Written: Friday, June 8 @ 19:15
We did indeed go on into Santiago yesterday, walking around 22 kilometers to get to the cathedral after our night in A Rua. It didn’t seem like too much of a walk to me due to the wonderful cool weather we had for it. It was another day of regular Galician light rainstorms that made for excellent hiking conditions. A good portion of the walk into the largest city (around 170,000 population) we’ve seen on the Camino was through forest paths carpeted with eucalyptus leaves and bark peels.
We went straight on to the cathedral with our packs, not yet sure if we would spend the night in Santiago or head on out south as we’d discussed. We got to the cathedral just after the noon mass, which was a bit of a bummer as that is the traditional pilgrim’s mass where they often swing the fuma – the giant incense sensor that you might remember from the movie with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. We’d been hearing rumors all along the Camino about when they “do the fuma” and when they don’t. One popular story was of a rich German peregrino who paid 200 Euros for the experience. The official word from the pilgrim’s office is that “some days they swing the fuma and some days they don’t.” So, we missed it then, but we’ll be back there in a couple of days for the pilgrim’s mass on Sunday and hope to experience it then – but as we’re learning on the Camino: whatever will be will be the right thing to happen at the time.
We did a couple of things typical to the pilgrim experience at the cathedral. We went down below the altar to see the small casket containing the remains of Saint James. We waited in line and walked up above the altar to hug the statue of Saint James. All together, though, I think we were both a little too overwhelmed to take it all in right then. The Cathedral right after mass was very crowded, and we were tired after our relatively long walk into the city and through all the crowds. We are looking forward to a more tranquilo experience on Sunday when we return.
As I mentioned last time, we were thinking about heading south instead of north where most of the pilgrims seemed to be going – part of our contrary nature, I guess. After visiting one of the ever helpful tourist offices in Santiago de Compostela, we hopped a train for Pontevedra, a coastal city that is on part of the Portuguese Camino. We read in a tourist book about Galicia about a small town just along the bay from Pontevedra called Combarro that was described thusly by one of the “great learned men in Galicia during the Enlightenment period”:
“…a port of little consideration which only fishing boats would enter. Newcomers to Combarro will enjoy the freshest fish imaginable in any of the town’s restaurants, where ‘old sea dogs’ also meet.”
It sounded just like the place for us. We got into Pontevedra late enough and tired enough that we opted to spend the night before catching a bus to Combarro the next day. The helpful person at the tourist office that chattered at us with a combination of Portuguese and Italianicized-Spanglish also suggested visiting the old part of the city and pointed us toward a reasonably-priced Pension Residentura in town. So, we headed off in a taxi for a stay in the seediest and gnarliest room we’ve yet experienced. Wow, was that place nasty! It’s a good thing it was cheep!
After spending as little time as possible in the hotel room and exploring a bit of Pontevedra and its sights, we caught a bus for Combarro. On arriving, we looked about for the town-of-little-consideration’s two hotels. We found one of them up on the main road that looked truly awful from the outside but decided to check it out anyway. Boy, were we surprised!
This has been a wonderful place, and we’ve decided to stay three nights before heading back to Santiago and our flight out to Austria. We have a wonderful expanse of window in a corner room looking out over the blue waters of the Atlantic and the bay of the Ria de Pontevedra. We have towns, small and large, all around us here, but it is a truly beautiful and tranquil spot. There are almost no other guests, although I think there was a strange Spaniard who came up below the windows here this morning at about 1:30 who seemed quite borracho (drunk) and serenading his girlfriend.
It was a bit gray and rainy yesterday still, but the sun came out today in all its brilliance. We caught a local bus up the coast a little farther to Sanxenxo (pronounced Santhentho – lisp the “th”). We spent a lovely day on thee beaches there, walking around tide pools and soaking up the sun. Kat still has a lingering cold, but given the fact that I just got through mine a couple days ago and I’m two days ahead of her, she should be clearing up soon.
This is a truly restful and relaxing time. Our feet our recuperating, and our minds are turning from the way of the Camino to the way of our lives as we leave the Camino and take a part of it with us. Sitting in our room here a few minutes ago, we watched a rather large pod of porpoises surfacing and blowing in the water just down from our room in the bay. As they gathered back up together after feeding for a while, several of them seemed to get playful and started leaping full out of the water. It was the first time either of us had seen them do that in the wild. It was absolutely brilliant! We’ve enjoyed a nice bottle of wine and a shower and will head off here in a bit for some of that freshest fish imaginable at one of the local restaurants that is down on the water and looks quite romantic.
Kat still doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her job when we get back, and I’m still not sure what to do with mine. But we’re both soaking in the experiences of the last few weeks and absorbing some new ways of looking at life and the happenings around us, to us, and through us. We’ve learned some wonderful and valuable lessons in humility and in relating to each other along the Camino. It is wonderful to have this relaxing and tranquil time now off the Camino to continue absorbing those lessons into our being and discussing them off and on to see if we can gel how they will impact us moving forward.
Well, it’s about 8:00 now and about time, by Spanish standards, to be off for a short walk, some wine before dinner, some more wine with dinner, a short walk after dinner, and to bed around 11 or so. We’ll see you later…