We are in Palas de Rei, just 68 km away from Santiago! We didn’t intend to walk this far today, but we made the mistake of not staying in Ventas de Naron and then had no choice but to keep going until we could find a place to stay. “Ultreia!” Pilgims of the Middle Ages would shout “Ultreia!” (onward) as a wish of unfailing courage. We had to draw on every ounce of courage to make it to Palas de Rei!
It was just past 8 o’clock and still dark when we left Mercadoiro. Before long we stopped to haul out our rain gear for the first time in five days. There was just the odd sprinkling of rain, but there was the potential for more.
It was a 5.6 km downhill stretch from Mercadoiro to Portomarin and we were getting hungry. There were what seemed like thousands of steps to climb before breakfast, but what better way to work up an appetite!?
After a “mixed sandwich” which turned out to be a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, cafe con leche, and freshly squeezed orange juice, we left Portomarin and began climbing up through the woodland on the other side of the reservoir. That’s when the skies opened up.
There were plenty of mud puddles and streams of muddy water to avoid. To keep the hems of my pants clean, I tucked them into my socks before thinking better of it. Having muddy pants is better than having wet socks that would eventually soak into the boots. Wet feet is a recipe for blisters. So far we’ve had no blisters (knock on wood).
We had walked 7.8 km in the rain from Portomarin to Gonzar when we came to a cafe offering shelter. When our eye caught sight of a juicy, thick hamburger and fries on the menu board, we couldn’t resist. It was close enough to lunchtime, so we ordered “hamburguesas.” When they arrived there were no fries, just the burgers. But (hallelujah!) we got ketchup for the first time! At almost every pilgrim meal we’ve been served French fries but never ketchup to go with them. This was the first time we got ketchup, but there were no fries! Too funny!
It was great to see Vesna from last night’s albergue at the cafe too. She was preparing to leave and heaved her backpack on. Someone commented about how fit she is looking. “Really? I look fit?” She flipped her hair back, stood a wee bit taller, and proudly announced, “Well then, I’m going to Santiago TODAY!” As she left she said she would put in a word to the greater powers for sunshine, and she got it within minutes! Before we’d finished our lunch and got back on the trail the rain had stopped and we got a glimpse of blue sky.
The mushrooms we saw today were humongous! One would be a meal in itself – if they are the edible kind, that is! If there are leprechauns in these woods, they would be happy to live under one of these mushrooms!
Just 5 km down the road we came to Ventas de Naron. We had thought of staying there, but it was still a bit too early to stop walking. That was the mistake that resulted in our very long walking day. The albergues and pensions in the next small villages of Ligonde, Eirexe, and Portos either had no vacancy or were closed for the season. So “Ultreia!” all the way to Palas de Rei for a grand total of 30.4 km.
Next on the agenda were: hotel room with the heat turned up; soak in a bathtub; full bottle of wine; butternut squash soup; bread; salmon with rice; torta de Santiago; a chat with a new friend, Margaret; comfortable bed with smooth white sheets. All those things spell “HAPPINESS!”
We met Margaret when we were looking at the pilgrim menu on the board outside the restaurant. She was sitting at the front table and gave us the “thumbs up” sign meaning “this place has great food!”
Margaret is a nurse who moved from South Africa to San Francisco where she “left her heart.” She talked about how everyone is on a path, whether it is religious, spiritual, something else, or none of those things. We are on a path, whatever it is. People grow, gather information, and are always evolving. We become a product of what we choose to believe and what we learn along the way.
Then we went from philosophizing to the physical. We told Margaret how far we had walked today and I described to her my puffy legs above the line of my socks. She said it was a sign that I was dehydrated and needed to drink more water and put extra salt on my food. She said to get Epsom salts at the farmacia and soak my feet in warm water in the bathtub for twenty minutes. Empty the bathtub and put in cold water and soak again for maybe five minutes. Then lay on the bed with my feet up on the wall.
Good advice to follow when not too tired. Off to bed now with feet in the bed, not on the wall!