Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Day 40: Bad Decisions....

Oct 26: I got up and hiking a few minutes after 9:00. The sun was rising, the sky was clear and blue, and life was good. The other four women in the hostel slept in late—they were in no rush. From this point, there were two different routes back to the main Camino path: you could take a boat, or walk. The walk was about 28 kilometers. The boat left directly from town and took you back to the main Camino path in Pontecesures in about an hour, but the boat wouldn’t leave until noon. Pretty much everyone takes the boat through the Arousa estuary and up the Ulla River because really, why not? It’s a beautiful area, it’s fast and easy, and the boat looks like one of those large, uncovered Zodiacs where the wind blows through your hair. It does cost 19 euros, but that wasn’t what discouraged me. Nope, I wanted to walk in order to keep my steps connected as much as possible for Walking 4 Fun. It was a work-related decision.

It would later prove to be a poor decision as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself….

Fish! That's always a good sign of good water quality, right? =)
For the most part, I knew the Spiritual Variant followed near the coastline—either in a boat or on foot, both routes followed near the coastline. While leaving town, I found some yellow arrows, but they seemed to point in the wrong direction at times and several times, I couldn’t find them at all, so I mostly selected the route that kept me closest to the coast. That’s where the views were best, and for the first few hours, this worked well enough.

I took minimal breaks wanting to push roughly halfway through the day’s hike where the estuary narrowed into the Ulla River. My hope was to get to where the water channel was narrow and any boats passing by would be in easy reach of my camera because I hoped to get a photo of the boat with the girls puttering by. In the estuary, they might go a mile offshore for all I knew, but in the narrow confines of the Ulla River, they’d be close. With a little zooming, I hoped to get something on camera that I might use later.

After the trail left Vilagarcia de Arousa, however, I began running into problems. As I already said, the trail was not well-marked anymore, but now it was about to become a much bigger problem. When I left first thing in the morning, I had been under the impression that the trail was well-marked. But no, it wasn’t, and without good maps and no markers to follow, I followed close to the water—which often led to dead-ends and required backtracking. Then the trail started following a busy, noisy highway—a miserable place to walk under any circumstances. The further I went inland, the fewer views I got to enjoy. The trail was not turning into the pleasure I had expected.

Eventually I neared the mouth of the Ulla River, and I beat a path off trail to a beach to finally stop, rest and sit down. I arrived at about 12:30. The boat should have already left Vilanova de Arousa, and they told me it was about a one-hour ride. Located roughly halfway along its length, I figured the boat should pass at around 12:30. I hadn’t seen it during my walk—I looked for it whenever I got to a viewpoint over the estuary—so I was cautiously optimistic that it hadn’t passed yet. Ideally, I’d have preferred being further up the river where the channel was narrower, but I had run out of time. This would have to do.


The location on the beach was wonderful, and I was well in need of a rest after marching for about three and a half non-stop hours. I pulled out snacks and kept my camera ready. I told the other four pilgrims—the two women from Switzerland and the two girls from Italy— about my plans so they could keep their eyes open for me walking along the shoreline. Mostly it was a game to see if we could find each other on our separate routes, but they knew I’d be out there somewhere.

The minutes clicked by, and I finished my snacks, but there was still no sign of the boat. As 1:00 clicked by, I was sure I must have missed the boat. It sneaked by before I had arrived. I wanted to take a one-hour break, however, so I wasn’t ready to go. I pulled out my Kindle and started reading.

A few minutes later, I heard a motor approaching. I looked up, and it was the boat! I could see a pilot and the four women in the boat, looking straight ahead and seemingly enjoying the wind through their hair whipping behind them. I grabbed my camera and clicked it on as I jumped up onto the beach waving. They didn’t seem to see me. The boat wasn’t particularly far away, but it wasn’t super close either. I zoomed the optical zoom of my camera to the max, but the boat was gone. It flew by in mere seconds, and I missed it!

I turned off my camera and lay down on the beach again to read my Kindle. Stupid camera wasn’t fast enough. Well, my not paying attention for the boat allowed it to sneak up onto me until it was too late to get my camera ready as well. I hadn’t expected the boat to go by so late—it should have already arrived at its destination by 1:00!

After my break was over, I headed back to the trail and followed the occasional yellow arrows I’d find. At least until just before the small town of Catoira when the arrows stopped utterly and completely and my day really went downhill after that. So many dead ends and wrong turns. At times, I followed roads a kilometer or more from the shoreline. I was never certain of my direction and zigzagged seemingly aimlessly at times.


After not seeing any arrows for a couple of hours, I finally found some freshly pointed ones. Yes! I was back on the right path! My nightmare was over!

I followed the yellow arrows through a town, under one bridge and over another. It led back to the beautiful coastline and passed near the impressive Torres de Oeste. And after about a half hour of following the now well-marked trail, the arrows stopped again. Completely and utterly stopped. It was as if they had started painting the arrows but never finished. Argh!

Once again, I took multiple wrong turns, checking out dead-ends all over the place. Eventually I ended up at a cafe which was closed up and locked when I arrived, but the woman inside opened it up when she saw me, and I asked for directions. She didn’t speak any English so I had to communicate in Spanish and tried to ask about how to get back to the Camino de Santiago. I didn’t have any maps available that she could point to, so she couldn’t tell me exactly where I was located nor the path I needed to follow out. Her directions, as far as I could tell, were to backtrack about 15 minutes to a road junction, and then turn left.

“And then?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Keep going.”

I was sure it was going to be more complicated than that. The temperature was hot out. For late October, it seemed like absurdly hot weather and I’d been sweating buckets all afternoon, so I bought a cold Coke, filled up a water bottle, then headed out again.

Within a half hour, I was at another dead end. I may have taken the Lord’s name in vain a couple of times. Okay, maybe more than a couple of times. Maybe too many times to count.


I followed the roads eastward, knowing they’d eventually have to hit the main Camino path somewhere. There was no way I could cross the Ulla River to the north without knowing it—it was much too large of a river to cross without going over a very large bridge. So I headed eastward following roads, which eventually merged into bigger and bigger roads.

And finally, I saw it: a road sign for Pontecesures. I was going in the right direction! YES!!!! All I had to do was follow those roads signs the rest of the way into town! I was saved!

I still saw no yellow arrows, but I followed the road signs into Pontecesures and eventually merged back onto the main Camino path a block or two before crossing the bridge over the Ulla River. I took the same path with Amanda a couple of weeks earlier. I knew where I was now. From here, I’d generally be following the same path we took all the way into Santiago. No more getting lost! What a difference a well-marked trail makes. I wished I had taken the boat. In hindsight, I should have taken the boat.

I had already planned for a relatively long 28 kilometer day, but based on my step counts, I added an unexpected 6 kilometers with dead ends and detours making it one of my longest days on the trail. I was hurting and exhausted when I finally reached the town of Padron.

I checked into a hostel at 6:00—far later than I had initially planned. After taking a shower, I went to a nearby restaurant to get some food then called it a night. I was beyond exhausted. I imagined the four other pilgrims who took the boat were probably in town, toasting themselves with wine and celebrating their wise decision to take the boat. They were probably halfway to Santiago already. Jerks. I was envious!



This strikes me as an odd statue. Why did they chop off the boxer at the knees?!




The trail goes right under this tower! (But you can go around it if that makes you nervous.)





It was a miserable road walk, but I'll tell you this much... I'd have gotten lost a lot less often if I just stayed on this road.
I'd watch the estuary for the boat with the four other pilgrims. They'll be going by at some point!



Fish in the estuary!

That mantis is creepy looking!




It seemed like there were hundreds of little fish in this small creek!


Torres de Oeste










Crossing over the Ulla River--and no longer on the Spiritual Variant. I'm back on the main Camino route, and now I'll largely repeat this section from here to Santiago.
The end of an exhausting day... finally! *whew*

1 comment:

Karolina Śmiech said...

It seems like on this hike every next day turn out to be one of your longest days on the trail! 😜 👣