Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Day 7: And then there were three

Sept 23: I woke up and hit the trail at around 7:40. Mary seemed a little cranky at my early start but decided to leave with me. Drats. I was a bit tired myself after being out so late the night before, but I wasn't going to let that slow me down. I had 32.5 kilometers to go to reach Rabacal, my destination for the day. I hoped to ditch Mary at some point. The day before she complained that she'd never do anymore 30-km days and she would stick to 20-km or under. I was very anxious to do another 30km day. =) I was a little disappointed when she told me that she was thinking about walking the first 20 and then taking a bus or taxi ahead to Rabacal. Dammit! We would be sure to meet again! Why couldn't she just walk 20 km then stop?!

Almost immediately, we ran into Hagar, an Israeli girl that Mary had crossed paths with before. I hadn't met Hagar before and introductions were made. In my head, I was thinking Run! Save yourself and run! On the other hand, I also hoped that she'd start hiking with us--if for no other reason than to help insulate me a bit from Mary. Give me someone else a bit more sane to talk to. I knew she had crossed paths with Mary before, but I wondered how much they had tried talking to each other. Did Hagar really understand what she was getting into with Mary? Presumably not because Hagar soon started walking with us.

It didn't take long before Mary commented to Hagar that her name resembles the English word 'haggard,' and if Hagar didn't know that, then she should know. In case someone tries to make fun of her name or something, I suppose. In my head, I was screaming: Why the #$*@ would you tell someone that?! Do you walk up to people named Dick and explain that it's also a term for penis?! And what do you expect her to do? Change her name?

I wasn't sure if Hagar had heard of the word before or not, or if she had recognized it as being similar her name. Hagar's English was very good, though, and I would have assumed she'd be familiar with the word--but English wasn't her first language and who knows? Maybe not, but good grief, why would anyone tell someone that?

In unrelated news, Hagar was also looking to meet a guy on the trail named Miguel to fall in love with.

"That seems like a weirdly specific requirement of a guy," I asked. "Why?"

She explained that there's a popular song in Hebrew where a guy named Miguel calls a girl in Israel, and she thought it would be awesome if the song came true. Everyone would be envious if she were with a Miguel.

"I'll keep my eyes open," I told her, "and send any Miguels I meet your way."

I pretend to climb out from a hole in the wall. (The trail didn't really go through the hole.)

I rather enjoyed chatting with Hagar. This was her second Camino walk after completing the Camino Frances with her brother some time earlier. She told us they had created a "game" of sorts where they would assign "pilgrim points" to pilgrims on the trail. It was on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the "perfect" pilgrim and 1 being the "worst" excuse for a pilgrim.

"And how would someone get a perfect score of 10?" I asked.

"They'd have to hike in sandals, use a wooden cane picked up from the trail, and only drink holy water."

"I see...." I rather liked this idea of scoring pilgrims. Men would have to stop shaving and grow bushy beards. Women would have to stop shaving too, but obviously they wouldn't have to grow big bushy beards. A true pilgrim would probably never wash his clothes but would pray before every meal and stop at every shrine along the trail. They couldn't use credit cards either. A real pilgrim wouldn't be caught dead with a credit card in his pocket. He'd have to beg for money to fund his journey. Start with nothing, and end the trail with nothing.

Mary interrupted to tell us how much she really needed her expresso fix for the day. She hadn't had her expresso and she needed it badly.

"You lose half a pilgrim point for caffeine addiction," Hagar told her without missing a beat. Ha! Oh, that's wonderful! =)

"It's worth it!" Mary agreed. "I'll happily trade half a pilgrim point for an expresso!"

I joked to Hagar that Mary will complain about needing an expresso until she finally gets one, then she'll spend two hours afterwards telling you how awesome the expresso was and that it really hit the spot and gave her energy. In my head, I was thinking my joke might hit a little too close to home and it would piss Mary off--but I didn't really care. A bit to my surprise, Mary seemed to think it was funny. "You know me so well! And we only met yesterday!" Good Lord, has it only been that long? Seemed like it's been a month or two.

A bit later, after our conversation moved on to other topics, Mary pointed out to Hagar that I had sewed my own pack--and Hagar seemed amazed at that wanting to take a closer look at my pack. I stopped and took off my pack for a moment to point out some of the features I sewed into it. I'm proud of my pack and I like showing it off. =) After taking a closer look at it, she said I got two pilgrim points for sewing my own pack. Two points! YES! Score!

Being from Israel, it came as no surprise when Hagar told us that she came from a Jewish background, and when Mary brought up something about the Holocaust, Hagar said she didn't want to talk about politics or religion and the usual controversial stuff except to note that thinking about the Holocaust made her sad. Which was understandable--thinking about it makes me sad too and I'm not even Jewish.

Instead of taking the hint, though, Mary doubled down and told Hagar that it wasn't just Jewish people who had been killed in Europe--all sorts of people were killed in Europe. Almost as if that was supposed to cheer her up--that the Jewish population wasn't the only group being targeted. In my head, I was just thinking, OMG! I can't believe you just said that! Seriously, WTF is wrong with you?!

Hagar replied that she didn't want to get into an argument about who killed more of who--with a surprisingly amount of grace and restraint. But Mary still wouldn't shut up.

"It's history. It is what it is. You can't change it!" Mary continued.

Hagar seemed upset with the whole discussion, and I couldn't blame her. Was Mary trying to pick a fight with Hagar? Because I was ready to hold Mary down if Hagar wanted to take a couple of swings. Well, okay, maybe I didn't really want an actual fight to break out, but good grief, what the hell was wrong with Mary? What part of Hagar not wanting to talk about politics or religion did Mary not understand? I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request.

Hagar balances a trekking pole on her chin. Everyone has a special talent! =)

Hagar was planning to do a very short day into Ansaiao--about 15 kilometers--and she eventually stopped to take a break saying that she was covering too much ground too quickly. She didn't want to get into town too early then be bored all afternoon. She was meeting a friend in Porto on October 9th and had to do about 10-15 kilometers per day to arrive on schedule. I was pretty sure it was a convenient excuse to ditch Mary as well. I would have preferred to stay with Hagar, but I needed to be in Porto by October 1st to meet Amanda and had to keep to a 20-30 kilometer per day schedule to arrive in time. For the time being, I was still stuck with Mary. She was like a festering blister.

I said something about having "miles to do," and Mary corrected me again. "It's kilometers," she told me. "We're in Europe."

No, you dipwad, I thought to myself. I used the term 100% correctly. But I knew it was useless to argue. If I had said it was 5 miles to a town but it was really 5 kilometers, that would be incorrect. And it's actually something that happens a lot to me--I often do say miles out of habit when I mean to say kilometers. It's a mistake I make quite regularly and I know it. In this case, however, it was a general statement. "I have miles to do!" I wasn't referring to distance at all. I could have just as well said that "I have meters to do!" or "I have astronomical units to do" and it would have been a perfectly valid--albeit weird--statement. I'm an American speaking American English. There's nothing wrong with that.

As we approached Ansiao, Mary said something about it being the "halfway" point for the day. I blame myself for this--I had told her in the morning that it was about halfway and would make a good place to stop for lunch, but technically, it was a kilometer or two short of the actual halfway point. Now that we were closing in on it, I fessed up that it was "almost" halfway--14.5 kilometers of a 32.5 kilometer day. About the 45% mark.

And Mary went ballistic on me.

"You have such an enormous ego!" she practically yelled. "Do you always have to be right on everything?! Can't you ever admit when you're wrong?!"

I wasn't sure what to say. I kind of was admitting that I was wrong--that the town wasn't quite halfway. She continued tearing into me: "Don't you want to better yourself on the trail? Be a better person?! This is a pilgrimage, and we should all be trying to make ourselves better people!"

I was speechless. I rather like who I am. No, I'm not perfect, but I like who I am. I try to fair and honest. But I've also done a lot of walking. I don't think when I reach the end of this trail I'll somehow be a different or better person than when I started it. Maybe at the end of my first long-distance hike, but after you've done a dozen of them, they feel more like scratching an itch than a life-defining moment.

But I could certainly imagine a lot of potential improvements for Mary. Like patience, calm, and understanding. But Mary probably should have started her journey at the southern tip of Africa. It was going to take her awhile to work through all her issues. This short little trail, I knew, wasn't going to do anything for her.

I finally caught my breath and tried to explain, "I only mentioned that it wasn't quite the halfway mark so you wouldn't look at your map later and complain that we hadn't actually reached the halfway mark."

"And you're always so defensive about everything!" Mary continued.

I had to admit.... she had a valid point there. I was being defensive. It's a natural instinct when someone attacks. See? There I was--being defensive again--even if only in my thoughts. But was that bad? Is it inherently wrong to be defensive? What if I am correct? Should I just pretend that I'm not? Oh, hell, why do I even care what Mary thinks at this point? I didn't. That's the honest truth. I really didn't give a crap what Mary thought of me. If she thought I had a giant ego, she was entitled to her opinion and why should I try to discourage that thought? If she doesn't like me, she might stay away in the future. It was in my best interest to play up a giant ego!

But she didn't like me being defensive either, which was good. Hmm... was it better to play up the giant ego, or being defensive? Which would Mary dislike the most? I couldn't decide. I figured being defensive was more effort, though, and decided to stop arguing my case. Not like it would have done any good anyhow.

"Yeah, you got me," I mumbled. I kept walking, and Mary kept nearby asking if I wanted to keep hiking together. I should have just said no, but I couldn't do it. It was like a train wreck I couldn't stop watching. And inexplicably, Mary kept walking with me. Not always right next to me, but close enough to stay within view of each other.

Figs on a tree

We arrived in Ansiao where we stopped at a cafe with a glass case full of all sorts of amazing sweets and pastries and I picked out several items. I was going to get a sugar high for certain! I didn't care. Hagar caught up along with another pilgrim I hadn't met before--German, I think, but I don't think I ever saw him again after that. I did ask his name, which I later forgot--although I do remember that it was not Miguel. "Still looking for Miguel?" I joked.

Mary left briefly to check out the inside of a nearby church, and after she left I leaned over to Hagar and confessed that I needed to ditch Mary. I figured Hagar would understand my plight, which I think she did. I said that initially I thought I could ditch her today because I planned to hiked 32.5 km to Rabacal and that Mary wouldn't hike more than 20 kilometers per day anymore, but now she wants to take a taxi the last 12.5 km. I can't ditch the woman!

We didn't have time to discuss the issue in anymore depth, however, since Mary was already on her way back. Not only did I not want to walk with Mary anymore, but I didn't even want to see her anymore. Ever. But we were both hiking the same trail at roughly the same pace. Even if I avoided her all day, we could still end up at the same hostel at the end of the day. The only way to really avoid her was to skip a large chunk of trail or start doing short days like Hagar, but I didn't like either of those options either.

Hagar walked with us further into town. She planned to go to the fire station (I mean firehall--I swear, I meant to say firehall!) for the night, which was in the direction we were already walking. She peeled off shortly thereafter never to be seen again. (Well, I'm sure other people have seen her since then, but I haven't.) It was back to just Mary and myself.

I didn't really keep a close eye on landmarks on our way out of town. We took a short break at a nice viewpoint, and Mary asked where we were on the map. And... I wasn't sure. Based on the road we last crossed, I knew we had to be at one of two possible places on the map, and I told her that, but admitted that I wasn't entirely sure which of the two points we were at. If I had to guess--and it was mostly a gut feeling on my part--I guessed we were near the 20km point for the day.

Once we started walking again and hit another road (and obvious landmark), I immediately realized that my gut was wrong. We had been at the other of the two points. And as soon as I figured that out, I told Mary. "Nope, it was the other spot on the map where we had stopped for a break."

And good grief, Mary kept throwing that in my face as proof that I wasn't as perfect as I thought I was. Seriously? I told her I wasn't entirely sure which of the two points we were at, but I was correct--we had been at one of those two points! My guess about which of two points was incorrect, but I had told her straight off that it was a guess at the time I had made it. Christ, I wanted to take the Lord's name in vain. Mary was giving me a lot of excuses to do so.

"I did say that I was guessing," I told her.

"You're being defensive!" she retorted.

Goddammit... she was right! $#!^! I shut up again. I thought Canadians were supposed to be friendly. Mary must have been adopted into Canada. There's no way she could have been a native-born.

A short time later, Mary stopped and set her pack down, fiddling with something in it but told me to go on ahead and that she'd catch up. I had the distinct impression that she was... trying to ditch me. I looked her in the eye and asked if she was sure--I didn't mind waiting a bit--but she shooed me off and said she'd catch up. Maybe she was planning to pee or take a dump and needed some privacy. I wasn't entirely sure if she was trying to ditch me or not, but I didn't really care either. This was as good as time as any to ditch her.

I said, "Okay. See you later!" Then I turned around and started walking--and never looked back.

I walked fast. I walked as fast as I possibly could--just in case her plan to "catch up" wasn't just an idle threat. There was no way in hell she could keep up my pace for a sustained period. We had already done about 20 kilometers for the day which, I knew, was near the end of her daily limit already. So I hiked. Quickly. Without any breaks or to stop for a drink of water. There was no way in hell she was going to catch up with me. I might have to see her in town after she skips ahead in the taxi, but I would not see her again on the trail today. Nope, that was done. If--or more likely when I saw her later in town, I'd casually ask what happened to her. "You never caught up!" I'd say. "I stopped to wait for a while, but when you didn't show up, I assumed you must have caught the taxi ahead."

Yep, I had my excuses ready. =)

By the time I reached the hilltop village of Alvorge, I needed a break. I had walked long and hard, but even I had my limits and I needed a short rest. I sat down in the shade of a church, off on the side hidden from direct view of the trail. If a miracle happened and somehow Mary was actually able to catch up to me, I wanted her to walk past without seeing me. Then I could walk very slowly behind her. I didn't really expect that Mary would catch up or pass me, but better safe than sorry! I did want to stay close enough to the trail that I'd see if she passed me by.

Mary didn't pass by, however, and I continued my trek the rest of the way to Rabacal without any further incidents. In town, I tried knocking on the door of what I thought was a hostel but turned out to be an actual hotel. Nobody answered, though, and I went into the adjacent museum to ask if they knew anything about the hotel. Would someone show up later or what? The woman at the museum had a key for the hotel door and opened it up so I could wait in the lobby then called the caretaker to let her know she had a customer. I sat down in the lobby and read my Kindle to pass the time.

While waiting, Daniel--the Brazilian guy I met a couple of days earlier at the hostel came down to get on the Internet. He gave me the wi-fi code so I could get online while I waited to be checked in. I feared Mary lurked nearby. This late in the day, she had undoubtedly hailed a taxi into town and a town of 1,000 people didn't have a lot of lodging options. She'd probably be here. All pilgrims in town were probably in this hotel. I hoped to get checked in and hidden in my room before I crossed paths with Mary.

A half hour later the caretaker arrived and I paid 15 euros for a private room with its own bathroom. Just 15 euros?! It was a two-bed room with a private bathroom! How do these people stay in business? I didn't get the wi-fi signal in my room, though, and I would have to go down to the lobby to get online. I'd be exposed there. Mary could see me.

Later in the evening, I headed out and grabbed dinner at the Cafe Bonito then retired again for the night. Fortunately, I didn't run into Mary. But I knew she was still out there somewhere. I had a feeling I hadn't seen the last of her.

Mary also got upset about the cutting of lumber. "Why are they cutting down the few forests left in Europe?" Well... for one, eucalyptus trees are native to places like Australia--not Europe--so they're essentially an invasive species that crowds out native plants and animals. And second, the were planted by the lumber companies specifically so they could be harvested. (The proof, I told her, was the fact that they were usually lined up in nice, even, unnatural rows.) These forests wouldn't even exist if not for the lumber companies. Mary seemed to be under the impression that these were virgin forests or sensitive habitats. *shrug* I'm very pro-environment, but even I think there's no good reason to preserve forests of invasive species, and wood has to come from somewhere!

That is one of the strangest bottoms of a monument I'd ever seen! It looks like it could roll right off!

I like how they used a mini-house as the mailbox. =)

This was a neat little fountain. You had to turn the wheel really fast to get water to come out! I didn't even need water, but I had to stop and try it anyhow just for fun. =)

Olive trees
Fig tree

View from the window of my hotel room. =)


Debbie St.Amand said...

I'm really hating Mary, here.

If you look up, "Fire Hall," Wikipedia says: "A fire station (also called a fire house, fire hall, or firemen's hall . . ."

There are 14 photos, showing examples. Only ONE (in Toronto) calls it a Fire Hall. The rest are Fire Stations or Fire Houses.

So there, Mary!

Anonymous said...

Mary is karma for whomever you've wronged in your life.....mmm galena park false letterboxes ?????

Mary said...


You are very,very nice. I would have said good-bye to Mary after an hour or so on day one. Life is too short to deal with people like her!

Grrly Girl said...

I was telling a friend about you and Mary and Hagar.
If you were even 10% correct in you estimation of Mary, your consternation would still be valid.
Btw, Hagar - one meaning is "flight" and sounds like she lived up to her name.
Can you blame her?