Day 46, October 25, Palas de Rei to Melide (15 km)
Spain has so many fields of sunflowers, especially in Navarre and Castille y Leon. Tonight in Melide we learned why. Spaniards simply love to eat sunflower seeds. We went into a bar for their “menu del dia.” A group of men at the table across from us were playing what sounded like an exciting card game. They were far more interested in their card game than in the football (soccer) game playing on the overhead TV. At the same time, they were busy opening and eating sunflower seeds at a shocking speed and tossing the empty shells on the floor around them. When a bowl of sunflower seeds was empty, it was replenished. Meanwhile the pile of shells on the floor grew higher. Apparently it is perfectly acceptable and normal to throw the shells on the floor in Spanish bars. They say a dirty floor means a good bar in Spain! Who knew?!
This morning when we left Palas de Rei just after 8 o’clock, it was already daylight. Clocks went back to standard time overnight, which makes it easier when we want to get an early start. We found ourselves in the midst of a very busy pilgrim “rush hour” leaving town. This is the rush hour we expected to see leaving Sarria two days ago but didn’t because we left late. There was no rush hour yesterday leaving Mercadoiro because there were only nine of us staying in the one and only albergue in a place with a population of one.
We walked 5.8 km before stopping for breakfast at a crowded cafe in Casanova (yes – Casanova!). This was the first cafe we came to that was open on a Sunday. The server was rushed off his feet and might have been on the brink of quitting. Poor guy!
While we were having our coffee, banana, and Santiago cake (there was no other choice) at one of the outdoor tables, it was fun and quite easy to pick out the peregrinos who began their pilgrimage from Sarria just two days ago. They have new guidebooks with tight bindings, not dog-eared books that are barely hanging together like ours. Their clothes are not misshapen from washing and wringing them out too many times. They take pictures of things that we now see as commonplace. They are displaying the kind of excitement we felt seven weeks ago before we settled into a calmer, more relaxed groove.
When we got back onto the path, we were amongst groups of people chattering loudly and one group singing. It was impossible to go faster or slower for peace and quiet, so I plugged in my earbuds and escaped into my own, private world for a while. The iPod came to my rescue once again!
Today’s walk was beautiful and so was the weather. The trail led through three shallow river valleys, mostly through woodland areas, all the way to Melide and our Hotel Carlos. The old part of town follows its medieval layout with narrow winding streets, shops, bars and restaurants serving the regional speciality, pulpo (octopus). Many people consider this a treat but the idea of eating octopus makes me consider becoming a vegetarian. Maybe we’re missing something. “Thanks, but no thanks!”
At first we thought our feet might need to recover from yesterday’s extremely long walk, but it really wasn’t necessary. By this morning they were surprisingly back to normal and ready to go again, and again, and again for 53 more kilometers!