Casanova Mato, Arzua, Pedrouzo, and Santiago

From October 12 on . . .

After some confusion and miscommunication about the transport of Quasimodo, we set off around 7:30a.m.  It’s still dark, with a full moon.  Going past a forest and up a hill.  Mist rising in the valley, and we’re walking with Rene, from Jena.  He’s into holistic medicine and also works with crystals.  Walking is brisk in the morning and our path goes uphill quite a bit.  I am truly amazed how hilly Spain is!

We stop at a store and I buy fruit and my beloved Spanish pepper.  Someone should import these.  When I think of the ones back home, in comparison, they seem plastic.  Temps were going up to 32C.  My whole body got hot as I still wore two pairs of socks (so as not to blister).  Also greased my feet and toes with Nivea.  We stop at one little bar and have a fresh and natural raspberry drink.  Oh, my, that was so good!

Mainly we walk through sunlit forests, but we’re still going up.  One particular steep hill — I dedicated this one to my cousin Renate.  Another for my sister, brother, and close friends.  There are enough hills here for half of the people in Montrose.  Sure was glad when the 17+kms were done today.  Now I’m sitting under an old gnarly apple tree, looking out at hilly landscape, and wide swatches of fall colors.  Birds are singing, and it’s another peaceful spot.

Stopped in Casanova Mato.  The refugio is right on the road.  There are only five houses here, and no store.  Carrie and I are ahead of Cameron, who took advantage of free wi-fi and stayed longer at the last spot.  The woman talks very rapidly in answer to my questions.  I tell her, “No habla Espanol.”  It’s nice and clean and has a kitchen.  This was put in as a joke, since there’s no store here.  We showered with the usual sound of ahhhhhhh.

Cameron caught up.  We were told that there was an albergue 1.5km away that would pick us up.  That was too far to walk, even for very hungry pilgrims.  We got a very good lentil soup — we ate two plates each.  Then meatballs, home-made fries, peas and carrots, all in a nice sauce.  Water, bread, wine.  A very reasonably priced good meal.  We are happy campers.  We were chauffered back and I told Carrie that I could purr like a cat now.

There are ten bunks total, and they’re all filled up.  I read a bit, and talked to a German woman next to me, who has walked from France, but by a different route.  The street light shines right into my face, and I had to put my mask on.  Then I woke up, out of a deep sleep, because the Spanish couples came in, talking, rustling.  Finally, quiet, until one of them starts snoring.  Deep, loud, and going on most of the night.  I was dismayed, thinking of the long hike ahead with barely any sleep.

Got up at 5:30 and got ready.  Again only one bathroom for all of us.  We left at 6:15, one cup of tea and one small piece of bread we’d brought from the restaurant last night.  Carrie was the only one who had a light.  Cameron lost his, and mine was empty, as I’d used it to read.  There was a full moon, but of no use, since we had to go through a very dark forest.  And so we trekked along.  After 4-plus kilometers, I shared the last bit of chocolate, which only made us more hungry.

Cameron figured we’d have to walk about 9km before reaching a larger place.  I was thinking of all these refugees who walk for days without food.  Finally, we saw a large city and we knew there was a bar open somewhere.  Having come up some more steep hills, I was famished.  We walked around a corner and there it was.  We could have pizza and sandwiches, and there was Internet and cafe con leche!  Almost paradise.

We stayed for over an hour.

Ten more kilometers to go.  I would never have guessed how many hills Spain actually has.  We’re going through lovely forests, but also steep inclines.  I dedicated each to a different person.  My heart friends:  Irene, Bonnie, Inge, Carla.  The next hills to Rowena, Jayne, and Willa Kay.  The last steep one to Cameron.  Then suddenly I felt shaky and dizzy.  We stopped and Carrie gave me a banana, and then we kept going.

The stench of liquid manure, pig farms, etc., is overwhelming.  As beautiful as Galicia is, so far it smells the worst of all.  In between, we would smell natural scents of hay, dry leaves, eucalyptus, fennel, roses, mushrooms, and even camomille.  We were ecstatic.  We arrived at the next town, but then decided not to stay in another dormitory with noisy people.

We took a taxi for a few kilometers to Arzua and checked into a hostel with nice, soft beds and towels.  After the usual shower, Carrie and I took off to find a grocery store, and when we did, and the automated door of the grocery store opened, we both said, “Ahhh, look how pretty!”  There were shelves of food, and it was very clean.  I went to the produce section and almost wept with joy.  Everything was there, and my wonderful red peppers too.  I bought grapes and cheese, bread, yogurt, tomatoes, salad, and dressing, plus plastic plates.  We came back and had a picnic on the bed.

We had found Internet (expensive as usual).  I also thought of the high prices they charge along the way for a small cup of coffee and a piece of toast, 3 Euros.  We haven’t seen much of this town, so very near Santiago, but we are too tired.  Carrie and I watched some Spanish soap opera, and laughed at the bad acting.  And since we didn’t understand, we made up our own dialogue.

I want to make sure of this distinction:  that we only know the food on the Camino.  I am not saying all food in Spain is this indifferent.  We don’t know how people eat elsewhere in Spain.  There simply isn’t any desire nor creativity to be different along the Way.  Cameron suggested starting a moveable deli, starting at one point and moving along to meet pilgrims wherever possible.


We’re in Pedrouzo now.  This is a very nice albergue.  Near new, clean, wooden bunks, sheets and pillows.  In the middle of the dormitory is a plant topiary with soothing water running.  There’s nice soft music playing overhead, and it’s truly an oasis.  The usual ritual followed:  I washed all clothes — in a machine – and hung them out in the fresh air and sun.  Then Carrie and I went looking for a grocery store.  Not many choices, they said, since it was Saturday.  But we found one and got the usual:  bread, cheese, grapes, and white asparagus for me.

We ran into Rene, who was staying there as well, and he joined us outside for dinner.  He talked of his journey, and disappointments.  How unfriendly, unsmiling the business people, waiters, etc., on the Camino had been.  He was upset at the cruelty to and neglect of the animals.  “You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat their animals,” he stated.  Then he asked me if it was true that people in the U.S. had the claws from their cats removed?  I said yes, I had seen a few without claws.  He said, “It’s just like ripping out your toes.”  He was visibly upset, put his face in his hands, and just shook his head.

Next morning, sure enough, the rustling and bathroom-goers started at 5a.m.  Then, as people walked into the hallway, a light came on automatically, and shone in everyone’s faces.  They need taller walls — the kind that go all the way up to the ceiling.  I got up at 6a.m., Carrie did too.  I went to the coffee machine to have a cup.  It made such a racket that I walked away so no one would know that it was me!

Cameron needed to work some more while he had wi-fi, but since it would be 20-plus kilometers, I wanted to leave at the agreed-upon time of 7a.m.  Carrie and I left and made our way, looking for our yellow arrow.  Here came the forest . . . deeep and dark.

She cranked up her light, and then we remembered that Cameron wouldn’t have a light.  Back she went a little way, left her penlight and a note.  I doubted that he would see it, but hoped that he would find some other pilgrims coming through.  After a while, Carrie and I agreed that we’d never have done this at home.  We actually felt safe here.

Finally, a different path, then forest again.  Then small hamlets started to appear.  Same slate-stone houses, with corncribs.  By now, we would know that if there were six houses, two to three would be in ruins.  After an hour or so we saw our first bar.  Stopped for cafe con leche and Carrie had a fresh OJ.  We waited 20 minutes, then moved on.  I told her that Cameron would catch up, probably singing, “She’s a lady, woh woh woh, she’s a lady.”


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