Well it was a slow start! After three days enjoying Santiago de Compostela it was time to begin the final push to Finisterre. I said goodbye to Esvina and promised that I would take up her kind offer of a free bed and family meal on my return to the city. She had been very hospitable and I had enjoyed my short stay at her house. She kindly let me leave a few things at the house so the walk to Finisterre should be a bit lighter and a bit easier!
I walked slowly through the town. There were new pilgrims arriving all the time. I felt their happiness at arriving at their goal. There were couples and groups of scouts and a myriad of others. It was strange to be leaving the city when so many people were arriving! There were few who looked like they were heading to Finisterre. Many I had walked with over the past days, the past weeks had taken the bus. They had obviously had enough of walking. I had promised myself long ago in Lectoure that I would complete the walk to Finisterre. The Way led through a small white-washed street before descending into a tiny valley with stone cottages. Soon I was back in the familiar whispering eucalyptus forests. This time there was no one else, just me. Gone were the noisy crowds of walkers and the tourist pilgrims. It was just the forest and the Way of Saint James and my plodding steps.
At a small cafe in the village of Portela I said hello again to Mara who had ridden her horse all the way from Switzerland. She was deep in conversation with a friend over lunch so I did not get a chance to chat much. I ordered a tortilla with ham and cheese and sat enjoying the rewarding feeling of walking once again. The muscles were slowly loosening up and walking was again becoming a familiar process.
Each village I passed through was very different to the villages before Santiago de Compostela. The communities were more rural and less dependent on the passing pilgrims for their daily livelihood. It was mainly dairy farming country and many spoke the local Galician language. It was remarkably relaxing and refreshingly quiet – I was enjoying this part of the Camino. I had made the right choice. It was good to walk this final few days and not rush back to the modern world by taking the bus to the final destination.
At an old bridge in Ponte Maceira I met Gennaro from Italy. He did not speak much English, and my Italian and Spanish were still poor. Somehow we communicated well and walked the rest of the day together.
After only 21 kilometres or so there was the village of Negreira. There was an albergue here where we hoped to spend the night. On arriving however the small office for pilgrims advised that it was full (having only a few beds). None the less, we continued on and found the albergue up the hill after the village. It was indeed a small albergue and all the beds were indeed taken. The young man at the reception said that there was another albergue at the entrance to the village. We did not have the energy to walk back so asked if we could put our sleeping mats and sleeping bags on the floor. He said that it was not allowed and anyway we should pay €5 for use of the facilities. After a brief pause he smiled and said that we could do what we wanted adding that he had not seen us! Finally he advised it would rain tonight. I was touched by his willingness to bend the rules to accommodate exhausted pilgrims.
Gennaro headed off into town to buy some pasta and meat for the evening meal. After a shower I did so too as we had agreed that I would supply the fruit and wine for the meal. Negreira was a fascinating place. The centre seemed to be in a time warp. The majority of the town consisted of modern apartments contrasting uniquely with the older town centre. There were cafes and bars from the Forties and Fifties with highly ornate ceilings and lighting. It was a relaxing place, a quiet market town serving the immediate area with basic shops and services. I liked it a lot!
Returning to the albergue, Gennaro was already cooking the pasta and we sat down with everyone else outside the building as light rain started to fall. We opened a Rioja and dived into the pasta meal. Out of the fading light Moritz, Ray, Alexander, Viktoria, Ruth and many other familiar faces appeared. They too were looking for a bed for the night. By now the man from the albergue had long gone. Everyone decided to sleep on the floor as we were doing.
It was so busy on the limited floor space inside the albergue that I decided to stay outside under the shelter of the overhanging roof. I put down my mat and sleeping bag and retired to the sound of the gentle light rain pattering on the roof with the cool wind blowing in my face. It was not too cold and seemed like a perfect place to sleep.