Portomarín to Palas
Before long, we were heading up the side of a hill. It's
hard to maintain an active conversation while huffing and puffing from
exertion, so we fell silent. I could sense that Eduardo was hanging
back to enable me to keep up with him. I then stopped and told him that
because of my heavy pack, going up an incline slows me down and that
he needn't wait for me. He thanked me and picked up his pace. Just another
example of Spanish courtesy.
At the top of the hill, the
camino intersected with the highway and went parallel to it for
some distance. Soon I came upon a giant pit where clay was mined. The
dirt was bright, brick red, an unusual sight. Approximately a kilometer
further, I passed a ceramic factory that made bricks and roof tiles.
Brick is one of the most common building materials in modern Spain,
even used in single family houses. But you don't generally see the brick
facing. This is because the bricks are covered with stucco. The bricks
are not like ours. First of all, they're not solid, but rather fluted
to reduce weight. Also, the brick's surface is grooved so that stucco
might be applied to it. Thus, the most common look of houses
in this area is white sides with red tile roofs.
Later the trail separated from the highway and wound
up over a gently rolling landscape. The variation of terrain, interspersed
with numerous little villages, made it a pleasant journey. I stopped
and had lunch around 1:30. It consisted of a Galician soup followed
by a beef stew. My blood tested low at 77, but since the meal included
bread and potatoes, followed by a dessert of ice cream, I took eight
units of Humalog insulin. I tarried awhile, reading the newspaper and
catching up on the news about Iraq. I got back on the camino
I was making good time, averaging about 4 K an hour. Even though the weather was cool, I began perspiring quite a bit. Was I just hot or was I beginning to go hypo? Eventually I realized that I was weaving back and forth along the road while I was going uphill. If someone didn't know me they would think that I was drunk. Not having had a drink for several hours, I knew the truth — I was going hypo. I didn't want to take the time to stop and test my blood, but I could tell that I was pushing the envelope. So, as I was staggering up the road, I was nibbling pieces of chocolate. After having eaten a half of one of those large chocolate bars, I began to straighten out and also stopped sweating. As the sugar began to kick in, I was determined to reach Palas del Rei by 6:00 p.m..
|At the outskirts of the city, high on the
hill, I saw two windmills of the type that are common in the Midwest.
Such windmills are used to pump water for cattle. Well, these windmills
were pumping water, but for people not cattle. At the well head was a
public water fountain, while further down the hill was a sports complex
complete with soccer fields, handball courts, and a gymnasium. I'm pretty
sure that these two wells were supplying the entire complex and perhaps
some of the city's water needs.
The sun was beginning to set as I was entering Palas del Rei. I heard the church bells chime but was confused. It couldn't be six yet. I tried counting the number of rings, but couldn't determine the time — it seemed like a series of single strokes. Before long I realized what was going on. It was a funeral procession. The street was full of people slowly walking behind a hearse toward a cemetery. I just stood there with my hat off and waited for everyone to pass. Somehow the urgency I had felt earlier was gone.
I got to the albergue about 7 o'clock. When I checked in, I tried to negotiate a room by myself and explained that, "Soy un roncador." My appeal fell on deaf ears because I was told that I had to choose from one of three rooms. As I entered the first two I could see the faces of the occupants and I knew that they were praying that I wouldn't choose that room. The third room had Mikel and he was used to me. Besides, he had a pair of ear plugs. The two young Swiss girls with the piercings just smiled at me as I picked out my bunk. They obviously didn't have a clue.
Later that night I found a tienda (store) where I bought some oranges and chocolate in case I went hypo. I then found a farmacia (pharmacy) where I bought a pair of ear plugs. I wasn't about to lose another night's sleep!