Into the Clouds

Day Twenty-one: Ribadeo to Lourenza — A new word should be invented for weather that is somewhere between heavy fog and drizzle. “Frizzle,” maybe? “Drog”? Whatever it might be called, that’s what it was doing all day today, making it a wet, cold and dreary 26 km (16 mile) stage.

I said goodbye to Martin this morning knowing full well that this could be the last time I see him. With his knee acting up again he needs rest, and one of his options is simply to go home. If he does go, today’s goodbye could be the last. I chatted with him, hugged him and wished him the best, then headed out for a very late start at 9:00.

His last words to me as I walked out the door were, “You’re a better man than I to go out in this weather.” Indeed, a cold wind was blowing at about 10 knots from the ocean, and a low mist made everything instantly wet. Less than 20 meters from the albergue I put on my jacket and pack cover, hoping that the farther I walked away from the ocean the warmer it would get.

I walked through Ribadeo, losing the way markers twice, but getting helpful directions from bartenders before I got too lost. My focus was on finding my way, but as I look back on the day I realize I should have picked up some food before I left Ribadeo. At least a few calories would keep my stomach from rumbling, but as it turned out there were no bars or restaurants open for almost the entire extremely rural stage.

Soon after Ribadeo, which is at sea level, the camino climbs on a combination of paved and gravel roads to an elevation of 320 meters (1040 feet). The track wanders through eucalyptus forests, tiny hamlets and green pastures of sheep, goats, cows, horses, and donkeys. Today, any scenic vistas were obscured by thick and wet clouds. Gains in elevation included gains in the thickness of the fog that kept my clothes and me quite wet.

Knowing I’d started late I walked quickly, using energy from last night’s late supper. By 10:00 I was already hungry. Surely there’ll be a bar/cafe at Vilar, I thought to myself. Nope. Well if not there than certainly San Vicente. Uh-uh. Probably San Martin Pequeno then? Zip. San Martin Grande? Zilch. Gondan? Nada, unless you count the soda pop vending machine at the shuttered albergue. Finally, at 3:00, I walked into a restaurant at San Xusto and wolfed down a Caldo Gallego and some huevos fritos (soup and fried eggs). Then it was up the hill for another big climb, and finally down into the comforts of Lourenza, a town with bars and restaurants enough to satisfy any pilgrim.

As I arrived at the albergue I recognized I was within a couple of hours of being too cold, too wet, and too hungry for my own safety. My pants, jacket, hat, socks, and boots are all wet, and before even thinking about more food I needed a nap and warm shower in order to feel human again.

As I walked out of the albergue to find some food I met Julian of Hawaii who’s caught up now. He was cheerful and looking for company, so we agreed to meet tomorrow at the Plaza Mayor and walk together to Gontan-Abadin.

Tomorrow I will certainly carry food with me — at least some cookies — to provide calories for an even bigger climb of 440 meters (1400 feet). The weather report says more frizzle/drog tomorrow, so it’s time to figure out how to make this chilly, wet walk through remote Galician countryside be safe and fun.

20120619-190856.jpgRailroad bridge on outskirts of Ribadeo.

20120619-190939.jpgGalician way marker, complete with km remaining plaque.

20120619-191044.jpgMany walks through woods like these today.

20120619-191134.jpgMisty day.

20120619-191210.jpgThe welcome is sincere, if worn.


20120619-191359.jpgOK, bye.

20120619-191249.jpgChapel at San Martin Pequeno

20120619-191517.jpgAbove Lourenza.

20120619-191545.jpgLourenza albergue exterior.

20120619-191633.jpgGreat to see Julian of Honolulu.

20120619-191712.jpgAmazing interior of Lourenza church.

Goodbye to the Sea

Day Twenty: La Caridad to Ribadeo — As Martin and I crossed the highway bridge above the Rio de Ribadeo into Galicia this afternoon I had mixed feelings. I knew the next town, Ribadeo, would be the last coastal town we’d visit on this walk and that the crossing meant a goodbye to the sea and its many beautiful beaches and vistas. I thought back to the states of Cantabria and Asturias I’d crossed, and the Basque Country where I’d begun with Sebastian and felt sad that this crossing also meant the beginning of the end to this journey. Santiago is now just eight days away and most of this month of walking and adventure, like the sea, is now behind me.

This morning I lingered over breakfast at La Caridad out of enjoyment over the nice hotel, the Casa Xusta, I’d stumbled into the night before. My gear was mostly dry after yesterday’s downpour and I was physically ready to push myself out the door, but the hotel’s breakfast of cereal, yogurt, toast, jam, fresh orange and coffee — with linen napkins — was too luxurious to rush. I trusted that Martin wouldn’t mind much if I were a few minutes late to the train station in Tapia where I was to meet him at 10:45.

At 9:00 I set out from the hotel wearing my rain jacket which before long was back in my pack. There was a very light drizzle falling, but the temperature was moderate and the high clouds to the west suggested the rest of the day would likely be dry. I began walking briskly as I realized the distance involved and my relaxed pace at breakfast would mean I’d now be quite late for Martin.

I skipped the camino trail and walked the N634 out of town for the sake of time, then at Porcia I opted for the camino trail as it headed toward the coast in order to see if I could catch some vistas of the ocean. I stayed on the trail through El Franco where it turned to asphalt and appeared to make a straight line to Tapia.

About 4 km before Tapia I saw a man on a bicycle approach. He slowed down and asked me where I was going today. I mentioned Tapia then Ribadeo and he gave me detailed directions about how to get there. I asked him where the train station was in Tapia and he frowned, “it’s 5 kilometers away. Why?” I explained that I was to meet my friend there. “No, he should just take the train on to Ribadeo where the station is right in the city.” He then rode off and I began to puzzle about how I would meet Martin if his train were leaving him 5 km (3 miles) away from the city.

Soon the man returned from the opposite direction and told me he’d show me the way into town and get me a cup of coffee while I waited for Martin. As we approached the town he walked me through the open air market, where everyone seemed to know him. Then he walked me down to a nice cafe overlooking the harbor.

As we talked over coffee (in his excellent and my broken Spanish) I learned that is name is German (pronounced Herr-MON) and that he is a local merchant seaman who’s been unemployed the last four years. Then as we waited for Martin I explained about my blog. The cafe owner opened his laptop and I walked them through the last several days’ postings and photos, including the church fireworks from yesterday, which he identified as San Antonio Day. He explained that fireworks are just part of how Spaniards celebrate and it’s no big deal.

Soon Martin called, so German and I headed up to the Plaza Mayor to find him. Once there, we headed back to the cafe for empanadas de atun, coffee, and photos. Before we left, German excused himself and returned after a bit with a backpack and two colorful bandanas from his hiking club, one for Martin and one for me. With him was the president of the Grupo de Montanas. We were now honorary members of his august fraternity!

Since German also had his backpack we realized he was also planning to escort us out of town, perhaps all the way to Galicia!

He walked us along the cliffside promenade to show us his town’s lively beaches, then said a cheerful goodbye as the trail turned away from the beach. We were thankful for his friendly welcome to Tapia and the bandanas we knew would impress our friends.

After a few km Martin and I shared the cherries and nectarine I’d purchased at the market and then a few km later we heard the sound of a motor scooter approaching. Who should it be but German, this time bearing more gifts of stickers and his email address so we could contact him once we arrived in Santiago. He said his final goodbye from a chapel in a park high above the Rio Ribadeo from which we could see the towers of Ribadeo, our goal for the night.

The highway bridge crossing into Galicia was just a few minutes away now, and German’s friendliness was a reminder of how kind and helpful all the local Asturians had been all throughout the walk. They frequently volunteered directions and always offered a hearty “buenos dias” or “buen camino” or “buen viaje” as we passed them on the street.

After crossing the high bridge (an act of courage for Martin) we settled into our first Galician albergue, found a cafe, and planned our dinner for later in the evening.

Martin’s knee is still hurting him, so he’ll likely take a bus a few days ahead, once again to give it time to heal. I’ll keep walking — away from rather than along the sea — to see my beloved Santiago soon, then my loved ones and home.

20120618-185913.jpgWet, cold road out of La Caridad.

20120618-190027.jpgInlet before Tapia.

20120618-190136.jpgTapia harbor.

20120618-190231.jpgFrom left: Martin, me, German.

20120618-190339.jpgGerman and Martin leaving Tapia on cliff side promenade.

20120618-190532.jpgView of Ribadeo and Galicia from high bridge over town.

20120618-190637.jpgMartin, conquering vertigo.

20120618-190745.jpgRibadeo skyline.