Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 37: Retracing my steps

Oct 23: During the night, a terrific storm hit the area. Heavy rain pelted the roof, lightning flashed through the windows and thunder shook the very foundations of the building. It was quite exciting, and definitely a good night not to be camping. The storm passed, though, and by morning, the skies were mostly clear.

But it was still dark. I woke up and was packed and ready to leave by 8:30—the official checkout time for the hostel, but it was still night outside without even a hint of the sunrise. Despite it being the official checkout time, I lingered not wanting to leave until the sun actually rose and the skies brightened. I might have felt a bit out of place if I were the only pilgrim lingering late, but about a dozen other pilgrims seemed in no great hurry and seemed to linger as well. I’d wait until we were formally thrown out or it got light outside—whichever came first.

By 9:00, the sun had started to rise and I felt it was time to get going. They didn’t have to throw me out after all. =)

I'm still a little surprised at how much Halloween stuff I've been seeing in store windows.
Today, I’d be hiking along the same stretch I walked with Amanda twelve days earlier between Redondela and Pontevedra. I knew this section. I knew there was a pop-up business on the side of the trail that sucked in pilgrims with the promise of a stamp then tried to sell them coffee, scallop shells and other trinkets. I wondered if the guitar-playing fellow would still be out there on the trail, playing his guitar while his buddies sold their trinkets to the passing pilgrims as well. Those particular people seemed more spur-of-the-moment kind of people. That first pop-up business seemed well established with a sign and everything to suck in pilgrims.

I was a little disappointed when I passed both of those locations, however, and neither of them were there. All of these pilgrims walking by, and nobody around to hawk their trinkets. Maybe it was considered the off season, but these people were missing some significant business! The trail was packed with people! I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if over a hundred people would walk by today. I would be surprised if less than 50 people passed by during the day.

I planned to stop at the same cafe in Arcade that Amanda and I stopped at 12 days earlier, but they too were closed. It seemed like all the businesses on the trail had closed down. The hostel where Amanda and I stayed at had also closed for the season on October 15th. The trail was closing down, but there were still so many of us on the trail. It made me wonder how crowded the trail might have been a month or two earlier!

In any case, I stopped at a different cafe in Arcade for a break. The bottom of my left foot was starting to get a little sore, so I looked at the bottom of my shoe to investigate the problem when I noticed that there was a small hole in it. Not because something punctured it, but just because I wore it completely through! The only thing between my foot and the ground was a sock and the shoe insert! When I took the shoe insert out, I could actually poke my little finger through the hole at the bottom of my shoe. It was just a tiny little hole, but it would undoubtedly get bigger and I expected that a shoe liner and sock would eventually wear through as well.

It was a disturbing development. I had been planning to throw away the shoes at the end of my hike anyhow since they now had about a thousand hiking miles on them. I used them along the entire C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage. Then I used them along the entire length of the John Muir Trail. Then I used them walking from Lisbon to Santiago, and now from Porto to my current location. They had a lot of miles on them and they were ready to be retired. But I was also less than 50 miles from the end of the trail in Santiago. I really didn’t want to buy a new pair of unknown, untested shoes so close to the end of the trail. Maybe they’d hold together just long enough to get me to the end of the trail. Maybe….

I continued on, and the sky started filling with angry-looking clouds. The weather was taking a turn for the worse, but I hoped the rain wouldn’t start until I was done with the day’s hike.

Late in the day, the trail split into a road walk and a pleasant creek-side walk. Amanda and I had done the pleasant creek-side walk the last time we went through so today I decided to do the road walk for a change of scenery. As I walked past the junction, a couple of pilgrims pointed to the arrows pointing to the creek-side route suggesting that I was going the wrong way, and car pulled over seemingly wanting to help and suggested that the creek-side path was the much nicer alternative.

“No!” I said, “I know what I’m doing! I did that route last week, and it is indeed wonderful! But I want to see something new today! I’m taking the road! You can’t stop me!”

The road was considerably less scenic, as I knew it would be, but I’m glad I took it anyhow. I saw new statues and houses that I hadn’t seen before. The last ten minutes of the day, the rain finally started. It was a drenching downpour, a heavy rain with large, fat raindrops that pounded heavily on my umbrella. At least the road walk wouldn’t be muddy like the creek-side walk probably was.

Ten minutes! I shook my hand at the heavens. “You couldn’t wait for another ten minutes?!

I reached the alburgue at the edge of Pontevedra, just across the street from where Amanda and I stayed at a hotel during our last time through. It was 1:00, exactly the time when the alburgue opened its doors to pilgrims. Two other pilgrims were already there when I arrived, so I was the third person to check in and scored myself a bed at the corner of the room. A prime spot which minimized the number of people around me. =)

I had covered a short 18.2 kilometers—a nice break after three consecutive 30+ kilometer days. And now that it was pouring rain outside, I was glad to finally use some of my banked miles to take a short da. Now that it was going to rain the rest of the afternoon, I had absolutely no desire to walk anymore.

I took a shower then got online, and in the late afternoon during a short break in the rain, dashed outside to grab dinner at a restaurant before heading back to the hostel for the night. I had to walk back in the rain again, but that was okay. I brought my umbrella just in case, and it wasn’t far. By the end of the night, over 40 pilgrims would be spread out across two rooms. The hostel wasn’t at capacity, but sheesh! There were a lot of people around!

Such a cool display of scallop shells! =)

This is the Ponte Sampaio over the Verdugo River. The bridge was built in 1795 over earlier foundations, and it was here that local militia inflicted a significant rout on Napoleon's troops during the War of Independence.

Kind of a creepy thing to see on the trail....

I think I confused these two pilgrims when I told them to go left then I went straight on an alternative path. =)

How can a pilgrim pass by this cafe without stopping?! =)

The Spiritual Variant looks like fun! =)

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