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Film Stars and Flip Flops

[Monday 17th September; Spain Day 6, Camino Day 10. Today’s walking distance 21.9 klms (total 228.8 to date)]

So much to say about today …

We set out at our usual-ish 8am start from our apartment in Redondela and headed north for Pontevedra. The walk out of town was the opposite of yesterday; we fairly quickly cleared the town limits and headed up into the hinterland above the northern reaches of the Ria de Vigo. Two things felt very different today to the previous days.

Firstly, the “crowd”. I am bemused by the increase in people numbers, at a couple of levels. Because we have now converged with the “main” Portuguese Camino, the central route, and ours, the Coastal Route, is relatively unpopulated, the joining of the two resulted in a greater number of people on the path. We are also within the somewhat constructed 100-kilomotre limit with which a pilgrim has to comply in order to qualify for a Compostela. A few people mentioned to me this morning how “busy” it was. Those who know me or have read An Impossible Dream will recall how I disparaged the crowds on the Camino Frances from Sarria into Santiago de Compostela. Today had a completely different feel. For the last week or so we have criss-crossed perhaps 20 people who have been walking the Coastal route. Today that number swelled to somewhere around 50-100; the exact number is hard (impossible?) to tell. I remember when we left St Jean Pied de Port just over 3 years ago we left with a “crowd” of maybe 50-100 people nearby. That was our “normal”. Once we got to and past Sarria that swelled to probably 1,000 or more, so today’s crowd seemed positively sparse by comparison.

The other thing about today is that I felt like I “hit my straps” today. We stopped for desayuno at Arcade, probably about 7 klms into the walk. For some reason I completely forgot to take my ankle medications, the first time I have done so. Only later did I realise this, and then I also realised that I felt completely in my stride. The walking was easy -- even the couple of sight hills – and it felt good. I felt strong and fit, and felt like I could have walked all day. I recalled that when walking the “full” Camino Frances (as much as there is such a thing as a “full” Camino) it has been said that the first third is for the body, the next third is for the mind, and the last third is for the spirit. Again, I wrote about this in An Impossible Dream, and I recall that this was more or less the way I experienced that walk. In that case it took the first 250 or so kilometres to get into a physical routine and pattern (and level of walking fitness) to allow one to carry on for the rest. We’ve walked about the equivalent of that first third, and that’s the way I felt today. (As a related aside, I was very observant of and concerned about Natalie in the first couple of days – the heat rash on her ankle was not good. And yet by now she has that under control and is showing all the signs that physically she could keep going a lot longer, were that to be an option.)

Back to the crowds. Because there are more people, there are more “sights” to see. I’m sure that Ed Harris (or his doppelganger) strode past me. The guy that passed me was the same one I have seen in the movies many times. I got a completely in character gruff “Buen Camino” from him as he powered past. I later check with Helen and she saw him to, so it must have been him. The other one which took my fancy was the young man who was walking in socks and thongs (flip-flops). I couldn’t imagine more difficult or inappropriate footwear, but there he was almost dancing down the steep hill past me. I wondered whether he had walked from Porto, or even Lisboa, similarly clad. As a bloke with appallingly bad bio-dynamics in my left foot, I looked and wondered how he was coping with his choice of footwear and what if any long term harm he was doing to himself.

Early in the day we chanced upon an enterprising young woman would was selling fruit and coffee, and also stamping credencials with the following message:

A bit after 10 found us in Arcade for breakfast ...

Not long after breakfast we crossed the Rio Verdugo, which is at the upper reaches of the estuary we've been walking alongside for the last couple of days.

It was a beautiful walk. We stopped at various sello and picture points and I’ll let the photos tell the story. Much of the day was lovely forest walk. Here's Nat with a friend at one of the stop points.

The 17th century Capella de Santa Marta at Bertola ...

Not far out of Pontevedra is a deviation path alongside the Rio Pintos. A delightful variation from the man road ...

Pontevedra is a big town, but as is normally the case we are staying in the old town and so it has a feel about it which is typically Spanishly wonderful. And because of an inspired choice on my part (for reasons I no longer recall) we are staying at the Parador. It’s a magnificent 17th century villa with old stone walls and creaky wooden floors and twisty-turny corridors and is magnificent. (Those of you who have seen The Way will recall that Tom’s character, who had been an extremely obstreperous walking companion, “shouted” his three companions to a night in the Parador in Burgos. This one has the same feel. Lovely.)

We spent the afternoon casually exploring the old city. A few shots follow.

The Capela da Peregrina in the heart of town ...

Wicked ice-cream ...

Our Parador, outside and in ...

Tomorrow the group splits – four of us divert shortly after Pontevedra and follow the Spiritual Deviation, whilst the other three walk straight on.

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