Monday, May 22, 2017

Day 24: Getting Lost and Pilgrim Crowds

Oct 10: Once again, Amanda got another head start on me. I'd hang back in Vigo for the sun to come up before starting. Our plan was to cover about 19 kilometers today, although if Amanda was struggling at the end of the day, it would be possible to stop a few kilometers earlier.

So Amanda was off, and I followed suit about an hour later. This particular route wasn't marked, though, so we had to go strictly with the maps for navigation--which weren't especially detailed. It wasn't long before I suspected that I missed a turn somewhere. I wound up walking about a kilometer in the wrong direction before I reached a small creek near a towering railroad bridge which I could use as a landmark and confirm my location on the map. Argh! It was a scenic setting, but entirely in the wrong direction. I wondered if Amanda was having as much trouble navigating these streets as I was.

At this point, I could keep going in the same direction I was heading. Eventually, this road would merge with the route that I was supposed to be on and being so far out already in the wrong direction, I was tempted just to run with it and keep going until it reconnected with the trail. But I was afraid if I did that, I might wind up ahead of Amanda if she was walking slowly on the correct path and I wouldn't even know I was ahead of her.

So I decided to backtrack, eventually finding the alburgue that was supposed to mark my turn off the road. The alburgue was in a huge building--impossible to miss the building! But the sign that labeled the building as an alburgue was about two inches tall and easily missed--which is exactly what had happened. *grumbling*

The trailed turned up a tiny alley--I wasn't even sure if the alley went all the way through or dead-ended around the corner. It was a steep climb too, and with no arrows to follow, I got the sense that I was heading in the wrong direction again. Surely this couldn't be correct?

But the narrow alley kept going, eventually reaching a small, pedestrian-only bridge over a set of railroad tracks that gave me some sense that maybe I really was going in the correct direction after all. But dang, this section of the trail was seriously steep! If Amanda found the turn and had gone this way, I knew she'd be cursing the steepness of the slope.

The trail then passed a busy highway--another good sign--and up to a smaller (but still busy) road where I finally spotted a yellow arrow. YES! The main coastal route (which is well-marked) was supposed to merge with the path Amanda and I were on, so I had reached the merge! I was back on the main coastal route and now I had arrows I could follow the rest of the day making navigation much easier.

I was ready for a break at this point. It was stressful trying to navigate my way around the complicated streets of Vigo with nothing more than a bad map and my wits. But Amanda was ahead somewhere, and considering how much trouble I had following the trail, I was a bit concerned that Amanda could have gotten as lost as I had. I wanted to find her and make sure she was okay.

So I kept going. The route for the next dozen kilometers was almost entirely and completely flat. It was so flat and the curves in the trail so gentle, I strongly suspected that it might have been an old railroad that had been turned into a walking/biking path, but that was just a guess on my part. I picked up speed and covered ground rapidly. The views were wonderful, overlooking high above the Vigo estuary. A very pleasant section of walking.

About a half hour later, I found a message that Amanda had carved into the dirt with my name which made me feel a lot better. I knew that Amanda was still ahead of me, and if she had gotten lost coming out of Vigo, at least I knew she had found the trail eventually and now had this well-marked, flat trail to follow the rest of the way into Redondela.

And another half hour later, I finally caught up with Amanda who had, indeed, gotten as lost as I did while leaving Vigo. It sounded like she created her own path to the main coastal route after missing the same sneaky turn that I initially did. She had been frustrated and annoyed at the lack of marking and the steep climb to our current location, but she had done it and succeeded.

We walked the rest of the way into Redondela together. Redondela was a turning point for us on the trail for it was here that the Coastal Route merged back into the Central Route. By the time we reached where the two trails merged, Amanda was exhausted and her feet hurting, so we stopped at a nearby restaurant for snacks and drinks.

Amanda ordered the octopus--disgusting little creatures that she enjoyed having a slithering tentacle hanging out from her mouth just to gross me out. I ordered the croquettes.

We had made pretty good time despite our getting lost earlier, and so we had a solid hour or two that we could rest at the restaurant. I required a minimum 1 hour break for Amanda to rest. We still had another 3.1 kilometers to do to reach our goal for the day, and I knew the rest would do Amanda well. And since we had the time, I was going to make sure she rested.

Our location was convenient since we were able to watch the pilgrims from both the coastal and central routes walking into town and during the next hour, we were astounded at the huge volumes of people walking in from the central route. Dozens of people passed us. Sometimes in large groups, and sometimes just one or two people walking by themselves. In the one hour we had been sitting there, I saw more pilgrims walk by than I'd seen on this entire trip so far!

"Where did they all come from?" I asked Amanda rhetorically. "This is the off season! It's October for God's sake!" By comparison, we didn't see a single pilgrim walk in from the coastal route during that timespan. The central route, clearly, got a lot more traffic than the coastal route.

A lot of these people, we also knew, were hurting. Limping badly, clearly suffering from blisters and other ailments. It wasn't a surprise. Many of them had probably started the trail just a day or two earlier. Most people who walk the Camino de Santiago do the absolute minimum distance required to get a compostela in Santiago--which requires 100 kilometers on foot. For those hiking the Portuguese Way, that means starting in Tui, Spain, only about 30 kilometers away. I'm sure several of the people who walked by started in Porto and locations between Porto and Tui, but statistically, we knew that more people start in Tui than in any other city along the path. Which is kind of ironic considering Tui to Santiago was completely in Spain. Not much of a Portuguese route for those people!

Despite knowing that we were joining back on the busier Central route, both Amanda and I were surprised at the hordes of pilgrims walking into town. It was still the off-season, after all. At least we thought it was the off season.

When I took the train back to Porto then followed the Central Route back to Santiago again, I'd become one of these people. I figured I'd be back in Redondela in about two weeks, perhaps eating croquettes at this very restaurant and watching pilgrims walk into town. I wondered if there would be a noticeable decrease in pilgrim numbers two weeks later. I kind of hoped so. I liked company--but I liked it in moderation. Hoards of people don't excite me.

In any case, after Amanda was well rested, we paid our bill and continued through town, eventually reaching a hostel a couple of kilometers out of town. Amanda and I were stunned to discover that the hostel was almost entirely devoid of other pilgrims. The room could hold 24 people, but there were just five of us staying here--which included Amanda and myself! The other three included a couple from Germany who we would see somewhat regularly the next few days and an Australian that we never saw again after tonight. Where did all those other pilgrims we saw going into town go?! How busy does this trail get during the busy season?!

I had told the others that I might be there again in a couple of weeks since I planned to go back to Porto then walk to Santiago a second time, but the person running the hostel told me that that would not be an option because they were closing for the season on the 15th--less than a week away. I'd have to stay at some other hostel on my next trek through.

Not a big deal--plenty of other hostels were around--but it was something of an eye-opener for me. This really was the off-season. Things were closing down. Hostels were mostly empty--despite the hoards of people we saw walking into town. I had a hard time imaging what it must be like during the busy season!

The hostel allowed us to have our clothes washed and dried, and Amanda wanted to get her clothes washed for the first time on the trail. I figured I may as well too. After 24 days on the trail, it was about time my clothes were washed. So we had our clothes washed--all except for the ones we were wearing, of course.

The hostel also had a pile of brochures available about the Spiritual Variant. My guidebook showed a small offshoot of the Central Route up ahead on the trail on a map showing the network of Camino paths throughout Europe, but it had no information about the route and I didn't think much of it. Until I found this brochure about the trail. It showed distances and the locations of two hostels along the route. It showed where the Spiritual Variant veered off from the Central Route, and where it would merge again even further up the trail. And one segment even had a boat ride!

Amanda wasn't interested in doing it. She was focused on Santiago now and had a schedule to keep. But I'd be passing through again in a couple of weeks. I could do the Spiritual Variant the second time around and see some new places instead of repeating two days of walking. Yep, I just added a new route to my hike. In a couple of weeks, I'd hike the Spiritual Variant. *nodding*

Being well outside of Redondela's town center and far from restaurants, Amanda and I got the pilgrim dinner provided by the hostel where we chatted with the other three people in the hostel for much of the evening before calling it a night.

I didn't realize it at the time, but later--when I took the train from Santiago to Porto, I'd have to switch trains here in Vigo at this train station. So about a week later, I'd be at this very location again! Only for an hour or so to switch trains, though.
Halloween seems to be a big deal in Spain!

It somehow seems... insulting... that they'd use scallop shells (the symbol of the Camino) as ashtrays here.

It was upon reaching this creek with the impressive railroad bridge that I knew I had missed my turn in Vigo and had to backtrack more than a kilometer back to the trail.

I hate when that happens. *nodding*

It's a waterfall! Woo-who! I would have liked to take a break here, but I was still trying to catch up with Amanda at the time. (Later, she would tell me that she did take a break here. Rub it in, why don't you?!)
Gives new meaning to the term "rockfish", eh? =)
The views of the Vigo estuary once we reached the top of the trail were awesome!
The trail was also absolutely wonderful. No cars, well-marked, easy to follow and flat as a pancake!

Fun with food! =)


Camino shells for sale

Watch out for speedbumps!

Amanda thought about replacing her trekking pole... but no, she'll stick with what's working!
Our hostel for the night!
Our bunk beds for the night! =) I took the top bunk and Amanda took the bottom one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The estuary in Vigo is pretty at sunrise. And the waters are full of rafts where they grow oysters.

Di and her guy