About a week away from Santiago, I’m now among the walking wounded. It’s not that bad, though. And the mountains are beautiful.
Day 37: Lubián to A Gudiña (24 km)
I met Steffen and Thomas, two young-ish German guys (one’s a bit older than I am; the other’s a bit younger), within half an hour of writing my last blog post. They were just finishing off dinner as I made a sandwich for my own meal.
As we ate, they told me about their Camino. Every day they get up at 7 a.m., have a leisurely breakfast, and leave around 8 a.m., after the sun comes up over the mountains and it’s no longer freezing.
After a few hours of walking, it’s time for their second breakfast, which is occasionally followed by a third breakfast. And then there’s lunch, and its accompanying siesta. Then they cook dinner in the albergue every night.
If they get lost, they used Steffen’s GPS to locate the next town (it would be no fun having all the Camino co-ordinates), and crash off in that direction.
They’d been walking from Salamanca, and planned to walk to A Gudiña the next day. From there, they’d take the train to Ourense, so they could walk into Santiago within their two-week deadline.
They invited me to walk with them to A Gudiña. I said yes—purely out of academic interest in such a hedonistic schedule, of course.
And so when everyone else was getting up around 6:30 a.m., I nestled deeper in my sleeping bag, re-applied my ear plugs, and stayed in bed until 7. Then it was time for First Breakfast and scrounging for food left by more weight-conscious pilgrims. And Steffen and Thomas were right—when we set out at 8 a.m., it wasn’t as horribly cold as it had been for the last few days, when I’d left earlier in the morning.
The walking was beautiful but seriously muddy, and in some cases the entire path had turned into a stream. The guys splashed through the water and laughed at me for my un-waterproof boots. It was also quite steeply uphill at times, but the ensuing views were more than worth it.
The guys gave me lunch from their vast stores—Coke, bread, sausage (for them), boiled eggs, cheese. We only had a brief siesta because the sky looked rather threatening.
After that the route went downhill, then up again into A Gudiña (after a scenic detour for an aerial view of the town).
The albergue was relatively big, with a huge dorm room, a well-equipped kitchen (surprising since we were now in the final province of Galicia), and no shower curtains (not surprising in Galicia).
Steffen and Thomas took off for the train station after farewells. I hadn’t even known them for 24 hours, but it was sad to see them go. I actually saw them again, though: a little later, I went for a walk, and saw them sitting at the station. It turned out the train wasn’t going to leave for over an hour, so I waited with them and chatted until the train pulled up.
Day 38: A Gudiña to Campobecerros (19 km)
This was another beautiful mountain-y day, also with rain in the afternoon/evening after I arrived. It went partly along a small almost traffic-less road, occasionally leaving the road for more rugged, higher paths.
I stayed on the road at the end because my back was suddenly quite sore. I’d actually meant to do the 35 kilometres to Laza, which would’ve meant I could’ve been in Ourense in time to meet up with Bob (the American I’d walked with before) and his sons (he’s had several changes of walking partners over the route). But with my sore back, there was no way I was walking farther.
The Campobecerros albergue is in the train station, 500 metres up a very steep hill—the worst walking of the day. It’s very new and clean, though, and although it doesn’t have shower curtains (so the floor gets ridiculously wet when you shower), it does have shower stalls. There’s no kitchen, though. Although it holds about 30 people, there were only six of us—I guess most go on to Laza.
The little bar/shop in town is great. The owners told me about the town (about 90 people; most commute to bigger places to work) and some of the pilgrims who’d passed through. The woman even took me on a five-minute walk to see a local statue.
Day 39: Campobecerros to Laza (16 km)
It was a short walk along a road with nice views. I could almost have been in Canada, apart from the red-roofed houses and the trucks going around blaring political ads for the coming election.
My back wasn’t as sore as yesterday, but doing 20 more kilometres seemed stupid, especially with the looming dark clouds. (Apparently, Rob, I’m being forced into doing a slow Camino.) So I’ve now lost hope of catching up with Bob and his sons, which is sad.
The albergue is big and clean and institutional, with keys for the door of each small dorm (you get your key when you check in at the local police station). It’s also a little ways out of the town, which I quite like (the town, not being outside of it).
When I was in one of the small supermarkets and asked about a bakery, the only other customer volunteered to take me there … and brought me up the street to a van where I could buy a loaf of bread. We chatted a bit—I think she was talking a mixture of Spanish and Gallego. She was shocked that I had walked from Sevilla on my own, and told me that most people in Laza commute to other places to work, even though it’s bigger than the surrounding towns.
Antonio and Flo, the Spanish man and German woman I’ve mentioned before, appeared at the albergue, having skipped a few kilometres by train. I don’t know them well, but it was exciting to see familiar faces. I seem to have lost most people I know again, and am now surrounded by large numbers of German couples.
Really, I’m at the stage where I’m tired of meeting people—especially people it’s hard to communicate with. I wasn’t sure if I should mention that, because it sounds so anti-social, but I never pretended to be perfect, and I think this is a valid Camino phenomenon that’s worth talking about.
It hit me at about this distance last time, too. I’ve met so so many people, and it’s starting to be a lot of work to meet new people. I’m tired of the whole where-are-you-from where-did-you-start conversation with people I won’t necessarily see again.
I don’t know if this affects people who only walk the Camino Francés so much—after all, distance-wise, if I’d been there I’d have arrived in Santiago already.
“Why do you write so much?” an inquisitive German man I met this afternoon asked, as I was sitting at the common room table writing in my journal.
“Um, because I like to.”
He nodded, a little skeptically. “It’s like you’re talking to yourself.”
“I guess,” I said. “After all, I’m the only one I can speak a lot of English with.” I said it like a joke, but it’s really true.
I haven’t met any native English-speakers since I lost Bob and Greg (though Thomas and Steffen were great to talk with), and with such large numbers of pilgrims now, they tend to congregate by language: German, French, and Spanish. And while I can speak French and Spanish, I can’t follow much of a rapid-fire group conversation. So ironically, since as an English-speaker I’m supposed to be able to communicate with just about everyone, I’m the odd one out.
Anyway, I’ll get over it. I have before. Remind me to give you my “ups and downs” speech later, which I’ve had cause to give to a few people here and more often myself. (In a nutshell: There are a lot of ups and downs on the Camino both in terms of terrain and yourself—physically and mentally. And after the downs, the ups will come. Really.)
And of course my smaller walking stages combined with my current bout of anti-social feelings mean my blog posts are getting more detailed and, I hope, interesting.
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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.