Walking without a donkey. Via de la Plata: Days 4-6 

Day 4 – Laxe to Castro Douzon  1.12.16   19 km

Doorbells rung to ask the way, and tractors stopped for the same reason: 1 of each.

Items of clothing lost: 3. All necessary for the cold weather.

Doing T’ai Chi in the garden of the albergue before we leave is bitterly cold due to the unusual cold wind, especially as I lost my gloves and thermal leggings yesterday. We are high up here in Castro Douzon. There are swimming pools for adults and children though, and a playpark, so it must be lovely in summer. 

Today there’s a lot of walking by the busy roads with no pavements, which is hard on the feet, and less scenic. There are great vistas from the top after a good, steep climb though: layers of purple and blue hills in the distance, bright green fields, terracotta and stone villages, and matching trees.

Descending into valleys, we discover solid bridges over gleaming azure streams, reflecting the sky, which are full of vibrant green weed.

And we talk about women’s rights, pensions, how to say ‘kiss’ in different languages, and swap information about our 3 cultures – Maroc, French and British.

The local people kindly stop and tell us we are going the wrong way, and point helpfully in the direction of Santiago de Compostella. So we all learn to say that ‘no, we are walking ‘contrario’ towards Seville’, in Spanish. They also offer useful information like where and what to eat, and who serves the best ‘pulpo’ (octopus,  the local delicacy – delicious when tender). 

Weather: The sun shines but it’s colder. There’s the usual hard frost as we leave in the morning. 

Once we have arrived after our day’s walk, we get our credentials stamped and pay our dues, thankfully remove our boots, hobble to the dormitory to choose a bed and shower. Later, after visiting the local supermarket for supplies (flour, milk, eggs and sugar for crêpes; sachets of chocolate powder and of course pasta for the youngster; a tin of mussels and a sachet of olives for me), I visit the bar to catch up with family and friends no longer walking with me. The bar is owned by the same family and buying a tea (€1.20) allows me to sit there for more than an hour without any suggestion of buying more. It’s only when I’m given a lot of free crisps that I think I ought to order a small beer to make up for my second hour!

There are similarities between the two hostels – both have unexpectedly hot showers – bliss! Neither have working wifi. Both offer a blanket per person, and have heating, so our clothes and towels are dry by morning. Both have kitchens with utensils, and we can choose when to have the lights on or off. I’m getting used to the fact that there are always good things to be happy about. 

Day 5 Castro Douzon to Cea. 2.2.16.  13.7 km

Bites sustained: at least 100 overnight including 16 on my face.

Other pilgrims: 3 men and a dog. A good story of a 100% blind man who is walking his second Camino. The guide dog learns the scent of the/another walker going the same way, and then tracks the smell and can lead his master on the right path. These Caminos can be incredibly complicated – in the middle of forests there are very often places with 4 options; the country path regularly crosses the busy main N routes with lorries driving at top speed; villages can have very small, winding streets leading between farm buildings; and there are times when fully sighted people are searching for a yellow arrow here and the blue/yellow Camino shell there for a good while before finding the way, so I am really impressed.

Units alcohol:0

Beautiful weather -lovely to sit outside for our morning coffee as well as on arrival at Cea when I fall asleep in the sun and dream.

During the day’s walk we move through landscapes of assorted pines, chestnut, silver birch, oak, and eucalyptus; broom, brambles, gorse with gay yellow flowers, heather, and bracken. Pink, yellow and blue houses, many of them like huge mansions, which I’m told are for extended families, have balconies and balustrades, big and small, and statues in the gardens. There are cows, sheep, horses and of course donkeys out the back.

Every dwelling has a ‘huelta’, a vegetable garden, which at this time of year has turnips, and really tall brassicas which look like sprout plants with huge leaves at the top but no actual sprouts. Plus the odd red pepper still gleaming in the sun, a few left-over tomatoes dangling, and sharp-cornered patches of dry stalks now the sweetcorn has finally been cut. Vines are domestic and hang from structures which double as terrace rooves. 

There are more dogs than I’ve ever seen in one place -usually on the end of a chain or rope and barking their heads off at our approach. My companions love them all and attempt to talk to and pet them despite the rumpus! In Finnistere they seemed to run wild around the town,  crossing and re-crossing roads unaware of danger, but here they’re mostly behind fences protecting property. 

The simple churches, mostly with a single tower and bell, are always to be found amongst the houses, however small the village, and sometimes on their own in the countryside. Many have fancy cemeteries adorned with colourful flowers, real and plastic, and ornate grills. Often there’s a stone cross nearby. 

Cea is one of the prettiest towns I’ve been to. As with so many places, there are abandoned properties, but here there are also many places with interesting pasts, a wide array of shops, banks cafés etc, a large central square, and old and new architecture. All the places I’ve walked in are clean and well-kept, and here there are red and white geraniums and the most ornate house number/name tiles.

Day 6 Cea to Ourense 3.12.16   23.3 km

This was a hard day. When I walk there are times of joy, prompted by the beautiful scenery, or the sun on my skin, or the sheer pleasure of putting one foot in front of another. There are also times when this wonderful opportunity to reflect on the past, examine the present, and deliberate on the future raise myriad emotions. They pass with the movement, and there is space for tears, but it isn’t always easy. This is one of the reasons I am doing this. 

Luckily today is particular beautiful and that helps with the processing. 
 

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