The morning was damp and humid after the huge storm last night. After breakfast I finally found the way out of town, down to the edge of the reservoir and across a narrow iron footbridge. Climbing upwards on a good wide path, the trees dripped their water as they shed the weight of the storm. At the top of the climb was a road, the one that led to Santiago de Compostela. I was excited at the prospect of Santiago now being so close.
After a few kilometres there was a small cafe by the road in the village of Gonzar with a very large coach parked outside. The cafe was full to brimming with people, and as soon as they had arrived the ‘tourist pilgrims’ disappeared. No doubt they would be in Santiago today. I still had three days of walking before I reached my goal by foot. I chatted briefly with the Norwegian couple I had met just before O Cebreiro and they too agreed that the Way was becoming too touristy.
The Camino was indeed much busier. Some of the pilgrims from the cafe were travelling in groups and were loud in their progress. It was a huge contrast from only a few days ago at the Iron Cross where the Camino was serene, calm and meaningful. I was not so keen on this last stage of the walk. I preferred the solitude and silence of quiet reflection. Outside the small village of Ligonde, there was an ancient cemetery that was once used to bury pilgrims who died along the Way. It had a surreal atmosphere and many stopped there in silent wonderment and thought at the dedication of pilgrims in Medieval times. Tall ancient trees stood around the central cross.
Two very alive and elderly cyclists appeared and we spoke for a while. They had left their home town in the Netherlands many months ago and cycled to Santiago de Compostela. They were now on the return journey all the way back home. They were an inspiration! I then vowed to cycle the Camino one day!
In Ligonde there was a small albergue and cafe. There were many familiar faces including the two Serenas from Italy. The owners had set up a stall giving out religious literature. I paused to talk and find out more. When the lady at the stall discovered that I was from Scotland she became very animated. It turned out that she had once visited Iona in Scotland and had been so moved by the island that she had also named her daughter Iona. Iona was a smiling happy girl and it was great to meet them both.
There were many walkers milling around the small albergue. It was a delightful place. After putting a stamp in my Credencial I was invited to take a coffee before friendly shouts of ‘Buen Camino’ on departing! Soon I met Victor, a lawyer from Buenos Aires in Argentina. We walked together for a while as he explained his motives for walking the Camino. He had worked hard for many years and felt he needed a break, something different, and some time on his own. He was very happy in his life in Buenos Aires with his wife and two teenage children. He was equally happy it seemed to be having some well deserved time to himself away from his legal practice.
After coming across a Galician bag piper in As Lamelas, we continued on for another three kilometres to Palas de Rei. Victor would be stopping for the night as he had booked and payed the night’s accommodation in advance. We sat at a cafe for a while in Palas de Rei and had some lunch and a few beers. Rory and Nick from England turned up – I had first met them in Triacastela but they had taken the detour via Samos. I hadn’t seen them since then. We all sat sheltering from the heat of the mid-afternoon sun.
Eventually I set off on my own. I was feeling fit and able to cover some more kilometres today. It was about 4pm and I never considered that it was time to stop. There was a hostel in Casanova – perhaps I would stop there.
Casanova arrived and the hostel was full. I kept going. By now it was late afternoon but there was still no desire to stop walking and the feet were still fresh and behaving themselves. There were three Australian ladies in O Coto. They invited me for some dinner and we sat talking about the wonders of the Camino until the sun started to set. With heart-felt thanks for their hospitality I set off again, aiming to stay in Melide. The light was superb and I took a long time in reaching the town having stopped so many times to talk to locals and to take photographs. I was thoroughly enjoying the walk today which was fast becoming a very long walk!
In Melide I finally found the albergue however it looked very uninviting. A large apartment block on the edge of town, it had been set up as a temporary albergue for the Saint James Holy Year. I had no desire to stop and still felt I could walk many more kilometres. It had been a while since I had walked at night and the experience in the calm of the warm evening was sublime. I walked and walked until at about 2am until I suddenly felt very tired. Passing through dark forests, there were many sounds of the night and rustling in the undergrowth. Peculiarly I felt very relaxed and happy. There were no villages, and I considered that I may have lost the way. There were no scallop shells nor way markers. In a field I put down my sleeping mat, crawled into the sleeping bag, and then into the bivi bag. I was totally exhausted. I had walked about 43 kilometres today.
As I looked up to the incredible sky and its millions of stars, the mist slowly drifted up and over the field covering me like an extra blanket. This was the Camino as it should be. I was somewhere off the Camino near Castaneda but not sure where. I was not bothered. I fell quickly into a deep and relaxing sleep.
TIP: Its great to walk at night. Many do. The change from the heat is refreshing. The wildlife in the late afternoon is surprising. Worth trying a few times along the Camino!