Sometime this morning I realized that walking had become a habit. I no longer thought about it unless my feet were hurting badly. I never even noticed my backpack.
In fact, it had become part of a larger set up habits:
- Get up early, close up the pack and set out, eating a pastry bought the day before on the way.
- Talk with Judy for a while and then gradually separate and walk alone for an hour or two.
- Meet up at a rest stop where we ate the bread, cheese and fruit in our packs. I’d have water; Judy would have her beloved chocolate milk; Dirk would consume the first of two Cokes he brought.
- Walk alone or together until near our destination, then walk into town together.
- Shower, wash and hang clothes, eat and then spend the evening talking with whomever we met in the albergue.
- In bed by 10:00.
Before the trip, this would have seemed monotonous. In reality, it was simple and very refreshing.
Today had us walking along the path and remains of Via XIX, one of the old Roman roads through Galicia connecting Braga with Astorga via Lugo. It was exciting to come to a corner of a path in the woods and find a miliario—a Roman marker originally set every 1480 meters—standing there “out in the wild.” Most of these 2-ton columns are long gone. Others have been moved into museums, leaving behind a plague or a modern replica. But not all and we’d come across stones that were erected just over 2000 years ago still standing out in the middle of nowhere.
There was a lot of cobblestone this day and, despite it not being a long day, my feet hurt. The words of Jan from the Netherlands, a man who has walked several caminos, come to mind. Said with a smile, “The Camino Francés is about community. The Via de la Plata and the Camino del Norte are about solitude. The Caminho Português is about penance!”
We got to Redondela before the albergue—a fully restored tower house from the middle ages—was open. While waiting, Kara from Netherlands stopped by. She was going to push on a little further. We had met her the night before and found out that she had started from the Lisbon area and had walked up by herself, camping in fields and living on the generosity of villagers. I wouldn’t have wanted to carry her pack; it weighed around 15 kilos. She was obviously quite fit but did admit it had become too heavy, especially since her feet were blistered from walking in unbroken-in boots.
Dirk and Judy headed off to find a cafe with WiFi (I still chuckle at the “weefee” pronunciation). He liked to Skype his wife every day and Judy like to update the Facebook page she used to keep her family up-to-date on her journey. Even though it was raining, I just enjoyed sitting on the square and watching the people. With my feet tucked under the bench to keep my boots dry, my rain jacket keeping my body dry and my Akubra keeping my head dry, I was warm enough; what’s not to like?
I had wondered whether bringing that hat was mistake because it wouldn’t fold up. There were a couple times when I wasn’t wearing it and the wind came up that it was an annoyance. I had started out slinging it on the back of my pack but that was too hard to reach, so I put a carabiner on the chest strap of my pack that would hook the hat’s stampede strap. I could just pull the hat off and drop it and it would sit nicely against my chest…except when the wind slapped it around and I had to hold it.
Still, it was good as a sun hat and, when it poured, it really came into its own. My head, neck and face would be bone dry while the brims of Tilley hats were collapsing from the deluge and those wearing rain jacket hoods kept saying, “What? I can’t hear you,” and complaining of no peripheral vision. Plus, hung from the underside of the top bunk, I had a perfect place for glasses and wallet at night.