Good morning or good afternoon or good evening to you all!
After writing yesterday I went shopping and on to the albergue where I hoped to find friends to eat with. Wise move! About 8 of us sat down to eat and another 4 came in later to have coffee. The biggest surprise was Lee. I left her in Melide where she ate in the church yard, took out sleeping bag and had a snooze! When she woke she felt as refreshed as if it were a new day and she started walking again, arriving in Arzua at 6:00. She was as pleased as Punch and actually laid the blame at my feet, saying what an inspoiration I am! Me!
We had a wonderful meal. People were quite concerned about where to stay and all resolved to either book reservations or leave very early. It was apparent that in the villages ahead there were not the places to cater for the pilgims in Arzua. The bedroom was quiet so I didn´t wake until 6:10 which meant I was not ready to leave until 7:35. I made good time and then was overtaken by Birgit (D), Charlie and Diana (NZ) who sang happy b´day to me. At the time I was walking with Henry, a Canadian. Soon we caught up with Lee and we stopped for coffee.
Lots of people came over to say happy b´day - it is such a contrast to 2000 and my private celebration on the train to Bari, Italy. I then left them and walked on with Charlie, having a great time. Both of them are extremely friendly, outgoing people and our chats covered a lot of ground. At Arzua (18+km from Compostela) they walked on while Birgit and I looked in at the Albergue. There were over 60 people lined up for 100 beds which meant no bottom bunk for John. B stayed and I went off looking for a hotel. There is only one and it was full. (I swear the girl said "Qantas" so maybe thay are having a convention of flight attendants, but later she did say "Completo".) What choices now? Go back? NO WAY! So it was sleep on a top bunk or go on. I walked on.
It was already 2 before I got going with the only accommodation at Lavacolla 7km on, or Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy) 5 or so km from Compostela. I stopped for a drink 2km shy of Lavacolla and chatted briefly to a tour party of Germans who were walking assisted by a minibus, and staying in hotels. Along came my angel for the day. Yes, folks, the Lord answered my prayer before I made it, which is often His way. Flemming Petersen is from Denmark, speaks excellent idiomatic English, is 30 and walks big distances. Here he was having walked already from Melide and being tired he was delighted to be able to slow down and chat with a geriatric (hey, 65 means I´m officially old).
Let´s put this in perspective. Last time I took 4 days to walk the same distance as I have walked in 2 this time, because I actually made it, with no apparent damage though greater than the usual aches and pains, to Monte del Gozo! Last time the final 17 km I thought would never end but Flemming helped me a lot today. He walked 50km(!) for the day and I 34km, another personal best which will likely stand for ever.
The first night here is free but we have to pay 7€ a night for up to two more nights - not bad. (I´ll be pretty cross if they make me pack up and move tomorrow, but it will still be cheaper to stay here.) The place is huge with dormitory accom. for 2800. There are shops, a tiny Supermercado, hairdressing place, coffee shop/bar, and a self-service cafeteria. Fl and I had a hamburger with the lot for 2.75€, then went next door for more. The prices are very reasonable so I am surprised the Guide says that the place is expensive.
I will go in by bus tomorrow and spend the day there - Pilgrim Mass at midday, Correos (PO) if it is open, planning my next itineraries at the Information Centre, shopping for family gifts, (please pretend to like them and fall on them with glad cries) and of course finding the right venue for my HB Party.
Our paths the last few days have largely been through forests of native trees including oak, beech and elm, and large quantities of eucalyptus. Sometimes it has been extraordinarily beautiful, with the branches arching above, vines winding around trunks, and grasses filling the gaps. While the surface varied, mostly it has been gravel and sands, with leaf litter in the forests. The closer we got to MdG to uglier it became, which is really why I don´t want to walk again into Compostela. It is dreary, dreary, dreary until you walk through the gate to the old city.
Last night as I looked out the fifth storey window over the distant, misty hills I was struck with sadness to think the grand adventure is almost at an end. Monday will probably see my departure and most of the people I now think of as friends I will never see again. Charlie and Diana have invited us to to stay with them, Jenny, so our planned visit to NZ will be even more interesting.
Still, it´s not the end of life but a beginning. If I have learnt anything on the Camino this time apart from relearning to unhesitatingly trust in a God who loves me and cares for me, it is to take one day at a time, one section at a time, one step at a time.
God bless you all