Halfway across Galicia, I ran into the unexpected on the last 100km of my walk: a heat wave. The heat combined with the large crowds made this part of the the walk challenging, but that’s the point of the experience.
Day 11: Barbadelo to Portomarin (19km)
Our main priority for the day was finding coffee, as we were on the trail well before daybreak. The morning’s highlight was running into a cattle drive on a narrow path, being led by a small Scottish terrier-type dog and brought up by a farmer on horseback. He stopped to chat with me, and it was one of my more successful conversations in Spanish and Gallego, as it ended in a restaurant recommendation for Portomarin.
Day 11 was also the day we met Coughing Man. Coughing Man walked back and forth among the bunks of our albergue, coughing over everything in sight. We loathed him.
Day 12: Portomarin to Palas de Rei (25km)
How hot could it get in Galicia in September? That’s not a problem, according to everything I read about weather in Galicia. I saw a newspaper in a cafe that morning, with a picture of a heat-exhausted pilgrim dunking his head in a fountain. Classic foreboding.
The trail was crowded with Sarria pilgrims and there was a fair amount of speeding up to get around slower groups. Some of whom seemed to have a tour guide, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
We arrived in Palas de Rei with a lot of day left to enjoy. Dinner was at the well-regarded Meson A Forxa, where I got to enjoy the light, dry Albariño white wine of the Galician region (which reminded me a lot of the white wine varieties of Nova Scotia). And it paired beautifully with my first meal of pulpo gallego, Galician-style octopus.
Day 13: Palas de Rei to Boente (22km)
Made it all the way to the bottom of the steps in Palas de Rei before stopping for a coffee to start the day. After the previous night’s octopus dinner, my only goal for the day was to make it to Melide for lunchtime. Melide, a small inland town that is definitely not on the coast, is famous for its octopus. Regardless, lunch was going to be at a pulperia and I was going to eat most of an octopus. It was glorious, rich, and well-suited for the Estrella Galicia beer that was a great idea at 11:30am.
We stopped for the day in the small village of Boente. It was scorching hot and our albergue had both a bar with icy cold beer and a pool for cooling off our feet.
Day 14: Boente to O Pedrouzo (29km)
Woke up feeling like garbage on my penultimate day of walking. Coughing Man had gotten me sick. It was a weird morning, with a foggy start, that turned into tropical fog, then blistering sun.
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A long, hot, dusty 29km from Boente to O Pedrouzo for the penultimate day of my #CaminodeSantiago. This had the makings of being the worst day of my trip, but it's simply too great out here for that kind of thinking. Tomorrow is a "light" 20km to Santiago de Compostela and the end of the journey.
As a group, we decided to make a long day of it to have a “light” 20km day on our last day. We did not anticipate the heat wave. It was a long, hot day. Most of the day was spent speeding up to get around crowds, looking for shade, and looking for water.
After getting stuck behind a large group of teenagers intent on shouting songs and having one too many cyclists shoot by without sounding a bell, I turned a corner and saw a true oasis: Casa Tia Delores and her line of Peregrina beer bottles. It was 10:30am and I stopped for one of the best beers of my life. The shouting teens had been my undoing and the beer restored my will to continue.
I managed to find some cold medicine in O Pedrouzo and drugged myself up enough to go to my final pilgrim mass at Parroquia de Santa Eulalia de Arca. The priest called all of the pilgrims up to the altar after the mass for a pep talk and blessing for the final stretch.
Day 15: O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (22km)
After 330km, I walked into Santiago de Compostela on a perfect, hot sunny day. The biggest achievement of the day:
Our day started as a comedy of errors by getting lost in a pitch-black eucalyptus forest with another dozen pilgrims, due mostly to the darkness and lack of yellow arrows to follow. It was a quiet, introspective day, including strange turns like an odd walk around the only runway at Santiago de Compostela airport. Our group was spread out over a fairly decent distance, but we reconvened on top of Monte de Gozo to walk the last 5km into Santiago de Compostela together as a group.
Our excitement for being so close to the finish made the last 5km seem like an eternity. Suburbs for ages, strip malls, and then, the labyrinthine roads into Santiago’s Old City. Finally, we approached the steps and heard a set of Galician bagpipes, gaita, welcoming us to the end of the way.
After a short hour in line at the Pilgrim Office, Lori, the genius in my Camino family, found out we could register as a group in a much shorter line because there were five of us, we received our compostelas. Peregrinación terminado.
Looking back a year later, it’s been more challenging than I would have thought to go back to “normal life.” I continue to reflect on my Camino every day, using what I learned to help me through setbacks and to find joy and amusement in the simplicity of life. I’ve already decided I’ll go back for another, different Camino, but, for now, this one goes into the memory bank.
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