely contain my surprise that a) my guesses were spot on, and b) in faraway Spain I was having dinner with another United Methodist pastor. About 5 minutes later they got around to asking me what I do, at which point I revealed my membership in the guild of United Methodist clergy. Now they were astounded too, and we enjoyed an evening of church and seminary tales together.

Sometime in the evening I lost track of Julian, so at 7:45 this morning I headed out alone under drizzly skies, first to neighboring Abadin, and then on a detour path along the highway, to Castromaior. In this blessedly flat stretch of camino the biggest challenge of the day was figuring out whether to have my rain jacket on or off. The early drizzle was soon replaced by a cold, dry wind, which was soon replaced by sun, followed by more cold, dry wind. I eventually settled on jacket-in-pack, choosing to shiver in the shady or open areas rather than sweat in the sunny spots.

I stopped for coffee off the camino at Martinan, where I caught up on emails from Gail. While I’ve been gone, gallivanting through Spain, she’s been handling our old home sale and new home purchase back in Seattle. Gail is more than capable of managing this, but she’s always busy at work, so I’m amazed she’s been able to keep it all together. Today the last part of the deal closed, so from here on out it should be much easier for her.

Caffeine enhanced, I continued on past the lovely 17th century bridge of Martinan and then decided to try an experiment: take consecutive photos of the camino track at specific intervals and share them in sequence. The goal would be to give blog readers an idea of what a random section of real camino actually looks like. You can see the results below. The two people you can vaguely make out ahead are Pete and Pete of Michigan and Michigan.

By 1:20 I reported to the front desk of the albergue here at Vilalba and signed in for my 5€ bed. I’m with the same crowd of pilgrims from yesterday, which includes youngish Spaniards, Italians, a Dane, a Pole, and Pete x2 of Michigan. There’s a fine kitchen here in the albergue, but unfortunately there is no hint of a pot, pan, knife, fork, spoon, or plate. But there’s a restaurant just across the parking lot and there are rumors of a supermarket in the town proper which is about 1.5 km away.

I’m planning my stages ahead now, and have decided to walk the remaining 124 km (74 miles) to Santiago in 4 days rather than the usual six. I’ve made a reservation for tomorrow night at Deba, a “natural” albergue with a vegetarian restaurant and will meet Martin anew at Sabrado dos Monxes. I’ll then go to Arzua, which is on the Camino Frances, and do a whopper of a 40 km day (like last year) from Arzua to Santiago. This gets me to Santiago a day early which allows an extra day to enjoy one of my favorite hotels and more time to rest before heading home on June 28.

I calculate my distance so far as 554 km (346 miles) over 23 days’ walking, which comes down to a 24 km/day (15 mile/day) average. I’ll average 31 km/day over the next 4 days, which shouldn’t be an issue.

I’m getting excited about seeing Martin again, and Jacqueline, another Camino Frances 2011 alum, as well as my dear Santiago de Compostela and best of all, Gail and home.

20120621-141759.jpgProfessor Pete of Michigan.

20120621-141918.jpgRev. Pete of Michigan.

20120621-142044.jpgMartinan main street.

20120621-142144.jpgMartinan’s cool medieval bridge.

20120621-142352.jpgOK, your ten minutes start now. Meter 0

20120621-142431.jpgMeter 50.

20120621-142504.jpgMeter 100.

20120621-142725.jpgMeter 150.

20120621-142806.jpgMeter 200.

20120621-142858.jpgMeter 250.

20120621-142943.jpgMeter 300.

20120621-143023.jpgMeter 350.

20120621-143126.jpgMeter 400.

20120621-143253.jpgMeter 450.

20120621-143334.jpgMeter 500.

20120621-143421.jpgMeter 550.

20120621-143514.jpgMeter 600.

20120621-143604.jpgMeter 650.

20120621-143648.jpgMeter 700.

20120621-143806.jpgMeter 750.

20120621-143908.jpgMeter 800. Took me ten minutes, how about you? (Squint and you can see the two Petes).

20120621-144029.jpgCemetery at Goiriz.

20120621-144127.jpgChapel at Goiriz.

Not Bad for 5€

Day Twenty-two: Lourenza to Gontan — As I came into town last night I looked briefly for a pension or hotel for the night, but the one pension I saw looked a little dicey, so I opted for the albergue. It was a modern building with about twenty beds in three rooms and it worked out to be perfectly comfortable for the evening. It didn’t bother me to share the two man shower with a skinny Italian fellow whose name I didn’t get.

Albergue (al-BEAR-gae) living takes some getting used to. There are often many languages spoken as clothes are washed by hand in the outdoor washing sinks, showers taken, and meals cooked in the kitchen, which usually serves as the hub of activity in the evenings. Galician albergues are usually quite nice, as though a government contract was let out to young architects and they were challenged to design something that would be useable and, hopefully even, attractive. The albergue of Lourenza is perhaps 25 years old now, but it has “good bones.” Timber rafters and wood paneling, stone faced walls, and other subtle traces make an observant pilgrim thankful that someone, somewhere cared about footsore and weary walkers slowly meandering through their land.

I ate at a bar/cafe last night so I missed some of the communal life of the albergue, but I slept very well and felt full of energy as I met Julian this morning in the Plaza Mayor at 7:00. We stopped for a quick coffee, then headed onto the camino and up the steep climb behind the albergue for a view to Lourenza below.

Today would be a day of climbing as the topography changes from coastal hills to a higher, flatter region beyond. In between is a ridge of 1500 meters in height, our last big climb of this camino.

About 8 km from Lourenza the mid-sized town of Mondonedo appeared and we scheduled our mid-morning coffee break for a cafe as near the cathedral as possible. Both Lourenza and Mondonedo sport impressive church buildings and as we had coffee — accompanied by a delicious chocolate croissant for me — I strategized about how to get inside Mondonedo’s impressive main church. Julian and I scouted around all the doors we could find, then just as we were about to give up we noticed a priest unlocking the main door off the plaza. Score!

I introduced myself as a Protestant priest (it seems easier for Spaniards to understand than “pastor” which still literally means “shepherd” in Spain) and he graciously invited us in, showed us the cloister and described the reredo. The only thing that could have made me happier would have been to have a go at the vintage organ hanging from the nave walls at the clerestory level, but that was a lot to ask this kind priest and I suspected the organ has not been played for many decades.

Having now inspected and approved the church it was time to head up the hill for today’s big climb. Julian was perfect walking company and we chatted almost nonstop on the asphalt then gravel road until we reached the summit, about 11 km after Mondonedo.

With the difficult work of the day now done it became purely a matter of finding lunch and a place to spend the night. We walked along the new freeway construction for a bit and then, about 90 minutes or so after hitting the summit of our climb we were in Gontan, our goal for the day.

After a quick beer and omelette at the first bar/cafe, we found the Gontan albergue, an even more modern affair than its Lourenza cousin. With a nice kitchen, dining room, showers and living room it’s a pilgrim gem. Albeit there are 28 beds in the single dormitory, but this is as luxurious as an albergue gets. Julian is a light sleeper, so even the nicest albergue doesn’t work that well for him. He chose a room above a nearby restaurant instead while I registered at the albergue, met a couple of Michigonians (Midwestern American sounds oh, so much like home) and threw my pack on a bunk.

I washed my clothes, showered (by chance with the same skinny Italian guy from last night’s shower and whose name happens to be Matteo) and settled in for an evening as comfortable as you can find in Europe for 5€ (about $6).

20120620-161912.jpgRoad above Lourenza. Blessedly no rain today.

20120620-162003.jpgMondonedo Cathedral exterior.

20120620-162052.jpgMondonedo rose window. Note organ in two halves.

20120620-162157.jpgGreen hills of Ireland, whoops, Spain.

20120620-162251.jpgHow green is their valley.

20120620-162333.jpgA freeway bulkhead on the A8 now under construction. Includes scallop shell designs. Julian is a real photographer as you can tell.

20120620-162533.jpgGontan albergue dining room. Hey, that same Italian.

20120620-162634.jpgCan’t get over this cool albergue stairway with the glass wall.

20120620-162816.jpgFive Euro bed in the Gontan albergue. OK, I choose the top bunk because I don’t like someone sleeping over me (but don’t mind sleeping above someone else).

20120620-165133.jpgAlbergue stairway from outside.

20120620-165247.jpgGontan albergue from front. OK, that’s the last albergue photo.