Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 63: Camping With Chestnuts

Dscn4702bOctober 13: The night was bitterly cold, and Karolina got up at dawn and started hiking immediately in an attempt to warm up saying that she didn’t sleep well at all. I was a tad chilly in my sleeping bag, but not so cold that it made me want to get out of it quite yet, so Karolina went on ahead without me. The alternative path we were camped on wasn’t well marked, so she took a look at my map to create a mental picture of where to go. “Basically,” I said, “it looks like you stay more-or-less straight on this dirt road until you hit a paved road, then follow to the right until you hit another paved road. At that point, you should be back on the main path and have a well-marked path to follow.” The actual trail on the map had some places where you could cut off corners that would take you off the paved road in places and marginally shorten the walk, but those options could be hard to find if they weren’t marked well.

On this section of trail, I did have a primitive map of the route—a map that Karolina didn’t have. In fact, very few hikers had maps of anything passed Santiago—they were very hard to come by! Most people merely carried a list of towns, alburgues, and other important waypoints along the route to Finisterre or Muxia picked up from the tourist office in Santiago. No map, though—just a list of waypoints with their distances. I actually did have a map—at least for the section between Santiago and Finisterre. My map, however, did not extend all the way to Muxia. Karolina had no map at all, though, which is why she had to study mine to make sure she made it back to the main path okay.

I was a little concerned about how cold Karolina was, though. She survived the night, obviously, but if she was too cold, she might not want to camp out anymore and although she didn’t say it yet, I worried that she wouldn’t camp outside tonight, and it’s not like we’d be passing through any large towns where she could get warmer gear even if she were so inclined. I feared I’d be losing my camping buddy again.

I followed Karolina, leaving camp about 40 minutes later. I didn’t expect it to take more than a couple of hours to catch up with her since she was walking relatively slow due to a painful toe, and indeed, I did catch up with her walking out of Ponte Olveira. She had a wild story about turning the wrong way and ending up in A Picota where she stopped at a grocery store. I was jealous—I wanted to stop at a grocery store too, but there were none along our path today. A Picota was off trail and while we knew about the grocery store there, we hadn’t intended to go out of our way for it. Karolina did, though—even if it was purely by accident after getting lost.

“And,” she continued, “I was chased by two angry dogs!”
Yeah, I know how that feels. “I bet they were talking with those cows from yesterday,” I told her.

It’s fortunate Karolina made it to Ponte Olveira when she did, because that was the town where she reconnected with the trail. Not knowing she had gotten lost, if she had gotten into town even ten minutes later, I’d have already passed through and kept assuming she was still ahead, not realizing that she would have then been behind me and probably getting further and further behind since I was walking faster. I came literally within a few minutes of missing her completely!

Karolina and I stopped at a bar in Logoso for a Coke, and I wrote in my journal, “Karolina is walking slow due to a pain in a toe. There’s not really any reason for me to slow down with her if she’s not going to camp again, except just to be with a friend. Tomorrow will probably be our last day together.”

I read that now and laugh, because as it turned out, Karolina and I split ways at the very point I wrote that. The weather had cleared and was bright and sunny, and I threw out my tarp to dry out on a concrete slab by us. The bar also hosted an alburgue, and while we were there, Karolina decided that she wanted to stay the night right there. Her toe was giving her problems and she hoped taking it slow might help, and figured to get into Finisterre two days later. I wanted to keep going, though—it was far too early in the day for me to want to stop, and the weather was absolutely wonderful. I wanted to take advantage of it while it lasted. I also didn’t want to take two days to get into Finisterre.

I was a little sad to leave Karolina behind, though, but the wheels in my head started turning. “Two days to Finisterre, eh?” I said, thinking. “What if I meet you there?”

So I hatched onto a plan where I’d hike to Muxia first, arriving there tomorrow, then on to Finisterre the next day—two days later and the same day Karolina expected to arrive. The trail forked just a few kilometers ahead, one direction leading to Finisterre and the other to Muxia, and another trail connected the two. I wanted to visit both towns, and originally Karolina and I planned to go clockwise around the loop to hit both towns. My idea was to take the path counter-clockwise instead, hitting Muxia first then Finisterre. Karolina would cover about 1/3 of the loop and I’d cover the other 2/3 of the loop, meeting up again in Finisterre and the “End of the World.”

Once my tarp had dried from the overnight condensation, I packed up and gave Karolina a hug goodbye. “Just in case—for whatever reason—we don’t meet up or can’t find each other in Finisterre,” I told her, “I want a proper goodbye!” Last time we split up, I didn’t find her again for over three weeks. I didn’t have three weeks to find her again—I’d be going home in three days.

So I continued on without her. It was a beautiful day for walking, though, and my spirits were high. A few kilometers later, I reached the fork in the trail. The left fork heading to Finisterre, and the right fork headed to Muxia. I took the right fork, and barely a kilometer later, I crested over the top of a ridge and, way out on the horizon, I saw it. A giant body of water, sparkling blue. The Atlantic Ocean. I gasped in surprise and delight. The end of the trail. The end of the world, even. The end of the Old World, at least. I knew I was approaching the ocean, but I hadn’t expected to actually see it until I arrived in Muxia—or at least somewhere close to it. I was still nearly 30 kilometers away!
I felt a ping of sadness, though. I didn’t really want to stop walking, and seeing the Atlantic Ocean really hit me hard. I reflected on my other long-distance walks, and with every one of them, I was glad to be finishing my hikes. Oh, I had a good time with them, but when I finished those hikes, I wanted to be done. I was tired of the hiking, and the rain, and the exhaustion. I’d been on the trail for about two months now, and I wasn’t tired of it this time. I didn’t want to be done.

The trail descended again, and hills hid the Atlantic Ocean again—a feature I would not see again for the rest of the day.

The one benefit I got from changing to a counter-clockwise direction around the loop was that I now passed through Dumbria in the afternoon, a town that had a grocery store in which I could resupply. It wasn’t much of a grocery store, but it would get the job done. While wandering up and down the aisles, however, the clerk asked me if I had eaten lunch yet.
“No,” I answered, a little suspiciously. What kind of question was that?

Then he invited me to a BBQ just outside in the parking lot that was going on. I had seen them when I walked into the store but hadn’t thought much of it. “It’s free!” the clerk told me. “You’ll be our guest!”

How could I say no? He took my basket of goods and set them aside and led me outside to the BBQ. I skipped the fish and wine—not being big on either of those—but ate sausages and ribs which tasted fantastic and drank water. No one of the group spoke any English so I conversed a bit in Spanish telling them where I was from. Eventually, though, I had to get going, so I thanked the group and finished my grocery shopping.

I continued my hike, and late in the afternoon, set up camp in a field of chestnuts a little past the small town of A Grixa. I had to clear my campsite of the chestnuts on the ground—sharp little buggers, those were! I kicked them out of the grass with my shoes and set up my tarp between two chestnut trees. By sunset, the clouds were rolling in, and rain was a distinct possibility. Yep, I definitely need to set up my tarp for the night. Better safe than sorry!

Once it got dark, I laid in my sleeping bag and listened to my iPod for lack of anything else to do. My headlamp was still on the fritz and not working, so once it got dark, I couldn’t read or write in my journal. I suppose I could have pulled out my laptap and type something up, but I didn’t want to run down the battery. I might need it in town to get online later.

So I just laid in the dark, listening to my iPod until I got tired enough to fall asleep.

I saw these two cats curled up with each other on the trail.
I called them Yin and Yang. =)

The trail splits. To the left, Finisterre (and Fisterra).
To the right, Muxia. I’d go to Muxia first.

It took my breath away when I reached this viewpoint and…
what’s that I see? Is that the Atlantic Ocean? By golly, I think it is!

A cemetery in Dumbia where I refilled my water. (Even now,
I still wanted to prove Maria from Budapest wrong about all
cemeteries having potable water, but I had to concede
at this point… she was probably right.) The above-ground crypts
were certainly a lot different than the cemeteries I saw
in France, though!

This man was in charge of cooking the meat for the BBQ in Dumbria. =)


The eucalyptus trees reminded me a lot of where I grew up
in California. =)

I don’t really know what inspired me to take this photo,
but I rather like it. =)

Set up camp under some chestnut trees. =)

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