The Road to Santiago.

November 13, 2002

Up a lazy river.
Up a lazy river

Ribadiso de Baixo to Arco do Pino

My bedtime dosage of 12 units of Humalog did the trick. My morning reading was 81. All the food left to eat was a few pieces of chocolate, which I ate. But I didn't take any insulin. I couldn't take the chance of going hypo since I didn't have any food left that was high in glucose. I would have to wait and get breakfast on the road.

It was raining out but I wasn't going to let it stop me. I had only one day left and I was going to get to Santiago by Thursday, come rain or come shine. I started up the hill. When I got to the top, the camino went left toward a pedestrian tunnel that ran under the highway. I knew it was going to be a bad day as soon as I saw the tunnel — it was flooded. It looked like there were two to three feet of water. I backtracked and inched up to the highway. As soon as there was a break in the traffic, I dashed across praying that nothing would fall out of my pack.

Soon I reached the city of Arzúa where I stopped for breakfast. It was the same story. When I asked the camarero (waiter) if he had any eggs, he looked at me as if I was from outer space. All he had was packaged breakfast rolls. So I just had coffee and went on to find a small tienda (store) where I bought some oranges. I had one for breakfast and put the others in my bag.

The path went away from the road and into the woods. The rain came harder and harder. Soon I saw something that I hadn't seen before on this trip — lightning. Great, that was all I needed! I don't like lightning, especially when I'm walking under tall trees. Every time I saw a flash, I would count. Five seconds — that means the storm is about five miles away. The next time I saw a flash it was eight seconds. The storm was heading away from me — I hoped!

Died with his Boots On
At one point I came across a shrine dedicated to a pilgrim who had died at the spot a few years earlier. His boots had been bronzed and welded to the monument. I wondered what kind of memorial they would do for me. Perhaps they would bronze my glucose meter.

When the path reemerged on the edge of the highway. I spotted a bar. Relieved and hungry, I went in and asked for some food — no luck. The bartender said that there was a restaurant a kilometer further up the road. I headed for it when I noticed that the path led off to the right. Starving, I stayed on the highway and went the extra kilometer to the restaurant. When I got there it was closed — closed for vacation! As I headed back to the path, the wind became so strong that it blew my poncho up and over my face. I couldn't see the traffic coming toward me.

Back on the path, the water was about three to four inches deep. No longer worried about getting my boots wet, I just marched straight forward. At several places, brooks along the edge of the path had overflowed their banks. I had to probe with my walking stick to figure out where the camino led. In more than one place a large branch had fallen across the road.
At the edge of one village, I saw a sign advertising a restaurant on the alto de Santa Irena, only 3 K further. Alto means height or top of a hill, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. But hunger can be a great motivator and I was determined to get there within the hour. I didn't take into account how strong the wind could be, especially on the hill. Sometimes, I could just barely make headway. It took me an hour and a half to reach the restaurant.
I was soaked and cold when I entered the restaurant. As I sat down, the waiter asked me if I wanted the special — cocido (boiled dinner). I said that if it was hot, I wanted it! I should have thought about it first. The boiled dinner was just like the one in Rabanal — pigs' knuckles and all. Too proud to admit that I made a mistake, I just picked at my food. The cook noticed my reluctance and in a motherly fashion insisted that I take something else. Happy to have a second chance, I accepted fried eggs. The rain was still quite heavy, so I lingered a bit. Soon Rafael came in and I sat with him while he had lunch.

There was an albergue at Santa Irena and I had planned to spend the night there. It was another kilometer beyond the restaurant — down hill. When I got there, I went in and looked around. No one was there, and there didn't appear to be any amenities. Also, there was no restaurant nearby. I didn't want to have to walk back up that hill for dinner later in the evening. So, I made a quick decision. I might as well go 3 K to the next albergue.

I was glad I made that decision. It was a nice, large albergue with a laundry room with washer and drier; a large reading room with a fireplace; and a large, well equipped kitchen. And best of all, since there were plenty of rooms, the hospitalero let me have a room of my own.

Right next door to the albergue was a well stocked tienda. For a change, I was going to cook my own dinner. I bought a can of lentils, some slices of lomo (pork loin), and a package of cheese. Also I got a can of aceitunas (olives) for tapas (snacks) and a bottle of good Rioja wine. I even bought a bottle of wine for Vicente to thank him for sharing his bottle the night before. He was beginning to grow on me.

After dinner, people just lingered around the table. The general mood was somber. After such a long time on the road, tomorrow would bring an end to it. Was there life after Santiago? I asked Christoph what he planned to do. He said that he was going to continue walking to Cabo de Finisterre. After that, he didn't know.

(Cabo de Finisterre is a promontory of land on the Atlantic coast about 100 K east of Santiago. The Romans thought  that this was the eastern most point of the world, thus the name Cape Land's End.)

As I rolled up my clothes and packed my mochila (backpack) for the morning, I began to get anxious. The trip had gone too well. Except for one blister and an occasional leg cramp, I was physically okay. But something was bound to go wrong at the last moment. Would I be like Moses, getting close to the promised land but not reaching it. The metaphor was a little strained. After all, I had only been wandering 40 days not 40 years.

The scientist in me was critical of the tortured, spiritual imagery. Okay, how about the chaos theory? What if I get hit by a truck just as I cross the city limits into Santiago? I was too tired to argue with myself. So I snapped off the lights and went to bed. But as I laid there, I couldn't get over the fact that I was actually going to reach Santiago.
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