Often, our days start with walking among wheels. Traveling from the nucleus of a city, through the noisy outskirts, to the blessed edge can be a shock to the nervous system at 8am. This morning, we manage to depart Baiona, mid-commute. In Spain, cars and people seem to share unlikely spaces- you think you’re safe walking down the middle of a brick walkway or a cobbled corridor and, boom- a car turns right toward you. That said, I find it shocking how polite and friendly the locals are- even as we cross paths with their bustling commutes or pause, dazed and confused outside their bedroom windows. “We would make me crazy!” I’ve said to Emily, more than once, as we zig or zag through the middle of someone’s daily routine.
I manage to get us off The Way, right A Way. But we have a punchy giggle as we pass by the Arce Hotel and turn right on Rectoral Road to get things moving again. This will be our longest stage yet. More than 18 miles to go. We like to make good time early. We start out at our usual heart- beat-hip-hop. But I already have to pee. It’s starting to rain and unavoidable puddles deepen. For the first time, the ember of a hotspot is forming on one of my right toes.
I did precious little research before embarking on this trip. But I had watched a few Camino YouTubers. They’d been explicit about a couple of things: Keep your feet dry. And attend to any hint of a blister right away. Morning energy is hard for me to rein in. I’m tempted to power on and wait to change up my foot situation at lunch. BUT… YouTuber voices prevail. I perch chaotically on a nearby bench and unpack an assortment of slightly embarrassing items in order to locate my YouTuber recommended toe socks and more vaseline- both of which I’d conveniently stuffed in the deepest depths of my pack. It starts raining a little harder as I finish reloading and walk on, freshly re-shod.
Ahh! My squabbling toes are getting along again- for now, anyway.
So with the rain and the pain and getting lost and getting the giggles and having to find a place to pee (an elderly grey gelding allowed me to duck behind one of his trees in exchange for a flaccid carrot I’d been gifted by the lady at the organics store in Baiona), we are off to a slow start.
But on the Camino, as in life, discomfort is transient. My mood is soon elevated again by momentary blue skies and a move from gray to green ground. We delight in all the artful old bridges, stone arches and- the most elegant- hórreos that grace the rural roadsides. Hórreos are granaries that look like well-ventilated little chapels outside homes all throughout Galicia.
A new squall rolls in just as we enter a long stretch of urban sprawl. We walk for a while in heavy rain. One of the conversations I have a lot, as a coach, is about unmet expectations. Unmet expectations are responsible for most of the angst in the world. We had decided before we departed on this journey in early October that we would get WET. We would not wear ponchos and gators or carry umbrellas. We would not seek shelter to avoid rain but only to seek whatever was inside. A little arrow shaped sign alerted us that there was a cafe 300 meters left up a hill, off The Way. Should we risk it? By now, both our feet were hurting and we were drenched. We didn’t really want to risk a wild goose chase but we also didn’t know when the next stopping opportunity would be. Just as we were halted at the corner of Should we and Shouldn’t we- undecided- a rainbow appeared. Done. We trudge, more slowly now, weighted down by water and wet feet, toward what we hope will be a cafe off The Way.
Holy crap. What we find, in what seems like the middle of nowhere, is a closed, empty restaurant. With an open door. It seems to appear just for us. It is richly appointed- mahogany tables set with wine glasses, midst a lush oasis, next to a beautiful hórreo and surrounded by orange trees. We startle the woman in the kitchen, who graciously makes us some coffee before going back to cooking chicken, probably for when the restaurant will actually be open. We nurse our sore feet, take in the sweet view, and rest for a while in gratitude before moving on. Expectations more than met.
100K TO SANTIAGO!
Foot pain and rain continue to walk with us for the rest of the day. But euphoria comes and goes. For the first time, we take our afternoon break in the rain. We sit on benches along the perimeter of a church compound and huddle up against trees, pretending they will keep us dry. As we’re taking off our shoes and locating dry socks in our packs, a dog comes to visit. He is followed shortly by his owner who sits a little too close and talks a little too loud. His breath smells of alcohol and we keep up a superficial flow of chatter with the man and his dog as we fast forward through our routine and walk on.
We have not really been tracking our total kilometers. We’ve been more focused on the presents each day has been offering up. So when we come across a sign in the forest, marking 100 more kilometers to Santiago de Compostela, it is a sweet surprise- made no less sweet by yet another rainbow- this time, bright over the city of Vigo, our next destination. We have walked 180 kilometers. Over holy ground. Following in the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims who have walked before us. As we descend into Vigo, wishing all the pilgrims we pass in the present, “Buen Camino”, I rest my mind for a moment, in gratitude for my sore, wet feet. Expectations more than met. Once Again.