When I left Palas de Rei this morning, I saw this rock and it was so encouraging. The graffiti along the way is usually inspiring more than off-putting. Pilgrims along this Camino Frances seem to be a mostly cheerful bunch as far as their graffiti goes. There’s a lot of encouraging quotes and messages on the bridges, signs, rocks, trash cans, waymarkers, everything. It helps keep you moving when you’re hurting so bad. It also helps to bring you out of yourself and look around at where you are. Several days ago, on one of the many downhills, somebody had taken a large stone and propped it up on the side of the path and wrote “Nice View. Look up.” on it because they knew that pilgrims are mostly walking and staring at the ground as they are trying to get down the hill. I laughed and stopped and looked up, and it was a great view of the mountains. It’s those sort of thoughtful and happy things that make for good moments out here.
I’m in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Boente. I was going to stay in a larger town called Melide tonight, but I got turned around and before I knew it, I was through the town and didn’t want to go back. It’s a little weird to be in a larger town or tiny city after walking through the countryside for so many days. Stoplights and crosswalks and roundabouts completely threw me for a loop. The four Spaniards that I met back in Portomarin caught up with me again in Melide and we were all waiting to cross the street and one of them asked me if I thought the Camino went down this way and I said that I did. So we all walked across and they walk so quickly that they were several blocks ahead when I realized that we went the wrong way. I couldn’t catch up to them to tell them and they just kept walking. I hope they figured it out before they got really really far. Three of them have done this at least once before, so I would hope they’d start to realize this wasn’t looking familiar? I hope so. Anyway, I turned around and went back to the big intersection in Melide where I took the wrong way and got back on the correct way and by then I just kept walking and was out of town before finding a hotel. Melide is famous for octopus. It’s the place to get it when you’re in Galicia. I saw many pulperias, but didn’t go in to any of them. There are plenty of places to eat octopus. People say it’s really heavy. One of the Spaniards last night at the albergue was talking about eating octopus and that it just feels like a big heavy blob in your stomach. He pushed his belly out (which was already fairly ‘out’ anyway), and he rubbed it saying that it was “the mound of joy” after eating pulpo. It was funny.
Boente is about five kilometers past Melide. Most people are walking on to the next big town because once you reach the next big town, you’re really only two days from Santiago. I think I’m about three days away, at my pace. I’m starting to make plans for when I arrive. It’s beginning to sink in that I’m actually going to finish this thing. So, I booked two nights at the Parador in Santiago, a really fancy hotel next to the cathedral. It’s really expensive, but all the food is included and its so convenient and all I really want right now is a giant tub and a super comfy bed all to myself.
But, to not get ahead of myself, here in Boente there’s not much in the way of food. There’s not much of anything here. There’s a bar below this albergue. There are few other pilgrims here now, but when I decided to stop, I was the only one. Frank from Belgium is here, again! He was the second one to arrive and I laughed thinking he and I were going to get the albergue to ourselves sort of like we had in Triacastela. A guy from Poland who just joined the Camino Frances from the Camino del Norte is here, too. He said so many places were closed that he had to walk more than 30km each day to find shelter and further to find food some days, but that the walk is so beautiful along the northern coast of Spain that he still recommends it more than he would recommend the Camino Frances. I think seeing some of the towns he saw on the coast would be wonderful. He said at some points you walk along the beach, which makes you more tired, but it’s so pretty that you just soak it all up. But there aren’t very many pilgrims up there at this time of year and the signage is worse so you need a guidebook. I think I’d like to just travel along the coast and stay in the towns, not do the Camino. Just stay there and see some things more than for just one evening when I’m too tired to actually go back out once I find an albergue. Anyway, he’s interesting to talk to and the Camino del Norte sounds really pretty.
The lady who runs the albergue is downstairs yelling at someone, again. There’s a lot of yelling here, it seems. I’ve had some run-ins with locals as far as them being rather unfriendly and unwelcoming at times. Some people have been really nice, but they were mostly early on in my Camino. More recently, the locals seem rather rude. I ate dinner down in the bar with Frank from Belgium. None of the other pilgrims here wanted to eat dinner, so we just ate in the café and you couldn’t hardly hear anything but the screaming going on at the bar between the manager and two younger guys who were at the bar. It was sort of ridiculous. It didn’t seem like she was angry enough to make them leave, clearly, but she just kept screaming at them and they’d scream back. Pilgrims can’t be choosy about where we eat, especially in a tiny town like this, so we just tried our best to eat and get out of the café.