The Way – part 14: Caldas de Reis to Padron – penultimatum

Before I begin with today’s walk, there are a few more observations from Caldas de Reis:

  • Our hotel had a “thermal mineral pool”, which we spent over half an hour in before deciding we needed dinner. Apparently the town is famous for such pools and spas, although it seems economically depressed.
  • As a result of said economic depression, many of the local restaurants and bars appear to have been shuttered. Those that remained open were quickly packed with pilgrims. Getting a table anywhere proved challenging.
  • Two of Google’s recommendations for restaurants were a complete bust, one of them apparently no longer open, and another clearly not an establishment worth visiting. A third was not a restaurant at all, but a cool bar with great music, fantastic wine, and a very pleasant proprietor.
  • The Spanish clearly do not care for breakfast. Or they don’t understand it. I believe it is the former. They want you to eat dessert for breakfast, with cakes and sweet pastries in abundance. There is cereal, but you will have to search, sometimes in vain, for cold milk. What I (and, in my opinion, all sensible people) want is something savoury, ideally a form of protein, even more ideally not square-cut ham. An egg. An egg would be fantastic. Bacon would be an excellent accompaniment. Or good, Spanish ham – Serrano, say. Keep the sweet nothings for the lunatics who want them, but please, allow me an egg.

Now that’s out of the way, we can begin. Today, of course, was the penultimate day of our Camino. Tomorrow, we will arrive in Santiago. But that is tomorrow. I shouldn’t begin with an ending – and not even today’s ending at that!

After a desultorily sweet breakfast, we set off into the cool, grey morning. Mist hung over the river, and muted the sounds of our footsteps on the quiet streets. We followed the yellow arrows out of town, and into the countryside.

We moved almost silently, among other almost silent perigrinos, through woods, following a pathway that itself followed a stream. Then the woods thinned out, and we moved through villages, the low clouds snagged on roof tiles, or caught in the tree tops, not willing to tear itself free.

We spoke with other travelers. A pair of women from Ireland. A young woman from Ukraine. A couple from Austria. Some had done Caminos before. Others, like us, were doing this for the first time. Some had taken the coastal route. Some had started in Tui, or later. Everyone has their own journey. No one can take it away from them.

Eventually we arrived in Padron, home of exquisite grilled peppers that we’ve grown to love over the past few days. Our hotel is just outside the town proper, in the bordering community of Lestrove. It is exquisite, inside and out. The closest thing to a drawback is that pool is frightfully cold. I can forgive that.

Tomorrow, as I mentioned, we’ll begin the final stage of our journey. We’ve already walked more than 200 km. There are roughly 25 to go.

But all endings are beginnings of something else.

The Way – part 13: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

After a day off in Pontevedra, it was time to be back on the Way today. We got up early, had our bags in the hotel lobby and were having breakfast by 7:30, and we set out a little after 8 a.m.

It was a cool start to the day, with a light mist suspended in the air, just grazing the rooftops as we made our way through the old part of town in a vaguely northward direction. Most of the shops and cafes were still closed, and the city was quiet in the morning twilight. At one point a lone fisherman cast his line into the river as the morning commuters slipped slowly by.

We walked alongside the river in the cool of the morning, enjoying being in motion again. It was peaceful, although there were many more perigrinos than had been the case even two days ago. A number of different pilgrim routes have converged now, and the paths – and the cafes – are often crowded now.

We opted to have a picnic lunch today, picking up a bocadillo of Serrano ham, queso and tomatoes, which we ate in the shade near some grape vines.

We encountered a number of cats, some of whom were keen to be picked up and held, purring like little motors.

We chatted with other pilgrims along the way, from Brazil, Ireland, Denmark, Australia and the U.S.

There were no big hills, and the temperatures remained manageable throughout the day. The threatened thunderstorms never materialized.

The hotel in Caldas de Reis seems grand from the reception area, but the room is plain, with little in the way of conveniences. It will be fine, though, for the night. Tomorrow we are on our way again: the penultimate day of walking. We’ll arrive in Santiago on Friday.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned not to do on this trip, it’s to think to far ahead. It’s best to just stay in the moment. And at this moment, it’s time to go find a drink before dinner.