I slept, almost well. The Spanish couple left so quietly. I hear them go, I hear cats walking on carpet, but they are so careful in their quiet movements, so conscious that the door has a handle when they close it. How many people ignore the handle, slam a door instead of practising silence, stealth, and other good shamanic training towards invisibility.
It seems to me that no one wants to be invisible any more; everyone wants to be Very Noticed these days, with far too much Ego in their Cosmos. The need for noise affects and disturbs others, but has that thought ever penetrated their little homespun brains? I was once thrilled to read: noise is the emblem of anarchy, the very fingerprint of entrophy. Something to do with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics if I recall correctly. Reading it gave me such a sense of, I’m alright then, it’s the rest of the world that’s out of kilter. A most restorative revelation even to my homespun little brain.
This morning I can just lie here, because John is driving to Melide today and will drop me there. I accept with gratitude and grace and I can breakfast slowly. I love how magic just – happens. Leisurely I listen to pilgrims tapping their sticks along the road below the window; enjoy the muffled sounds of morning chatter; know I have three hours in which to write up my journal, have a quiet breakfast, idle the hours.
I am charmed to see two Frenchwomen massaging each other’s feet as they prepare to put on their boots. I collect my towel from the washing line, I washed it last night. It is still wet, so I’ll pin it to my mochila to dry as I walk. Its sunny colour will surely attract the sun, it has been grey and drizzly overnight. I hear the clatter of horses’ hooves and leap to the window – the three glorious Andalucians are walking past.
John arrives just as he said he would, we have a coffee before leaving. I ask him if he would mind a tiny detour; I discovered that a village on the way is called Leboreiro, meaning Place of Many Hares. My imagination plays – how can I resist the possibility of having a sello of a hare leaping over a scallop shell?
Alas, we find no office or albergue and thus no sello in Leboreiro and we miss Melide, there is a huge festival in the main street and detours took us, as strangers to the town layout, far beyond the town. John drops me at Panabispo where the milestone to Santiago shows double figures. I feel momentarily bereft standing there as John hugs me and wishes me Buen Camino; I sense I will not see any of the three Americans again.
I stand a moment, watch peregrinos as they enter the wooded path ahead of me. I am tired and wonder if knowing that I am nearing the end of my marvellous pilgrimage has thrown a cold douche of reality over me, dampened my wonder at walking an impossible dream? I shake off the feeling, photograph the milestone of Panabispo with its double red figures and walk on to Boente, climb another hill to Castañeda and make a steep descent into Arzúa.
A huge festival fills the streets, my intention to reach an albergue in the old part of town is hampered by crowds and I feel momentarily confused.
I walk into a small hotel, they are full but recommend Hotel Begoña in easy reach down a side street. It isn’t quite that easy, or quite so close, and I could have negotiated my way to the albergue as easily.
But I am here, the room is blissfully quiet, the shower blissfully hot, I wash everything and rig up my trusty washing line between balconied, but not accessibly balconied, windows and lay down with my legs up, clean feet against the wall, recovering once more.
That washing line, an invention with now well-rusted rings at each end, has travelled a few hundred thousand miles with me around the globe; I am fond of it, appreciate its humble purpose. It is lime green, a plaited cord of nylon and a length always perfect for the myriad spaces in which it finds itself strung anywhere over the world. That is it so amenable to infinite variety is a small and practical miracle in itself. I’ve grown so attached to its helpful adaptability and good temper even in the most trying surroundings that I hesitate to use it in open shared spaces these days – I might forget it, or it may prove unfaithful and take off with someone else ...
My feet remind me they are cold stuck up there on the wall so I swing about and tuck them under the blankets, doze off for an hour or so before dressing and food foraging. The markets are closing down now, I have a not so good pulpo, dare I write that those I ate in neighbouring Castilla y León were vastly superior?
I return to my room just as a colossal clap of thunder rents the air and lightning bolts pierce the horizon in pirouettes. The heavens open. I have no need to go outside again and decide to send my mochila on to O Pedrouzo in dry comfort tomorrow so go down to arrange it with the receptionist. She takes my details and €3 for David who is the mochila taxi here and tells me that there is to be live and very loud music in the town square tonight until 3 am.
My heart sinks, the town square is just around the corner from my bedroom window. Furthermore I notice when I strung out my trusty washing line that the building opposite is a dosshouse for old hobos a few of whom were already reeling below the window. Noise! But then the monsoon. I love rain. Love monsoons.
And the storm of all storms, liquid carnage, washes out play, the bandstand is flooded, the music called off and the old soaks in the hostel opposite my bedroom are silenced too. I watch from my windows as the rain gathers in rivers to flood down the street.
The sky is clear when I wake, the air filled with ions so negative after the storm they positively dance in front of me as I step out. Today’s walk to O Pedrouza is only nineteen kilometres.
I take the wrong turn, again. But a sixth sense alerts me and I turn back and round a corner to see a trail of peregrinos heading down a narrow alleyway left. It is a lovely easy walk, my heart and back are light, the sun shines through clouds which have been cleansed of their rain burden.
I am charmed by the horreos, especially the ones with protective symbols. What better way to protect the grain that will give you life than to hedge ones’ bets by using Catholic as well as pagan symbols on the roof apexes of these grain stores, life stores.
Another donativo table appears and I choose a banana, but to my dismay have no coins. Nor have the German couple who pause and take. I take, but feel so ill at ease I write an IOU to Felix for my banana.
I sign it, promise to pay next time. I don’t know that I will do the Camino ever again but if I do I will honour the 50 cents. Perhaps someone reading my IOU will indulge in an act of random kindness and leave Felix what I owe.
I recall Caroline’s Camino with rain rain rain from when she entered Galicia; I remember Gerald Kelly’s misery as he recounted wet, wet, wet right through Galicia; and I thank my lucky stars that the rain has passed – and I am in Galicia.
I reach a grave of a woman; it has a photograph, she is younger than I and died while doing her second Camino. While I digest all that is written, breathing in a marvellous smell of eucalyptus oil as I stand at the edge of the eucalyptus forest which will take me all the way to Santiago, another couple pause next to me, one reads out loud to the other. They are Australian and my Alice in Wonderland moment is poised to resurface.To be continued ...