The Road to Santiago.

November 12, 2002

Albergue at Ribadiso de Baixo.
Albergue at Ribadiso de Baixo

Palas del Rei to Ribadiso de Baixo

The ear plugs worked miracles, I slept great! I got up feeling refreshed and ready to go. The glances that I got from the two young Swiss girls told me that they weren't so fortunate. I felt a little guilty, but, hey, I tried to find a separate room but the hospitalera wouldn't permit it.

Just as I was about to leave, Mikel asked me to wait for him. Well, I enjoyed his company at dinner the night before, so I didn't mind walking with him. We were at the edge of town when it began to rain. We stopped to put on our ponchos. He helped me pull the poncho's flaps over my pack, something I couldn't do alone. The rain would start and then stop, but it was heavy enough for me to be glad that we had covered up.

We started before the cafeterias opened and I told Mikel that when I got the chance, I wanted to stop for coffee and some food and take my insulin. Well, after two hours, we hadn't seen a single cafeteria or bar. Mikel was concerned for me and was very solicitous. At one point, he suggested that we stop at a picnic spot and take my insulin. I had to explain that I couldn't take any insulin until I had something to eat. Finally we saw a sign that advertised a restaurant only 2 K away. That became our raison d'être; I couldn't wait to reach that warm café. Well, it wasn't exactly what I had anticipated. Instead of a nice cafeteria, it was an outdoor bar with a large tent. This was a bar for a wedding or some other function, but I was too wet to be picky. And the hot coffee was welcomed.

While we were resting Mikel started bantering with the camarera (bartendress). I had to admit that he was smooth and admired his technique. I found myself remembering what it was like to be 30-something. Just about that time, the two young Swiss girls appeared and ordered coffee. Mikel had an even bigger audience. He was doing well and I didn't want to hamper his potential so I put on my pack and told him that I would see him later.   

The trail wasn't too bad but the weather became worse and worse. As the wind got stronger and stronger, I just lowered my head and bent into the storm. At some point, I began to hear the sound of heavy machinery ahead of me up the mountain. Perhaps it was mining equipment. I never found out because I soon come to a sign that said that I was entering private property. That was not as disturbing as the sign that said peligroso (dangerous) explosives in use! Somehow I had gotten lost. Not wanting to end up in a minefield, I quickly retraced my steps. About a kilometer back I found where the yellow arrow indicated that the trail veered right off into the woods.

Another kilometer further, I came to the town of Melide. I figured that this would be a good stopping point and searched for a place to eat. As I came to the main street and began looking around. I was approached by a man who he told me that I should go one block "alli" (over there) because that's where I would find the best restaurant in town. He must have been psychic, or perhaps, I just looked wet and hungry. I don't know if it was the best restaurant in town, but it was pretty damn good. The menu of the day included champignons con jamon (mushrooms with ham) and conejo (rabbit) both of which I ordered — an excellent meal especially when you're wet, cold, and tired!

After lunch it was still raining quite strongly. Since I had decided that I was going to stay in Melide that night, I thought that I could enjoy a couple of glasses of fine wine. So, I bellied up to the bar and ordered a glass of Rioja. Later, I noticed a man to my left giving me the eye. He was obviously a little borracho (drunk). I tried to ignore him but, when he started to address me directly, I couldn't. However, I was unable to understand what he was saying. Then I heard the bartender say to him, "¡castellano no gallego!" which meant, "speak Castillian not Gallego." The man then asked me where I was from. The United States. How many people in your country are Catholic? About 35 %. Are you Catholic? Uhh, no. Do you believe in the sainted apostle? Well. . . .  He then went on a tirade about how people who aren't Catholic shouldn't be on the camino. He then pulled his facial skin taut to indicate slanted eyes and loudly asserted that even the Japanese walked the camino. I attempted to explain that one need not be Catholic to believe in God and appreciate the concept of a pilgrimage. But as he got louder and louder, I decided that my best response was, "¡No entiende!" (I don't understand!) I didn't even try to mention that the Galician government, as well as other provincial governments, publicize the camino as a means of promoting tourism. That would've only confirmed his assertion that the modern camino is blasphemous. Eventually, I was rescued by the proprietress who told the man that, if he didn't behave himself, he would be cut off. This shut him up but he stood there smoldering.

The rain had let up so I decided that it was an opportune time to move on to the Melide albergue. I thanked the proprietors, threw on my pack, and wriggled into my poncho. I then headed up the street looking for the yellow arrows. When I started out that morning I hadn't planned on staying at Melide. The distance from Palas del Rei was only 15 K, and that meant I would have to make an extra long trek the next day to keep on schedule. But the rain that morning had dampened my enthusiasm and I was discouraged. Soon I found the trail again and headed for the albergue.

When I got to the point where the trail went forward but the albergue was off to the right, I hesitated a bit to make up my mind. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. It was the Frenchman who had kidded me about my snoring. When I told him that the albergue was, "alli, a la dereche" (over there, to the right), he said that he was going on to the next one.

The next one was another 6 K — at least two hours more. Well, it was only 3:00 p.m. and the rain had let up. I figured that if the Frenchman could do it, so could I. Besides, I wanted to sleep in the same dormitory as him, just to be a pain in the butt. I know that it's petty, but I wanted to get even for his jibes of the morning. Besides, I couldn't get any wetter. I might as well go on.

Boy, how wrong I was! About 45 minutes later the heavens opened up and the rain came down even harder than it had before. My pants became so soaked that they were drooping down. I had to keep hitching them up. Finally, I looped my belt through the pack's straps. At several points, the camino was flooded. The camino de Santiago had become el rio de Santiago (the river to Santiago). River songs started drifting into my mind: Up the Lazy River; Old Man River; Swannee River; Mississippi Mud; Proud Mary' Row, Row, Row Your Boat; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

At the bottom of the valley, I came to a river. The rain was so heavy that the river had overflowed its banks and the bridge I crossed was a few inches under the surface. At the other bank was the albergue of Ribadiso de Baixo. When the Frenchman went by me, he said that he was going on to Arzua. Well, that was another 2 K up a steep hill. I just couldn't go any further. I was tired, soaked, and hungry, so I went into this albergue. As I entered the dorm, took off my poncho, and eased my pack to the floor, I was greeted with a load booming voice. It was the Frenchman! As I registered with the hospitalera, I peeked at the registration book and learned the Frenchman's name — Vicente. He acted like I was a long-lost friend and then pointed me to a door which led to a smaller room. There, he said, I could sleep and snore to my heart's content.

It was a pretty good-sized albergue, consisting of multiple dormitories, plenty of toilettes and showers, laundry machines, a well-equipped kitchen, and a large dining room. The complex seemed to have been an old farmhouse with various out buildings. The kitchen and dining room seemed to be in what was once a large stone barn. It had a big fireplace and several radiators that were giving off plenty of heat. The dining area was so warm, the hospitalera said, that we didn't need to use the coin-operated dryers. As more and more pilgrims entered the albergue, the room looked more like a laundry room than a dining room.

It was a nice albergue, but only one thing bothered me. We were in the middle of nowhere. Actually we were in the valley next to the river and what few houses that were nearby were up the next hill. I asked the hospitalera,"¿Hay una tienda cerca de aqui?" (Is there a store near here?) "¡No! ¿Un restaurante?" (A restaurant?) "¡No! ¿Un bar?" (A bar?) "¡Si! ¿Donde?" (Where?) "¡Alli!" (Over there!) Okay, it wasn't the best of circumstances, but it was better than slogging in the rain for another hour to the next albergue.

Soaked to the bone.
Soaked to the bone
Later, I walked over a kilometer in the dark (there were no streetlights) to find out that the "bar" was actually a refreshment stand at a small park/playground next to the river — and, it was closed.

On my way back to the albergue I ran into Vicente who was walking down the street with a bag of food. Obviously he had had better luck than I had. When I asked him where the bar was, he indicated 2 K straight up the hill. That road was also dark due to a lack of streetlights. He said that he was lucky because some farmer gave him a ride up to the bar and brought him back to the village. He offered to share his bottle of wine with me. I followed him into the dining room. There the other pilgrims were collaborating to put together a meal and they offered to share it with me. It consisted of all the major food groups of a pilgrim's diet — bread, rice, pasta, potato chips, chocolate, and, of course, a bottle of wine. I contributed a couple of oranges and some cheese. I had no idea how much insulin to take so I decided to wait three hours and test my blood again in order to take an adjustment dosage. (It takes that long for one's body to process the food and reach the maximum glucose level.)

Three hours later, just before I went to bed, I tested my blood — the glucose reading was 349!

Previous Journal Entry. Next Journal Entry.