Another day, another few kilometers closer! This was the very first sign I saw as I made my way out of Hospital de la Condesa this morning:
I’ve made it through the hardest of the downhill portion to Triacastela, a really pretty little village just out of the Galician mountains. It’s very nice and it’s sunny! This was a lot of downhill, as I knew it would be, and it was a struggle. I went very very slowly, baby steps, practically. Everyone kept passing me, as usual, but they were all asking if I was okay. It’s the fear of rolling an ankle or hurting my knees mixed with my anxiety over a hip injury I got in a car wreck last year that makes me so wary of these downhills. But, finally, an Aussie pilgrim who I’d never met before came by and told me that she has bad knees and that the best thing to do is to zig zag down the path because the angle is less extreme. What good advice! I began to follow her direction and it made a lot of difference. The path isn’t stable, either, though. It’s squishy and gravelly and was still wet from the rain and all covered in fallen leaves, but still, zig zagging was quicker than my pitiful baby step method. I got to the albergue here in Triacastela quite early, like around 1 pm. I suppose I could have continued on, but this is a really lovely town. And I have this dorm room completely to myself at the moment. There are about four other pilgrims here, but they all went into the first dorm room rather than looking around and walking a bit down the hall to this one. I’m sure others will arrive and I won’t have this room to myself, but right now, it’s great!
I haven’t talked too much about this, but each pilgrim has a credential that we carry with us. You have to get stamps (sellos) on your credential in order to be allowed to stay at the albergues each night. You get your stamps from bars, churches, and albergues. When you arrive in Santiago de Compostela, you must have gotten two sellos per day in Galicia in order to get the final certificate of completion. The credendtial requirement forces you to stop at cafes and bars along the way. For me, I don’t walk all that far each day, so I have to make a point to stop and have a tea or something before lunch. Not many churches have been open, so that hasn’t really been an option for me yet during the day. Today, for instance, I got here and checked in and got my albergue stamp and then walked down the little main road in town to a cafe to get a tea. They had the television on and it was showing a Spanish game show that was basically Wheel of Fortune, except the audience sings and claps a little song while the contestant’s spin the wheel and the money that the contestants get on the wheel are much smaller amounts than the US version. It’s like maybe 30 euro or 25 euro per letter rather than 250 dollars or whatever the contestants in the US might spin.
My blistered feet are still hurting. There are two schools of thought on blisters, in general, it seems. To pop or not to pop. I’ve gone the not-pop route so far and just covered them in compeed blister bandages. It does protect the blisters, but the bandages become like a second skin and they sort of melt to fit your toes. Unfortunately, my pinky toes (both with their compeed covers) sort of naturally fit under my third toes and so the compeed bandages have melted into sort of big blobs under my third toes and that, possibly more than the blisters themselves, are what give me grief while walking. So, I tried the pop-and-drain method, by running a needle and thread through the blister and pulling the thread through and then leaving the thread in to allow the blister to drain. (TMI? Sorry, but if you’re really interested in what it’s like on the Camino, this is a part of it.) But I don’t really see that the pop method is all that great, either. It’s just a live-with-it sort of thing. When you walk this much, I think most people get blisters. Before I came out here, I saw people ommenting on forums and in blogs about how they never got blisters, but I haven’t met a single person out here that has been blister free. It’s part of the experience. Pilgrims are ready to share their compeed stash, too. I only have blisters on my toes, so far. I haven’t had any on my heels or feet anything, so that’s good.
Everyone seemed happier on the Camino today. Everything seemed a little easier today: mentally, physically, and emotionally. I really hope that yesterday was the worst day and every day from here on out is sunnier. It appears like the forecast is that way. It’s incredibly unusual if the weather does hold in this sunny and 70 degrees kind of pattern, but I keep hoping for the unusual. One of the English ladies I met back in Ruitelan at that refugio with the beautiful communal dinner passed by me today. I see a lot of those people each day since then. Most of them were heading off to the monestary today at Samos. It’s an alternate route and adds about 6 km to the day. I didn’t plan to add any extra km to my walk. I’m just trying to make it to Santiago. But, anyway, she passed by me today as we were heading out of the mountains and told me about the coming awesome weather patterns. She said she had a terrible pain just above her ankle and if she was a horse, they’d shoot her. She was apparently climbing the mountain yesterday when the rain began and she decided to run up the mountain instead of keeping to her pace and just getting wet. She says she thinks she went way too fast and hurt herself. She was heading to Samos, which is still 10 km from where I am tonight. I hope she made it. She’s not here, so I’m assuming she made it there. One of the mantra’s of the Camino is “Listen to your body.” It will always tell you when it’s gone far enough or when you need to rest. Sometimes all it takes is a little half hour break to rest and you’ll be surprised at how rejuvinated you feel.
I really like this albergue I’m in tonight. It’s called Albergue Xacabeo and there is a restaurant attached. I had dinner at the restaurant and for 10 euro I got the menu of the day, which is pretty much always two courses and dessert, bread, and water or wine. Tonight I got a huge bottle of water, potatoes and green beans mixed together (so delicious! See picture.), followed by grilled pork steak, peppers and patates and for dessert I had pudding. It’s a good deal, really. While I can’t honestly rave about the meals I’ve had on this trip (because so many places are closed, usually at least one meal per day is a hunk of my loaf of bread I bought in Bilbao and some chocolate or trail mix…), I have to say that they give you a lot of food when you get these menu of the day meals. However, I’m getting really tired of eating pork or ham, but at least tonight was grilled steak, not a ham sandwich. When I do happen to find a bar or cafe, usually the only item on the menu is a jamon bocadillo. I’m tired of ham sandwiches. These potatoes and green beans were AWESOME, though.
I have only one roommate at this albergue now! Frank from Belgium has arrived, so it seems like it will be just us in our dorm room because everybody else went into the other room and unpacked before they walked down the hall to see that there was another room. Nobody seems to have the energy to pack up and move down here. Yay! It’s almost like a hotel room with half of the room to myself for just ten euro! Plus, we have wifi here and it’s fairly uncrowded since so many have gone on to Samos today. I have a feeling most of the people I met in Ruitelan are going to be far ahead of me since they all seemed to go the alternate route. The routes merge in Sarria tomorrow.