Saturday, July 11, 2015

Amigos on Camino -- Day 8 Melide to Arzua

Based on the walking notes, Day 8 would be another 14.5 kilometre hike.  My leg muscles and I hoped that it would indeed be 14.5 and not a kilometre more.

These are the Amigos de Santiago , in front of our hotel in Melide.  I'd like to share one of my favourite travel quotes ... 
"Not all good friends make good travel companions but all good travel companions make good friends".   
This was particularly true with the Amigos -- most of us did not know each other well when we set off together.  Some of the Amigos did not even know the others at all.  But every single person was an ideal  travel companion.    To my mind,  these ten individuals were the best people I could have walked the Camino with.   I would do this again with them in a heartbeat.

Here is Jay as we set off from Melide -- we had to take this road from the hotel to get back on the Camino.  

We hadn't even worked up a sweat before we got sidetracked by this attractive storefront.
With the exception of a small minority of  anti-shopping die-hards,  all of the Amigos loved to shop.  It was many minutes later, our backpacks heavier with keychains, t-shirts, refrigerator magnets  and other Camino souvenirs when we finally tore ourselves away from this place -- leaving an absolutely happy shopkeeper.

Just a few steps away from the store was the Romanesque church of Santa Maria de Melide.  
The rounded vault gave this church quite a unique look.

There was a queue of peregrinos lined up for their first sello of the day.  Since we had started in Galicia, we needed to get at least two sellos or stamps in our credentiales or pilgrim's passports each day.  Sellos are given out not just in churches but in stores, albergues,  bars and restaurants.
From the volunteer outside the church who was stamping the credentiales, I learned that this church dates back to the 12th century.

There were interesting frescoes on the altar along with statues of Our Lady.  I was told that the frescoes date from the 15th century and are thus "newer" than the church itself.

After getting our credentiales stamped, we headed back on the Camino, passing through the narrow road beside the church.

We were back along the countryside.  Was this large drinking fountain for pilgrims or for livestock?  The water was free flowing and looked clean but with all the cows around, I wasn't quite sure.

The Camino tries to be faithful to the original route that pilgrims have walked on since over a thousand years ago.   Some of these paths take you through forests, woods, over hills and through fields where you can feel that this is how the Camino must have looked like many centuries ago.
I would experience that sense of wonder, particularly during the moments I walked alone -- trailing behind everyone else.
But today,  you also walk through national highways, through towns and villages where residents go on with their daily lives.
And once in a while,  you can even hobnob with some of them.

The Camino gives you brief but blissful glimpses of the primordial -- descending from an uphill walk, we came upon these large stones that crossed this little stream.  Aptly called the Bridge of Stones (what else could it be?) it is charming and picturesque. It's also where a lot of pilgrims
stop to take photos so you may find yourself waiting for your turn to cross.
A word of warning though -- the stones are not level and because of moss, can be quite slippery.  Don't trip and hurt your ankle.

Most of the walk was uphill and through woodlands.  I didn't mind uphill so much as long as the path was shaded and the incline gradual.

A graffiti lined waiting shed in the middle of nowhere cheered us on with the words 
"Honor. Fuerza. Coraje."  

A picnic spot sign welcomed us to the Concello de Arzua or the County of Arzua, our destination for today.    But we knew we were not even halfway to our goal.

In this hot weather, you make more stops than usual.  We staggered into Boente and found 
El Aleman, at the right moment when we just had to get out from under the blazing sun.

This German bar served Spanish beer.  Prost! Salud!  Here's one for the road.

In the middle of the town of Boente we saw  peregrinos filling their water bottles from this fountain.  I hope the water was safe to drink.

We had to cross the main highway at Boente, right across their parish church that is dedicated to Santiago.  A crowd of peregrinos were gathered at the door, getting their midday sellos.

Santiago seated on the altar looks like the statue of the saint in the Cathedral at
Santiago de Compostela.   There is even an incense burner that looks like the Botafumeiro,
hovering above.

From Boente, we got onto a gravel forest track that climbed steeply uphill.  This quickly became one of those stop-every-10-meters-and-pant-furiously climbs.

Here is my photo taken from the middle of the hill.  See all those pilgrims huffing and puffing as they climb up, they certainly didn't have it any easier than me.

At the top of the hill,  I was met with this postcard pretty scene.  The Camino rewards exertion and exhaustion with moments like this.

Somewhere around the Km 40 mark, I noticed that the scallop shells on the mogotes were now painted red instead of yellow.  Perhaps because we were getting closer and closer to Santiago de Compostela.

An ancient Roman stone bridge crossing the Rio Iso  led us to the hamlet of Ribadiso de Baixo.   
It looked like a medieval village -- with all the centuries old stone houses clustered together.  
See the stone building to the right -- this dates back to the 14th century and used to be a pilgrim's hospital. Today it still functions as an albergue.

The face of the Camino changes  often  -- from a small ancient looking hamlet the road took us to a  shady, wooded path with picnic tables set out on a grassy open patch.
So peaceful and serene.  Every day, I mentally "pinched" myself ... was I really doing this?  Was I finally on my Camino?

This country path joins the national highway for the last few uphill kilometres into Arzua.  
We passed through an underpass, covered with peregrino-generated graffiti.  
I'm afraid we succumbed to the temptation.  Why did we "deface" the already defaced wall? 
To quote British mountain climber George Mallory -- "Because it's there".

We even waylaid this passing peregrino with a request to take our photo.  He was very kind and stopped in mid-stride to do just that.

Here are the  Amigos, posing in front of our handiwork.  We are forever immortalised -- well, at least until they clean that underpass --  with the words "Mabuhay! Amigos de Santiago 6/15 Pilipinas"

The (long) road  in to Arzua took us through the national highway -- it's hard walking on cement specially on a hot afternoon, with the sun beating down on you.  It's good there were benches under some trees -- we had to sit and cool down.

And finally Day 8 -- all 14.5 kilometres of it came to an end.  Tomorrow we would be walking for 18 kilometres, the longest walk for us on our Camino.
Here are the Amigos raising wine and water glasses in a toast.  Since I started this post with a quote about friends and travel, let me end with another quote from Robert Louis Stevenson on the same topic  --
"The best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. He is the fortunate voyager who finds many".  
I count myself very, very fortunate indeed.

NB For this post, the first and the last photos were taken by the "millennial" in our group, Mayk -- who also happens to be a wonderful professional photographer.

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