Well, here I am, two days away from Santiago. I’ve been dawdling lately. I have time, after all.
I don’t, however, have time to catch you up all the way. So I’ll take you to Ourense, and write about the past few days a little later (quite possibly from Santiago).
Day 40: Laza to Alberguería (13 km)
Right after I complained about not having anyone to talk with, things improved, of course. I ate dinner with a young German woman, her parents, and a family friend who happened to be a doctor. We had a nice discussion, and he gave me some wonderful concoction for my back that seemed to work wonders.
The next morning when I left Laza, I meant to do a 30-plus kilometre day, but obviously didn’t succeed.
The day started out with some very steep but beautiful climbs. As I walked, I saw some signs for a bar coming up, but didn’t pay much attention. I’d had my chocolate and peanut break, and didn’t need to stop at a bar.
But I was seduced by Leonard Cohen, walls full of shells, an albergue with personality, and two glasses of wine (in that order).
As I came up to the bar in Alberguería, I heard a song that seemed familiar. It took me a moment to realize it was a Leonard Cohen song. Now, since Leonard Cohen has provided the soundtrack (in my head) for a lot of my Camino, I thought I should probably stopped.
Then I noticed the scallop shells covering the walls. Each had at least one name, often a country, and a date—pilgrims who’d passed through since 2004. Of course I needed a photo, and wanted to add my own name. I joined a few other pilgrims I knew for a cafe con leche, and wrote my name on a scallop shell.
I’d thought the music must be some sort of mix, but the next song was by Leonard Cohen as well. I commented to Luis, the bar owner, about how much I liked the music. As it turned out, he was a total fan of “El Cohen” and had been to several of his concerts. I asked if he had the song Hallelujah.
He did, but his remote wasn’t working and he couldn’t advance the CD. I’d have to stick around for a while.
So I waited. I chatted with a local man, who insisted on buying me two glasses of wine. I tried to help a Dutch pilgrim find her friend’s name. I went across the street to a new albergue I hadn’t known existed to use the washroom.
And at some point I decided to stay. The albergue wasn’t the cleanest I’d ever been in (though it was better after I gave it a serious sweeping) but it was free, I had it all to myself (!), and I got to hang out with Luis and listen to Leonard Cohen. I do believe Alberguería is my favourite place on this route.
Day 41: Alberguería to Xunqueira de Ambía (20 km)
The day got off to a bad start, as I sprained my ankle falling down the last few stairs at the albergue. But I could still walk, so I listened to some final Leonard Cohen (fittingly, I walked out to the sound of the same song that had been playing as I walked in), had a quick breakfast, and took off.
It was mostly downhill to Vilar do Barrio, about 7 kilometres away. After I took my boots off I realized my ankle was seriously swollen, and considered staying.
But it was early, and I wanted to walk. So I kept going. It was a very pilgrim decision, I realized after a little while. I mean, in real life if you said you were just going to walk another 13 kilometres on an injured foot, people would think you were crazy. On the Camino, 13 kilometres really isn’t so much.
I passed through a bunch of small villages where I was wished buen viaje several times, and out into a valley full of farmland. It was flat, which was exciting.
I met my second Canadian pilgrim (both come from Quebec) while sitting behind a bush eating lunch. When I continued, I found that the valley ended, ad the last part of the route involved some more up-ing and down-ing, often through forest.
I had dinner that night with Antonio from Spain and a man from Switzerland. We spoke Spanish the whole time, and it was exciting to realize I could hold such a long conversation in Spanish, even if my tenses are a serious mess.
The albergue, like many in Galicia, was very nice, very clean, and rather institutional-feeling.
Day 42: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense (22 km)
This wasn’t the nicest walk, but I had a good day walking with a Belgian named Wim. We took it slowly, stopping at a few bars for coffee or juice. The industrial zone wasn’t as bad as I’d feared from walking into Burgos and León on the Camino Francés, and was actually followed by a very pretty little village on the outskirts of Ourense.
The way marking wasn’t very good into Ourense, but we followed the city centre signs and made it to the main plaza without problems. There, of course, we found pilgrims lounging outside bars who could direct us to the albergue.
The albergue is beautiful. Unfortunately, both large dorms and the common area downstairs share a roof, with ceilings that don’t go all the way up. So when the light goes on in one place everywhere is more or less lit up, and if there’s a conversation in the common room, you can hear it clearly in the dorms.
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If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.