Camino Francés Camino – O Pedrouzo to Monte Gozo, Spain

22.11.16 O Pedrouzo to Monte Gozo 15.4 km

Despite the previous night’s rain, it was beautiful in the morning misty light

Unfortunately my boots were still damp by morning, but this was a short stage because part way between O Pedrouzo and Santiago is Monte do Gozo. Monte do Gozo is a massive complex of pilgrim accommodation (1200 beds), built at the behest of the Pope, and Alain, my walking companion and I, wanted to see what all the fuss was about. On the way we stopped for a hot chocolate and Santiago Tart (delicious almond sweet) to warm the cockles. There was not much conversation as we neared the end of the long journey and reflected on that with sadness.

There is a tradition, amongst the Camino trapisers, where boots, clothes and other accoutrements which are no longer necessary, are ceremoniously draped around and arranged at a particular country dell. It didn’t attract me at all, indeed, it was all a bit of a mess. Plus, autumn was moving into winter now and a decidedly melancholy atmosphere was all around.

I have never seen such a place as Monte Gozo. It reminded me of a student campus or unimaginative caravan park, with its concrete masses in a gorgeous rural setting, and, as it was out of season, there was nothing but the wind blowing food wrappers around deserted walkways.

On top of a hill, there are views for contemplation, and somehow self-satisfied statues of walkers. So I turned my back on those arrested, oxidised striders, and sat in the warm sun in silence. It was starting to dawn on me that this wonderful Camino journey was nearly at its end.

I prefer to praise nature

The man who booked us in was very friendly and we were able to ask questions and find out about the place. Apparently it is full to heaving in the summer, although I still didn’t get a spiritual sense about what goes on there. There were one or two others in the hostel block and an adequate kitchen where we had our pack lunch. And there was blessed privacy for giving Shiatsu.

A thoughtful figure amongst the concrete
A desultory set of standing stones

Later, there were no cafes or bars open, so we walked into the village in the pitch black, under a starry night sky, and it was freezing. We searched, gave up, started again, and eventually found somewhere to eat the familiar traveller’s menu. I do not recommend visiting at this time of year, and was glad to leave the next morning to walk the final 5 kilometres into the city of Santiago de Compostella where St James’ remains are interred.

‘When I walk I soon become two. My body and me: a couple, an old story. Truly the soul is the body’s witness. An active, vigilant witness. It must follow the other’s rhythm, accompany its efforts: when you rest on the leg during steep ascents, when you feel its weight at the knee. You push on and the mind punctuates each step: ‘good, good, good’. The soul is the body’s pride. When I am walking, I accompany myself.’ p. 57

All quotes taken from A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros.

Camino Francés – Palas de Rei to Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo, Spain

20.11.16 Palas de Rei to Ribadiso 25.8 km; 21.11.16 Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo 22.1 km

It’s all about living without knowing what will happen. Whatever it is, walk through it.

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Another pretty Roman bridge in Gallicia

Down came the rain and…. . Two hours of heavy downpour in the morning meant very few photos for the rest of the day. However, it was a lovely walk through dark, pine forests, and open lusciously, green countryside, with a great deal of sloshing in the boot department. Plus, dripping sleeves, managing temperature control at the same time as trying to stay dry – one way and another it was a very different sort of a day than I had been used to.

Unexpectedly I stopped for lunch with a  friend, and was rarely so pleased to see a pizzeria and drink a warming glass (or 2) of red. The patron was understanding and provided newspaper as I disrobed and slowly stopped shivering. This simple kindness was particularly appreciated.

My feet were actually cosy, even though it was impossible to dodge the puddles, but it was overall more tiring, and so I arrived at the albergue (crossing the ancient 6th century bridge to the other side of the Rio Iso) with weary legs, feet and soul, and in a narky mood. The door was open but no-one was at home, literally. I phoned the number, and the van I had seen leave as I arrived, returned with the hospitalier. There was some confusion as to which hostel, because he had one in town as well, but here I needed to stay.

Of course being so wet, meant that I cooled down quickly, and so I was very pleased to find that the room had efficient heating and a hot shower. There was a communal kitchen, sitting area, and the eternal noise of the TV of course; and here were the two young Canadian girls again. They really had to make conversation this time – we had been sharing dorms, meeting up and separating, re-connecting and overtaking with desultory Buen Camino‘s for several days now. In fact, we even ended up sharing some food, and the presence of other previously wet walkers conspired to improve the atmosphere a little. There’s nothing like moaning about the weather for effective bonding!

I had packed some of the lunch-time newspaper in the bottom of my rucksack, for stuffing my boots at the end of the day. That turned out to be a lucky break, because it had soaked up some of the water which might otherwise have been absorbed by my only change of garments. There was still a great deal of rearranging of sleeping bag, walking clothes, and other soggy items on radiators throughout the evening, but they were all wonderfully dry by morning.

Which is less than can be said for the landscape: what a storm! It rained wildly all night, with thunder and lightening, and I suffered nightmares, wakened time and again, once by my own screaming. Despite being ready to leave by 8.30am, it seemed sensible to wait and see if it might stop before venturing out. It didn’t.

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The best walking companion

What is the Camino de Saniago de Compostelle like? Often it’s just walking. With a moment when the sun comes out and everything shines. Or you turn a corner and there’s a simple, solid, ancient chapel, right there in the middle of nowhere.

‘During that continuous but automatic effort of the body, the mind is placed at one’s disposal. It is then that thoughts can arise, surface or take shape.’                                                                        p. 157

Now I walked beside woods of very unpopular eucalyptus trees with chestnuts dotted amongst them. It was a rather bizarre idea of the Spanish government to plant 1000’s of them for the pulp industry, and they have proved to stop other native species and natural ground cover from growing well.

Unpopular eucalyptus trees
Unpopular eucalyptus trees
Wet pathways reflecting the forest
Wet pathways reflecting the forest

There were no vultures visible these days (see earlier blogs), only robins (les rouges-gorges); those little gardeners’ friends, hopping very close by the side of the path, fluttering in and out of the wet bushes as if they were following my progress, keeping an eye on me. The rain stopped by midday, and there was an open bar serving hot chocolate, but I felt colder and my feet were like ice.

O Pedrouzo is a largeish town, quite modern in places, and I stayed at a new hostel that evening, Crucero de O Pedrouzo, for 10 euros – all glass frontage and underfloor heating. Delicious! There was a bank with cashpoint, a choice of small supermarkets, and a hard-to-find, but worth-it bakery.

Once again I met with immense kindness. This time it was a woman who welcomed us at the entrance, and she took herself off to get mountains of newspaper and stuffed my boots for me, not just once, but again later, when the first lot had done its job.

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Looks yummy, doesn’t it?

The open plan kitchen/sitting/dining area made for easy conversation, and immediate friendships were springing up at many tables as we ate. There was a young, cycling Korean, unusually mixing with other nationalities; 2 men speaking English and playing draughts together, despite the fact that neither had English as their native tongue; the familiar Canadian pair once again keeping to themselves; and a charming Japanese couple. By the end of the night, we were making hilarious conversation in many languages, and we all went to bed with smiles on our faces.

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All quotes taken from A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros.