The hallway echoes in the early morning light with footsteps and clinking packs. The group of French pilgrims leave around 6am as promised. One at a time they go, stopping to use my “private” bathroom which I neglected to lock last night. No matter. I roll over and doze a little longer.
Breakfast isn’t served at the attached bar until 8am. This Is the norm in this part of Spain. A little toast and jam with your café con leche (hot milk in coffee) first? Maybe some freshly squeezed orange juice? That’s the first breakfast.
A little later in the morning, you sit down with something hearty like a slice of Spanish tortilla (potatoes, onions, and egg cooked almost like a frittata and served in wedges) or a bocadillo (bo-ca-DEE-yo) sandwich of crusty bread with anything from choriso sausage, Iberian ham, cheese, olive oil, pureed tomatoes, or omelette inside. My favorite bocadillo is “omelette” with cheese and fresh tomato.
As someone who usually goes for oatmeal in the morning, I don’t usually want to eat this giant sandwich until lunchtime. Most bars are happy to make it para llevar and wrap it in foil to eat later. This is how I eat breakfast and lunch on the Camino.
Over breakfast, I have a friendly chat with a father and daughter duo from Wyoming. They completed the Camino Frances faster than they anticipated, so they’re continuing through to the coast.
“We’re doing like 30 kilometers per day.”
“Thirty! Wow! That’s a lot. How are your bodies holding up?”
The young adult daughter replies with a slight smile, “The last five are really hard.”
“How about you?” The dad asks me.
“Oh, I only just started, and I hurt myself a little on the first day. I’m slowing down today, but since I have a few weeks, I’m in no hurry.”
“Oh wow, that’s the real way to do it,” the dad says with a tinge of envy.
“All the Caminos and all the ways to do them all count,” I say. “Maybe you’ll come back again and take more time?”
“Who knows? I love it!”
It’s sweet to talk with them and share a moment.
It rained during the night, but it’s only misting when I set out. The first two days of walking humbled me, so I’m just doing five miles today. That should be easier on my body and allow my blisters to calm down.
Unlike more popular Camino routes, there’s one challenge I face in walking to Muxia and Fisterra: it has fewer pilgrim accommodations that are further spread apart. That’s especially true with Spanish businesses still slowly reopening. My choice today is either five miles or some unreasonable distance. So five, it is. (A relief to a few friends who wrote me to say 15 miles was a terrible idea on my first day.)
As I get going, the path follows alongside a little-used two-lane highway with corn fields on either side. A few turns and then the Camino points into a gravel road, most likely used for agricultural purposes. I’m alone, and it’s quiet except for the flapping of my rain poncho in the breeze.
I try to wrestle it into submission, but fail. It’s a billowy rectangle with a hood that could double as a tiny tent in a pinch. Lightweight fabric equipment like this is a godsend for hikers, but the downside is that it doesn’t stay put. At all.
A stone wall beside the trail provides a good place to stop. Which I do and rearrange everything, deciding to not be annoyed.
And then I walk. Uphill, downhill, on roads and gravel. My body feels okay. In fact at times, I even get a little bit bored. What is a relief to not be in misery!
And walk until I get to Santa Mariňa.
Casa Pepa is a place I’ve stayed before. It’s an albergue with an attached bar/restaurant. Kate and I showed up here after a long and soggy day of walking, got a room with three beds in it, and strung a clothesline across to dry everything, and hoping to dissuade anyone from taking the third bed. Uncharitable, perhaps, but it didn’t work.
Around 9pm, we got–not one but two–roommates. I walked in from a shower and discovered the two young lovebirds in the tiny bed together. Kate looked up and have me a look so potent, we both burst into silent, painful, tear-jerking laughter at this unthinkable situation. What could we do? The poor dears had the same cold, and cuddled and coughed all night between me and Kate.
That’s all before pandemic, of course, when a cough was someone else’s problem.
Everything looks closed when I show up at 11am, but café tables and chairs are arranged for outdoor seating. Hospitaleros get so little rest, I decide to wait. Sitting on my poncho, I take out my journal and start writing.
A friendly-looking woman scurries across the driveway from her house and toward the bar door.
¿Necesitas algo, chica?“
“No, I have a reservation, but I think it’s too early, and I am happy to…”
“Sí,” I laugh, “to wait”. I’m grateful for this useful new word.
“Your room will be ready in maybe 20 minutes,” she says.
“It’s my second time here,” I tell her.
She seems touched. “Do you want something to eat?”
“Not right now, but thank you! Maybe a little later.”
“Vale,” and she goes inside the bar. And then comes out again and puts a package of muffins on my table. So nice!
Unlike the last time, my room has no one in it. It’s so quiet, and its largest windows look out onto a tall grassy field.
In the evening, I meet two young social workers from Belgium who are on their first Camino — a “short one” just like me. It’s fun to talk to them!
I know raved about breakfast foods earlier in this post, but the Galician lentil soup? Oh wow. So comforting and delicious! It might have cured whatever ailed the two coughing love birds.
I shouldn’t jinx it, but I’m starting to get the hang of this walking thing again! Poco a poco (little by little).