Up at the crack of dawn and that familiar smell from the dormitories and the loos is pretty pungent. Nevertheless, we have breakfast and are back on the road heading for Triacastela. “Only thirteen kilometres away!” Nick had promised. This is our so called ‘rest day’, as it is Caroline’s birthday.
We enter Triacastela, a pretty one-street town with a beautiful church and countryside. When we arrive at our albergue it’s early and there is a sturdy-looking American guy sitting outside.
“It’s not open until midday,” he tells us in his Wisconsin drawl. We sit down and join him in the wait, quite happy to sit and rest here for as long as it takes. This guy is really suffering with his feet. He began the Camino from the very start and has been walking for weeks. In fact, he had blagged a taxi ride from Fonfria to this place to save his feet. Taxis operate between destinations to transfer ‘pilgrims’ rucksacks. This is definitely a cop out in my opinion. Where’s the struggle if you haven’t got your worldly goods firmly strapped to your back? This guy is not one of those. In fact, he tells us that his excuse for doing this camino was to begin in Poland helping to build social housing with a charity called Habitat for Humanity (Habitat.org). Being a retired builder, that was his way of giving something back. We chat about our own trials of building a house back in England and give him our best advice on blisters before Caroline and Nick arrive. They’d enjoyed a bit of a lie in this morning!
The owner opens up and we are shown to our rooms. Wow, this is a beautiful old stone building that he has clearly renovated with attention to detail. The décor is a mix of old stone with wood and has modern furniture. The straight cut white blinds at the windows set off the stone beautifully. There are small dorms here too that look inviting enough, even for a princess.
Our room is on the first floor, overlooking the street, a beautiful combination of old and new with lots of glass and oak beams. However, the designer clearly was not concerned about privacy as you can hear everyone’s conversation and as you step out of the shower you can be seen by everyone in the reception area – best have an early shower!!
Outside just below our window, an older, probably homeless man is shouting about something.
His speech is slurred but aggressive, clearly drunk and trying to beg for money. A young pilgrim approaches him and tries to calm him down. “I am only a student, I haven’t got any spare money, but I’ve got a small amount of food that I am happy to share with you” he tells the man. He offers the man some bread and a carrot which the man accepts. He eats the bread but after one bite of the carrot, tosses it into the air. Oh dear, what is it about Galicians and vegetables? Mind you, I do feel very proud of the young pilgrim’s actions. A lesson to us all methinks.
We decide to go in search of a supermarket, recommended by the American guy, that stocks everything and on the way we come across another chemist. The others persuade me to go in to show off my very swollen, but well-turned ankles to get a second opinion on the ever-increasing rash. The usual remedy of cooling gel is advised, but after telling her I’d already got some, she advises me to rest, or at least reduce the weight in my ruck sack. It is the extra stress on my vascular system that’s causing the problem. Not music to my ears as once again I am forced to be reconciled with this circulatory condition which has blighted my life. I come away with some Venaforce tablets that are supposed to be miracle workers. We find the supermarket, and then in hope of finding a menu that includes vegetables, find a nice restaurant for lunch to celebrate Caroline’s birthday.
A very nice Paella it is too. We could have had a mixed salad as a starter, but that isn’t our idea of vegetables. It seems like Galician soup with cabbage, broad beans and pork as its main ingredients is the closest we’ll ever get to our 5 a day.
We go in search of a famous mosaic in the town that our guide book mentions. I follow on blindly with very little hope of finding it, given this guide book’s reputation thus far. We do however see several signs pointing to its location. Heads bowed and about to give up, we suddenly realise that we are standing on it! Hmm.. time for some rest.
We agree to meet up for the 6pm Mass. It is once again a beautiful church. It has an above-ground tomb-like graveyard which is a resting place for the whole family. This is a comforting sight and I begin to think how nice it would be if I could have a similar plot with my own family.
The Spanish Priest is softly spoken and although I can’t understand very much, he is obviously speaking from the heart, especially when he refers to the pilgrims who account for most of the congregation. We pray and leave feeling blessed.
Our next stop is Sarria and the forecast for the following day is pretty dire – wet and windy. “That’s a shame,” I say, secretly loving the idea of setting off in the cool rain, and feeling it splash around my ankles.