Camino de Santiago: Day 25 (Christina)

Portomarin to San Xulian do Camino (29 km)

I awake at 7:30 this morning, surprised I slept through the loud party below me.  When I am ready to leave at 8:30, I take a peak in the dorm and I am shocked by what a see.  The kitchen is a disaster with dirty pots and dishes everywhere.  The garden is even worse, littered with garbage, furniture turned upside down.  What a mess. And these so called pilgrims are snoring loudly in their beds.  Check out is at 9:00 in the morning. The owner is at the door and I ask him if his Albergue is for pilgrims, because maybe I just picked a tourist Albergue.  He said, of course, of course.  Then in my limited Spanish I express to him I was not happy there was such a loud party keeping us all awake.  He was very upset about these people as well and told me they partied until 2 in the morning.  He said these are tourists and they pretend to be pilgrims to get the pilgrim rates. He has never had this happen before, and then he pointed to them sleeping and the mess and it seemed he didn’t even know how to handle the situation.

When I get on the Camino, it is crowded again so I walk quickly and try to get ahead.  I hate being caught in the middle of a crowd.  Besides, I need to warm up as it is extremely cold this morning and very foggy too. As I make my way past the last couple in the crowd, the man calls out, “Antarctica, you have been there?”  He has seen the badge on my pack. I slow down and say yes, and then he asks me another question which surpasses my Spanish skills.  When he sees I don’t understand he quickly switches to English and asks me again.  He wants to know what it was like, what did I see, what did I do.  And this is the beginning of a new friendship with Andrei and Veronica.

Andrei and Veronica, my new companions today.

Andrei is Venezuelan but is now living in Spain.  He is 27 years old and has completed his psychology degree to the Masters level and is looking for work in his field. It is another story of a young person impacted by the terrible economy of Spain.  There just isn’t any work to be found. Veronica is 38 and is from Burgos where she works as an accountant.

We end up walking the entire day together enjoying each other’s company and interesting conversation.  We walk at a relaxed pace which I am happy with because I am still feeling a general overall fatigue.  In fact the day passes easily and I even walk further than I expected.

I think the most memorable subject we talked about was the concept of our own personal energy.  When I  describe my experience of feeling other people’s energy, I use the words positive and negative. Andrei offered a different way of looking at things.  He suggested that there is a spectrum of energy from negative at one end to positive at the other.  We can be at any place on the spectrum at any time.  This is true, we are never always positive or always negative.  When it comes to sensing the other person’s energy, he sees it as like being tuned into a person’s frequency and sometimes you are on the same frequency and sometimes you are not.  I really liked this explanation as it removed the labels.  So when you meet someone, rather than think oh, they have really positive energy, you can think that you are on the same frequency as their energy, assuming of course you too are positive.  Without the labels, a person can be positive one moment and negative the next without being branded as one way or the other.  It just seems to be a more flexible, non judgemental way of thinking.

Veronica shared one of the lessons she has learned so far on the Camino, one that I could relate to.  When we start our Camino, we meet a first group of people that we keep running into because we are all walking the same journey.  And we get comfortable with this first group sometimes to our own detriment where we are no longer open to new people we meet.  She decided at one point to say good bye to her first group and move on alone.  She found it very difficult to say good bye but she knew she was limiting herself by staying in the group.  And sure enough, she has met many new people since then.

We all notice today that the Camino doesn’t feel as touristy as yesterday, and we’re not sure why.  There are still lots of new faces on the road, including a group of three American women I meet.  I remember one of their names, Shelley, but the other two are forgotten. Many of these new pilgrims have started in Sarria and are walking the last 100 km to Santiago, some are even planning to go on to Finisterre which is another three days of walking to the ocean.  It seems quite strange to me that they are beginning, when I feel like my Camino is coming to an end.  I am enjoying the atmosphere on the Camino today even though it is still quite busy.

By the afternoon, we have the Camino to ourselves…..I am puzzled as to where everybody has gone.  We do not want to stay at the next large town, Palas de Rei.  I definitely don’t want to repeat what I went through last night.  There are several little villages within 5 km of Palas de Rei and I am confident I will find a bed in one of them.  Veronica and Andrei decide not to take any chances as it is getting on in the day so they call to an Albergue and make a reservation.  They offer to do the same for me but I tell them how I have been walking each day without a plan and I have always found a bed.  I prefer to just take my chances.

The last few kilometres in the day always seem to drag on.  It is late in the afternoon now, almost 5:00, and we are about 3 km past Palas de Rei.  Veronica and Andrei are a little frustrated that they haven’t reached their Albergue yet; it was supposed to be just 1 km from the town and everyone we meet keeps saying, just one kilometre away.  When we walk into San Xulian do Camino, there is an Albergue on the main street that looks really nice.  They have lots of beds.  I register but Veronica and Andrei keep going since they feel obligated to honor their reservation; besides, it’s only one more kilometre down the road.  So we exchange our contact information and say our good byes.

San Xulian do Camino is a tiny little village that is really nothing more than a collection of houses.  It does have a church and an Albergue, but no other services that I can see.  The Albergue also has a bar and offers a communal dinner for 10 Euros which I sign up for.  The woman running the Albergue is from Barcelona and when I compliment her on the beautiful building she tells me it is very, very old and was left abandoned for about 50 years.  Her and her husband just finished the renovations last year.  She said the renovations were so much work, and running the Albergue was a lot more work than she thought it would be.  It sounded like she may have been pining away for her life back in Barcelona a little.  Anyways, I was grateful for this beautiful Albergue, and for being in a dorm room with just five other women.  An older Australian man was assigned to a different dorm room, and a young couple that arrived a little later were given yet another dorm.  I like it when people get spread out; chances of a good night’s sleep increase significantly.

Quite modest on the outside, but very comfortable inside.

Bedrooms are across the street.  
My dorm has the window with the flower boxes.

I meet the girls in my dorm – two sisters from the US, a German girl, who wore a red ball cap that said Canada on it, and a Hungarian woman who is living in the States with her husband.  In true Camino style, we all shared why we were on the Camino and some of our Camino stories.

We also got a real taste for life in such a little village.  First, tractors from the fields keep passing by; one in particular was moving large bales of hay from a field at one end of the village to a field at the other end, one by one.  Back and forth he went.  Then the cows walked through town just before we sat down for dinner and again as we were getting ready for bed, and I swear we could stick our hands out of our window and touch them.

Our communal dinner is delicious: soup, salad, pork chops, tortilla, desert, bread, unlimited wine.  I feel I have hit the jackpot in this Albergue, it is everything an Albergue could be.  I have no trouble falling asleep tonight on a full belly in the peace and quiet of the countryside.

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