The Road to Santiago.

October 26, 2004

Photo of viaduct.
Too high for me

Cadavedo to Alumña

When I came out of my room, I was surprised to see that Corey was still there. He was trying to fix his bike. It seems that he had had a leak in the tube sometime earlier and the man who fixed it didn’t do a very good job. Since he didn’t have much money (I can relate to that), he was trying to get by without buying a new tube.

I wished him luck and left the keys to the albergue with him to return when he departed. I then went to have breakfast at the same place where I had eaten the night before. (I also wanted to tell the man that Corey would be returning the key shortly — ¡No hay problema!)

When I tested my blood, it was still high — 180. This just goes to show that when the glucose count goes out of control, there is a lag time before it settles back down. Since I’m aware of the situation, I bear the high reading knowing that it will improve. However, for many new diabetics, this process can be discouraging and some simply give up trying to maintain control.

The weather was nice and the walk was very pleasant. Even when the camino followed the carretera (highway), it wasn’t tense. The berm was wide enough that I didn’t worry much about the trucks whizzing past.

Suddenly I heard someone call out my name. It was Corey and he pedaled by under full steam. He called out that it took him four tries but the patch finally held. I yelled out buen camino and he answered in kind.

The upgrades weren’t very steep, so I was able to relax and develop a good stride. I was making good time and thought I might make Alumña ahead of schedule. Of course I was overly optimistic. Eventually I came to a halt. Ahead of me was a sign: viaduct. A viaduct is what high bridges are called around here. They connect one side of a valley with the other. According to another sign, it was 500 meters long. But the sign didn’t say how high it was. Also, there was another sign with an icon depicting a wind sock. I don’t cross anything that has a wind sock!!!

I took off my pack and sat down to contemplate the situation. Even after a short rest, I still didn’t have the courage to cross that bridge. So I did what any sane man would do — retreat.

Photo of farmers winnowing beans.
Winnowing beans
I had no idea where the actual camino was; I had lost track of it a few miles back. There had to be some alternative to get across to the other side. I would walk back to the first available group of houses and start asking for help. Fortunately, I soon came to a farmhouse where a couple was thrashing fabas Asturianas (Asturian faba beans) in the front yard. The husband told me where the sign with the concha (shell) was located.

When I finally found the concha sign, I turned right and took the dirt road. Everything was okay for awhile, but I came to a four-way intersection without any sign. I started in one direction but soon a car came along. I flagged it down to ask for directions. I was going the wrong way the driver said. The camino was over there . . . enfrente de la iglesia (in front of the church) . . . una concha.

The path wound down the side of the hill and came to a river. As I crossed the bridge (which was only about 10 feet above the water), I looked up at that huge bridge which I wouldn’t cross. I wondered if Corey crossed it on his bike.

Shortly after the bridge, I came to a restaurant that had a lot of trucks out front — A good sign in any country. Since it was 1 pm, I knew that they would be serving a menu del dia (menu of the day) and I thought that I’d better grab a meal while I could. It was pretty good. The first course was judias verdes con jamon (green beans with ham) and the second course was escallope de ternera (breaded veal cutlet). Of course, there were the ever present patatas fritas (potatos fried in olive oil). At home I wouldn’t have eaten the potatos, but at home I wouldn’t be walking 10 to 15 miles a day.

The walk after lunch was quite nice. When I reached the top on the valley of the other side, I was able to see the ocean again. It was like many stretches that I had traversed before and the walk was sin novedad (nothing new).

Photo of building with sign "Tanatorio."
But then I did see something that was new to me. It looked like a modern office building. The sign on the side said Tanatorio. I had no idea what that meant, whether it was the name of a company or the name of a type of business that occurred there. So, when I met an old man walking towards me, I asked him what’s the edificio alli (building over there). He answered, “tanatorio.”  Well, that clears things up. Actually, I learned from further discussion that it was a funeral parlor — a place where family and friends come to view the newly departed. The word is related to the Greek word Thantos (death), and I would have known it if I had studied Greek like my mother wanted me to do.

The albergue was off to the side of the highway, about a half mile from the village. The sign on the door indicated a number to call. I did, and learned that I had to go back to village and get a key. It took me a couple of inquiries to find the right house.

It was a nice albergue but the water had been turned off. I needed to bathe, so I took what we used to call a sailor’s shower. First you get wet from a quick spray and then you lather up the soap over your whole body. Once you have thoroughly washed, you take a deep breath, grit your teeth, and turn the water back on to rinse away the suds. This process is known as invigorating.

Just after I got dressed, I heard a loud knocking on the door. I opened it to find a pilgrim standing in the dark, looking bedraggled and tired. His name was Tepani, which is Finnish for Stephen.

Although he was born a Finn, he was a Swedish citizen. He had been living for the past year in Paris. He receives a disability check from the Swedish government and just sort of travels around. He heard about the Camino and decided to follow it to Santiago.
Previous. Next.