Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago - Portomarín To Palas de Rei

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Portomarín To Palas de Rei

The weather in Galicia had been overcast the last few mornings and the sunrise felt like it was getting later and later even though days were getting longer.  I left in the early twilight and headed back down the hill heading for a foot bridge that the Camino followed out of town.  The metal foot bridge creaked and rattled as you crossed the river.

I reached into my backpack and pulled out the candy I'd bought in Portomarín and munched on it as I walked on the Camino.  It didn't last very long but it had a profound effect on me.  I had a sore spot on my left foot.  The day before I'd trimmed dead skin off the large blister on the bottom of my foot.  This was probably a mistake as it exposed another smaller blister that had been cushioned by the dead skin.  The blister looked blood red.  I wondered if it was actually a blood vessel instead of a blister.  A few miles out of town the blister/vessel popped.

Okay.  Imagine this.  I'm all hopped up on sugar ... big time.  The pain in my foot and the buzzing of my brain combine into this paranoid delusion that my boot was slowly filling up with blood.  Finally, as a approached the tiny burg of Hospital de la Cruz, I came crashing down from the sugar rush I'd been experiencing for the last two and a half hours.  I felt weak, faint, and my knees were wobbly.  "Surely this was because of blood loss", I thought to myself.   I found a rock to sit on and pulled off my boot and found ... nothing of course.  My sock had a small wet spot consistent with a popped blister.  Nothing was bleeding.  When I recounted this story in my email home, the Wife's niece said:
"[Y]ou should stop snorting pixie stick dust when you're on the camino."
The Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend came along and asked how I was.  I told them I was a little light headed but I was starting to feel better.  A few minutes and an apple later I was feeling better and I continued on the Camino.

This stage felt like it took forever.  From here on, the days, while they took no longer than previous stages, felt very long.  Time felt stretched.  I think this is where all the walking started to wear on me.  My feelings were a mix of "I want this to go on forever" and "I can't wait to get home".  It was a strange part of the Camino.  Things were winding down and I was missing home but the freedom of the Camino - however temporary and illusory - and having the time for reflection and contemplation, were intoxicating.

I reached the outskirts of Palas de Rei, sat on a bench, wrote in my journal, and waited for GV.  The municipal albergue was way out on the edge of town so we skipped it and went into town and found one closer to the center of town.

As we were checking in one of the old lady hospitaleras pointed at me and said in Spanish "Give him a lower bunk because he is older."  ?!?!?  An Australian guy looked at her and said "He isn't old." to which she responded "I said older not old."  While I appreciated the lower bunk I'm not sure I appreciated the older comment.

This albergue was run my the Xunta and like all Xunta albergues was a little sterile.  One thing that was odd were the showers - no doors or curtains.  The toilets had doors but the showers didn't.  All the guys (except me ... too slow) went in and took showers first.  I stood to go in after the guys came out but was stampeded by all the women.  In our room I think I was the last to take a shower.

We explored the town a bit and found it ... a little underwhelming.  There were churches and the like but we decided not to go see them as we both had a long day walking and everything of interest seemed up hill.  By this time along the Camino we had seen so many churches that they didn't hold their mystique anymore.  All in all the town had little character.

We decided to swap things around a bit and have our large meal for lunch.  It was a late lunch but I cleaned my plate ... something I rarely did when I ate my big meal at dinner.  It only took thirty-two days to figure this out.  I have to confess, AL and JT, way back in Frómista, had told me that they always ate their big meal at lunch and had recommended that I do the same.  I foolishly dismissed their advice.  AL was just too irritating to me for me to listen.  Live and learn.

After Astorga I ended up meeting a lot of people.  I guess once I realized that the old gang was gone (except for GV) I became more open.  There were the Canadian and his Japanese Girldfriend (from Astorga).  The German brother and sister (from Triacastela).  The Spaniard and his friends (from Pereje).  Three Canadian Filipinos (from Foncebadón).  The Australian walking with is 80+ year old mother.  A couple college girls from Chicago - one had awesome painted nails ... wonder how long those lasted.  I never really learned any of their names or them mine.  Some of the people we talked to were people GV had met on the Meseta like NL, an Irish girl.  Sadly, Palas de Rei was NL's last stop.  She'd had leg/feet problems and a doctor, who knew few English words, examined her and said "No Camino".  She went home three days from Santiago de Compostela after having one more night on the town.

Day thirty-two, a day of mixed feelings and unwelcome paranoid sugar rushes.  New friends.  New habits.  A new weariness.  A new adventure.

Total Distance: 14.79 Miles (23.80 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 11 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,676 ft (815.65 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,030 ft (618.74 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

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