Friday, June 16, 2017

Day 35: The Mystery of the Girl from Seattle

Oct 21: I woke up at 7:00 and hit the trail as the sky started brightening an hour later. Perfect!

It was generally a pleasant day of walking with the trail leading through forests and away from the busy paved roads. There was one 400+ meter mountain thrown in to discourage pilgrims, and it had me sweating as I climbed up it. It was among one of the steepest, biggest mountains of the entire trail.

And the forest on it looked oddly like something out of a horror movie with bags of white sap attached to all of the trees as if it were part of a weird ritual. They were collecting sap to turn into syrup (I assume), but it made the forest look a bit spooky. The transparent plastic bags were generally full and messy and bulged from all the sap. I imagined that whoever collected this stuff had to have made a mess of themselves by the end of the day.

I wanted to touch one, to see what it felt like, but I didn’t really want to get my hand covered with sap and touched it with my trekking pole instead. I was surprised to discover that the contents of the bags felt like solid rocks. I tapped it with my finger. Rock hard. It looked so liquid-like! It just made everything all the more eerie.

My guidebook breaks up the trail into stages, and Rubiaes was the end of this day’s stage—a respectable 18.1 kilometers. But it was too short for me. I arrived into town at 12:30. I stopped for lunch at a cafe next door and kicked back for an hour or so, but the hostel wouldn’t open its door for hours. And it was still so early in the day! I could go further…. Get more miles in while the weather was good because the forecast did call for rain later in the week. I could do shorter days on the bad-weather days if I banked some extra miles today.

Another 11 or so kilometers ahead was a hostel I could stay at halfway through the next stage. That would give me about 30 kilometers today—a comfortable and decent pace.

When I arrived at the cafe in Rubiaes, I was the only person there. I had only seen two people on the trail all day. Most of the ones from the hostel in the morning were either still at the hostel when I left or had stopped at a cafe in town getting their coffee fix before hitting the trail. But while sitting at this cafe, a large group of about 20 bicyclists arrived unexpectedly and crowded the place to beyond capacity. It was a good time to keep going. I’m not at all fond of large groups of people.

A couple of hours later, I arrived at my new destination: the Quinta Estrada Romana. But when I arrived, they told me that they were closed due to “sickness.”

What?! Son a…. well, shoot! I pulled out my guidebook looking for the next place I could stay, but that was another 10 kilometers ahead on the trail in Valenca. There were forests around now. I could simply set up camp in the woods—which wasn’t an entirely unappealing thought, except that there was a real chance of rain during the night. I didn’t really want to camp in the rain.

I figured it would take me at least two hours to reach the next hostel. I’d need a short break somewhere. I’d already covered about 25 kilometers and I’m no Superman. Perhaps I could get there within 2.5 hours. I did the math in my head and concluded that I could make it into town before dark, but I’d be cutting it close. I pushed on.

My 18.1 kilometer day had just turned into a 34.3 kilometer day. Oops! I definitely overshot my goal! In fact, I’d cover the distance I had expected to complete in two days in just one day. It would also be my longest day on the trail since those back-to-back 40+ kilometer days on day 3 and 4—even edging out my third-longest day on the trail from just yesterday.

I arrived in Valenca near sunset. Valenca was the last town in Portugal. Just a kilometer or two away, over the Minho River lay Spain. Tonight would be my last night in Portugal. And this time when I left, I would not be returning. I got one of my beloved pastries at a cafe that evening knowing it would likely be the last time I’d have one. They weren’t ubiquitous in Spain like they were in Portugal.

I went to take a shower at the hostel, which was located behind a thin wall of the hostel bunkhouse. The wall was thin enough the I could hear two pilgrims talking in the bunkhouse and one was a female voice that introduced herself—I didn’t quite catch the name because I wasn’t really paying attention—then said she was from Seattle. Seattle?! I wondered if I might actually know the person.

That’s not to say that I know everyone in Seattle. The vast majority of people in Seattle, I don’t know. However, there is a very active Camino group in Seattle that goes on regularly scheduled walks every second Sunday of the month through Discovery Park that I often join, and if this person had done the same to learn more about the trail, there was a very real possibility we could have met before. If she didn’t know about the local Camino group in Seattle, she might be interested in it. I had to talk to this woman!

Except right now, I was naked and about to get into a shower. It could wait…. =)

I took my shower, put on my camp clothes (even though I’m not camping, I still think of my nighttime outfit as my “camp clothes”), and headed into the bunkroom to find the person from Seattle. But the bunkroom was empty.

I wandered down to the dining room and kitchen which had a few pilgrims. The only thing I knew about the person I was looking for was that it was a woman—it was definitely a woman’s voice I had heard—and not only was she from Seattle, but she also had the regular American accent. So I started eavesdropping on all the women in the dining room and kitchen. Foreign accent… nope! Another foreign accent. Nope! Nope! Nope…. I said “hello” to one woman sitting by herself and she replied with an accented “hello” in return. Nope, that wasn’t her. She wasn’t here.

Then I tried looking in the common room, but that room was empty. It was the last place I could think of to look for her. She must have gone out for dinner or something and wasn’t in the hostel anymore. I set up my laptop and got online in the common room—which is where I spent the rest of the evening. I kept my ears perked, listening for an American-accented woman, but I never did find the mysterious girl from Seattle.

If trees could talk, this one would be telling a story of torture and horror! Bloodbath!
All the trees faced the same fate--harvested sap!

View from the high point of the day
Evidence of autumn is in the air! If you're wondering how I got this remarkable photo of a leaf fluttering in mid-air, it was caught on some sort of web, but the web isn't really noticeable. Tricky, eh? =)

A horde of bicyclists "pushed" me out of the cafe. *nodding*

Medieval bridge

Lunch! Fit for a king! =) Okay, more of a snack. Fit for a hiker!

I tried to stay here for the night, but they said they were closed due to "sickness." *sigh* Onward!

Streets of Valenca


Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

Great pictures today! Just how big was that yellow flower?

PI Joe

Mary said...

I agree! The photos are always lovely but today they were exceptional.

Bon Echo said...

Hey, those are pine trees so they're definitely not being tapped to make syrup (gross). Did a little research, looks like the pine resin is collected to make turpentine or other related products.

Debbie St.Amand said...

Love the shoes with the flowers growing in them!