Signs

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

Five Man Electrical Band, 1971

Camino Day 28, Martes 6th Octubre. 667 klms. Sarria, Lugo, Galicia, España.

The above was a protest song from my youth, and whilst not fully relevant to today’s post, it’s been running around my head a lot.

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We got lost today. Well, not really, because it’s nigh on impossible to get actually lost. But it is easy to not know exactly where one is at any point in time. And so it was this morning.

But let’s start with some trivia. Current toenail count – 10. Likely count at end of journey – now 10. A week ago the likely count would have been 9. Amazing what punishment the feet can take. Amazing also to think of how hard it must have been on the feet of the travellers of yore, who didn’t have the benefit of modern shoe design and all the supporting medications.

My final comment in the previous post was that today would be easy. Hah! We slept in (till 7:30!), donned all the rain gear (again!!) and headed out to find breakfast, which we did at a little bar just up the street. Janet ordered us a tortilla con queso, which would be better known as a cheese omelette. Delicious. Best yet?

Whilst that was being organised I did a quick town explore, which I’d not been able to do the night before. Simple little village – unusually the cemetery was on the church grounds (usually they are quite separate).
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We had two choices leaving Triacastela. The flat route, via Samos, was supposedly more scenic. The high road, via San Xil, involved a hill climb of about 300 metres, but was shorter by some 6 klms. We chose the hill climb. The San Xil route is not nearly as well waymarked, and within 100 metres of leaving town we were off on the Samos route! My sense of direction came to the party, so we did a quick backtrack and headed off along the right path. Before long we came to a fork in the road. No waymarkers on either. I chose the high road. Oops. A bit later, another fork, no waymarkers. Choose the high road. Oops II. So a quick map check, then a GPS check on the phone (bet they couldn’t do that in the 12th century), and I thought I’d go back and explore the low road, as I could see a village over yonder, and figured that that’s probably where we should be. One of the two interesting things in this story is that by now we’d attracted a following. 4 or 5 people were accepting that we knew where we were going. Anyway, the backtrack got me down to the tiny village of A Balsa, where I could now see a series of flechas amarillas, and so back on course we were. I called J down (she was waiting up on the hillside), and of we headed. Interestingly, the group following us pressed on along the other path (which was a road which would eventually take them to San Xil. As I said before, we weren’t lost, just didn’t know exactly where we were. Here’s a couple of shots from the “right” path, just above San Xil.
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At the risk of seriously overusing the word, the scenery along the path was just beautiful.

So, back to today being “easy”. Often at the end of the day we are just bone tired. And as I’ve said before, regardless of whether it’s a sub-20 or a 30 klm walk, the last couple of klms often seen extra hard. I know that that’s the mind playing wicked tricks. Today was different. Whether it was because this was walking day 28, or whether it was because today was day 8 without a rest day, or yesterday’s steep descent, or the struggle with the rain and the wind, or knowing that we were approaching Sarria and the last 100 klms, or even the extra vino tinto with John and Carol last night, or some combination of some or all of these, for the first time I struggled with energy and tiredness as I actually walked for much of the day. For the first time I started looking forward to the end. J felt the same. Speaking to others later, they had similar feelings.

As we left San Xil we had an uphill walk to Alto do Riocabo. Janet was walking with a Canadian woman Joan. I stopped to take a photo, and shortly after developed a muscle cramp in my left leg, which slowed me to a crawl. I was very quickly on my own. I struggled along for a while, did a couple of half-hearted stretches, and the leg came good. I knew more or less where I was, but as with before, there was not a waymarker in sight. Again, map and GPS check told me I was on the right path, my only concern being that somehow Janet and Joan were on a different path.

Interestingly, half an hour or so earlier, when we first met Joan, she’d been expressing concerns (fears?) that for a while she had not known whet she was. And even more interestingly, entirely separately Kerri (remember her from many days back?) had made a post about getting “lost” on hey way into Poneferrada. So it was yet another “coincidence” that these three things all happened, or at least that I noticed them, within a very short time if each other.

Which is where my “signs” song came in, and my dominant musing for the day. How often are the signs which we depend on in our daily journeys absent – either in truth or from our awareness? How often do we either feel or get lost when we miss our personal waymarkers?

And for the moment I’ve adopted the cover photo for today’s post as a personal sign, simply because it has my name on it ;).

Having got lost and then found, we pressed on our merry way. It rained for much of the journey, clearing up as we approached Sarria.
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Arriving into Sarria around 3pm the sight of our hotel, Alfonso IX, was very welcome. My brief research tells me that in the year 1230 King Alphonse IX died whilst undertaking a pilgrimage to Santiago. [More research needed.]

A rhetorical question … when you’ve been on the road for a month, as we have, do you know how much pleasure one gets from a visit to the laundromat and having properly clean clothes? Well, that was the afternoon’s enjoyable task.

Then pre-dinner drinks at Meson Roberto with Melie, John and Carol, which turned into dinner at the same place (minus Melie who had a commitment back at the hotel), before a well-deserved sleep in and rest day tomorrow.

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