Thursday, August 10, 2017

The camino continues

Day 2 3 and 4 comprise my days alone on the camino before my friend came to join me. I spent my last morning in Portugal walking up the coast from Ancora to Caminha, launching myself from one rock to the next, in what felt like the playground of the bottom of the sea. The tide was out and the massive boulders were covered in baby mussels, calcified shells, and sea glass (only green however). It was almost like I was getting to do that Scuba dive after all!

I spent the next few days winding my way up the coast into Spain, with little attention to the signs so long as the ocean was on my left. It was freeing and gave a false comfort, as I thought I had the hang of this camino thing, rather than the reality of it being a fairly direct part of the trek. The views were gorgeous. Each hill turned produced a new stunning view that touched my heart differently, but for some reason they looked the same as every other ocean view in my camera. 

These are all different views from different days along Portugal and Spain, though even now they are hard to distiguish. I toured around Caminha, savoring my last moments in Portugal, a place I genuinely hope to return, to visit the kind people, amazing seafood, inexpensive everything, stunning views, and perhaps the variety of inexpensive but goood wine and port. The city had a castle, the first of the three I would visit days 2-4, a closed church (a new annoying theme that was starting to emerge), a interest gaudy yet ugly-attractive wooden church, and a grocer for lunch - 3 pieces of fruit for 0.25 euro (these three would cost more like 4 dollars back home!!) The streets were narrow and more reminiscent of the spanish white than the colorfully tiled Portuguese style. 

After killing as much time as I could (I should have slept in or played in the sandbox of the sea longer), doing every standing yoga pose and stretch I could muster in the blustery wind that was too strong for a hat, the ferry was finally ready to go. I joined 10 other pilgrims (and a bunch of cars and people) on the 15 minute ride across to Spain. Only an hour futher but two with the time change to my hotel in A Guarda. I was sad to be leaving Portugal behind but excited to experience Spain (and finally indulge in Tapas)!!

It was said that Portugal is much better for English speakers and it's true, dating back to their regular trade with England, almost everyone spoke English and most of the signs displayed it. I am not one of those ugly tourists that expect people to know their language, but it makes it easier and more desireable to come back, and I've been surprised by just how many places in the world accomodate English speakers. Also whoever the 'they' is... was right. English is the 5th language in Spain, ranked in order on websites, signs, and people: galacian, spanish, portuguese, italian, french....then english. So there are almost no websites, signs, or people around (hotel clerks or restauranteurs) who speak english. This has meant my arms get a lot more dramatic when in conversation, I laugh a lot more, and smile wider when they say 'un pocito?' And I reply 'no' [I really don't even know a little spanish], with a shoulder shrug and my best 'but I am friendly and know it's my bad not yours' smile. 

Each evening I have found some amazing things to tourist in each town. The second night in A Guarda Spain, I went up to a Celtic settlement from 100BC. It's 2100 years old!!! There were two competing 'ways of the cross' on the way up, so Jesus was in different stages of suffering depending on where you were, and it was on the top of a mountain. Beautiful views but exhausing climb! The third night, after 32km of walking into Baiona, I went on a replica of the La Pinta that Columbus sailed to the 'new' world and walked around a castle twice, because I didn't quite do it correctly the first time. The fourth night in Vigo, my friend arrived and we went up another castle, found a dinosaur topiary, and enjoyed supper in a mall because we were ready to eat at 7pm, but that is the one time restaurants close in spain. Lunch is light and late - 1pm, early tapas around 530, then a big meal at 9. That didn't work for us, so we feasted happily on sushi and mojitos. 

The previous 2 nights I tried local fare (yes tapas!!!) and one night got sting ray (the ribs were big and hollow and the ends of the meat almost gelatinous. I am adventurous with food, and had to remind myself of that fact a few times to finish....) and salad, and the next night got empanadas (soooo good), 6 huge sardines (ate em all - very popular local fare - would have them again and thought about Futurama the whole time), and though I ordered mushrooms ... out came mussels, and oh they were good!! I actually stopped for lunch the 3rd day instead of pressing on and got shirmp - 7 great big ones with rock salt. Mmm. 

My rooms have all been spectacular, and to the relief of my smelly aching legs, have had bath tubs almost every night (and if not, a shower which just doesn't have the same effect as a nice soak). The breakfasts have been huge and include meats and cheeses and my chocolate con leche, and I tend to take an apple for lunch and maybe a roll too. There has been water spouts all over and though the way markers are much fewer and harder to spot in Spain than Portugal, they have disticnt character. On Grey's Anatomy, they say the elevator is its own character; well on the camino, the markers are another entity on the journey with you.

Oh those blessed arrows. In the country lanes, coastal streets, and wooded paths, the markers are fantastic indicators pointing the way, encouraging you forward, and nudging you softly to the left or right. They are friendly. But in the city, oh those little nymphs. They become elves and ghouls, hiding in plain sight, invisible for the briefest time, and hidden behind cars, trees, and bikes. These demonic beasts cause me to revisit my steps, wander down the same path 3 or 4 times, backpeddle and meander as if I were on a Sunday stroll (with steam coming out of my ears and fists clenched). 

Today leaving Baiona, I was lost 5 different times including one full circle, and when I realized where the path was trying to get me (avoiding the lovely main road with shops and gelato for some reason), a path that should have been 15 minutes took me 95. Not the way to start the day!! I did have a chance to practice my mindfullness and was surprised to feel 90% of the anger resided in my brain - actually in the capillaries and nerves, or on the ouside at least. Once I isolated that, the feeling dissipated a bunch. The next 10% was found in my clenched fists, which when I unclenched them, provided some relief. What really brought my spirit back was a rosary of the sorrowful mysteries (one I generally avoid), and somehow contemplating on the life of people who actually have something to complain about made my circular fast walk through the city just fine (but nothing more). It was funny because I get that cities don't want their walls spray painted with yellow arrows for a small portion of the tourists coming through, and the camino is designed to take you neat ways, but without the 'don't go this way x' and the 'you got it, keep going arrow', the cities are nearly impossible! 

It was neat to see Vigo (a big city)  off in the distance and think 'I am staying in the middle of that!?! Surely a taxi is involved!' But somehow by following the little (infuriating at times) arrows, you wind up in the middle of the city at your 4-star hotel on free wifi, getting to preserve your memories of the day online! 

[Mom don't read this bit] I heard you are supposed to talk and meet people on the camino, but I see very few other pilgrims each day. One day was spent listening to podcasts, one day praying, and half of the third day was with my new friend who from the 4 hours together, I can tell you 150 facts about his life, but it wasn't until the last 30 seconds that we exchanged names! Today an older man on a mo-ped passed and I smiled and said 'hola' and a few minutes later when he passed again as he was parking at the local cafe / bar, he invited me in for an aqua. I agreed as I was low and too lazy to find somewhere to refill. We had a good chat (as in smiles and Canada is muy frio) as I drank an ice cold aqua and him a few sips of cervesa in between telling stories with his iphone to the matronly bartender in spanish. I got to use the facilities, a new stamp in my book, and a free water!! While headed into the city of Vigo, I made an eccentric friend in front of the same church I saw aqua man at (Joe.... or maybe he was saying 'yo' as in 'I'.....), anywho, I joined him and his friend in broken english for the last few km into the city. It turned out to be well timed as my guide book sugged we 'would feel better if we put away cameras as the next section isn't as nice as everywhere else' hahaha. I carry very little with me but I would hate to give them my stampbook - I have to remember to get that stamped twice a day!! Luckily there were no ruffians at 3pm and I had two strong angels accompanying me in that moment anyhow. The rest of the journey has been blissfully silent. I never knew how many noises there could be and distractions just in my own head!!

Okay almost done, but now for the things I saw: horses - all over spain! It's so true about the spanish and horses. I would swear I saw the same shiny mahogany coated horse 5 different times, but some have been boys and some very pregnant females. I saw foals and goats, lobsters and giant crabs (about to be food), grapes on the vine and fish eating other fish. Very exciting!!

I've tried to get to mass each day, just to experience the local folk and style. Much is the same as home. Some parishes have homilies at the daily mass and some are done in 17 minutes. Most of the hairs would be gray (if not dyed) with very few men and few people my age. Some differences - mass is generally in the evenings between 730 and 830 (between suppers??) and people receive primarily on the tongue. One was at a dominican convent and a door opened at the back where the priest secretly gave the sisters host then came to everyone else and the door shut. Oh - and the churches are hundreds of years old. I passed one modern one today and recoiled (haha). One I was in was more than 1000 years old and had Galacian engravings thoughout. This one looked especially pro-feminism, or something... really hard to tell. The coastal/pilgrim shell theme is throughout and every church has an Our Lady of Fatima statue. The spanish style of white stone with bells has been a nice change. 

There was nothing profound the last few days, just my battle with the arrows today and having to make friends to do the camino 'right'. Oh - and there was an ancient lobster trap - a chamber 20 ft wide and 10 ft long but basically the same and used the tides to convince them to climb up the stairs then get trapped. Here are some other cool or curious pics. A cemetery, grain storage, and a windmill!! Night for a few days. It's 1:30am now but I received a few nudges to send an update, so this will be the last probably for a few more days as there is less to write about! Oh oh - but to document the number of steps and flights according to my iPhone between and the camino and touristing each day: 37,000 52,500 and 54,000 steps (17, 24, and 22 miles), and 159, 116, and 125 flights. Woooo wooo!


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