Sunday - 5 days to go:
It is 18h30 and the sun is still high in the sky - too hot to sit in whilst having a beer so we have been sitting in the shade on a terrace outside the albergue in Palas de Rei watching the world go by (mostly other peregrinos on this lazy Sunday afternoon).
Finn survived his first night in a peregrino refuge - snorers and all - and only just managed his first ever 26km walk - from Portomarin to Palas de Rei. He has now walked almost 50kms in two days, a true baptism of fire for him. We left in the dark, headlamps leading the way. After crossing the river we turned up a steeply climbing path that wound it's way through a dense wood and up to a Nottingham Road type forest of pines and firs. It stayed dark longer than usual because of a thick mist that shrouded everything in a white haze until almost 10am. We had a welcome coffee break after walking about 6kms and when the mist cleared we saw that we were walking through beautiful 'fynbos', heather and Erica juxtaposed with yellow blossomed Arnica plants and broom. By the time we reached Eirexe Marion had a swelling on her shin (she thinks it is a shin splint sustained whilst negotiating the steep downhill paths yesterday) and Finn's left calf muscle was cramping. We stopped to put Alcohol Romeo on Marion's shin (thanks Firorenza!) and I rubbed some Arnica on Finn's calf. We then had to walk another 8kms to Palas de Rei through rural meadows surrounded by moss covered dry stone walls, tiny stone and shingle hamlets and small squares of vegetable patches, with the occasional scarecrow to keep away the crows and magpies.
We arrived in Palas de Rei hot and weary and after registering at the albergue we were lead up three long flights of stairs to our room. We are sharing two small alcoves with a double bunk in each of them. Marion and Finn are on the bottom and Anneliese and I have claimed the higher ground! After having a hot shower we paid 3 euro for a token to have our washing done in a washing machine. We decided to spoil ourselves and use the dryer as well. I put all the washing into the dryer and half an hour later found that I had put my plastic zip lock bag containing all my papers - passport, International driving permit, air tickets etc - into the dryer. I couldn't believe it when I saw my passport tumbling about inside! Fortunately I could open the door and retrieve most of the papers but my air ticket is cooked so I will have to download a new one once we get to Santiago!
After lunch we discussed what to do next week. Because we have done three days walking in two days, we have decided to shorten the next 5 days completely. We will stay at private albergues (where the 20km per day per pilgrim does not apply) so we will walk about 16kms per day for the next 4 days and will only have about 6kms to walk into Santiago on Friday morning. It was either that or get to Santiago a day early but that would have meant a shorter time for Finn to be on the camino and longer daily distances for him to walk. We have also agreed to leave at about 7h30 in the morning so that we don't have too much walking in the dark.
Last night a Spanish pilgrim, who we have met all along the camino since Roncesvalles, told us that he walked 27kms to Ferreiros (which is where we had wanted to stay last night) only to find it full. It was 7pm and the hospitalero told him that he could not sleep on his sleeping mat on the floor and that he should move on to Portomarin. He told her that it was too late and that he was too tired to walk another 9kms. She told him to get a taxi and when he said that he wasn't going to go by taxi at this late stage in his camino, she told him to move on. He walked all the way to Portomarin arriving in the dark. The municipal albergue that sleeps 160 was full by the time he arrived there but fortunately he found a bed at the same, new albergue that we had booked into. All along the camino refuges have a reputation of not turning away pilgrims but, it seems that in Galicia, the bureaucracy is tighter and they do not allow pilgrim who have only walked 15 or so kms to stay in an albergue and, once it is full, they do not take in any latecomers. It seems that the 'business' of catering for pilgrims is less charitable in this, the last region of the camino.
So, tomorrow we will have a later than usual start and will only walk 14.8kms. Will let you know how the next few days progress.
Love to all,
S A M and F