Day 29 : Palas de Rei to Ribadiso de Baixo

Steve : There is great delight at having a private room for the three of us, with a private bathroom. Our alarm goes at 5:30am and is ignored. I crawl out of bed at six and take advantage of the TOWELS!!!! to have a pre-walk shower, the first of the trip. Normally you slide out of bed, pull on a shirt and some trousers and are out getting your boots on in 5 minutes. Today is very slow in comparison. Jen has a major I-want-a-lie-in grump but eventually we’re up and out the door at 8am.

The new peregrinos are milling around, looking lost and tired. These are the newbies who joined the trail at Sarria. You must walk 100km of the Camino in order to get your ‘compostella’ certificate, so the last 100km from Sarria onwards brings a whole batch of new, clean, fashionable pilgrims. Today will be day three of five for them and they all look exhausted. The make-up is bedraggled and the hair is lank. Good, we think.

We find a cafe to sell us croissant, toast and coffee for breakfast and we’re off…

The weather forecast for the day says 100% chance of rain so we’re ready for it. I have my luminous visible-from-space rain jacket, Jen has her Very Hungry Caterpillar thing and Hamish has his huge clear plastic bag that he blagged from a bakery way back on the rainy Estella day. We’re set, 26km to do today.

A man in a bag and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

It does, indeed, rain. And rain quite a lot. Because we’re up so late we are in the pilgrim rush hour. There seem to be hundreds of hunchbacked peregrinos wearing the huge all-in-one rain covers. It’s actually a little difficult to maintain a walking pace. We are quite fast, especially up hills, and the trail is narrow in places. Overtaking is difficult. A new peregrino with a huge rucksack in an all-in-one rain cover is quite an ungainly object. It lumbers around like a rhinoceros or an articulated lorry. Our 700km of race-tested familiarity with ourselves and our kit makes us Ferraris, in comparison. We confess to feeling more than slightly smug.

Crossing the highway, looking at the sign…

But the rain falleth on the new and the old peregrino in equal measure and soon we are all very very wet. It’s warm so we don’t really care and when the rain stops it’s still quite windy so we dry fairly quickly. Note to prospective peregrinos – ‘technical’ clothing is well worth the extra money. My Rab top and Montane trousers will dry in minutes in a good breeze.

We have a second breakfast around San Xulian and eat huge bocadillos whilst listening to a Spanish gent of consequence conduct business very loudly on his phone. I would guess him to be 60ish, with an ample belly, and he’s dressed head to toe in the latest Lycra cycling gear. ‘Tis a thing of wonder. He eventually mounts his bike, an incredibly expensive Trek electrically assisted mountain bike and waddles off, uncertainly, up the road.

The day is uneventful and quite long. It’s too wet to take photos and too wet to wear headphones. We discuss the best parts of the trip, our favourite gear, and what we’re going to do in Santiago. Jen wants us to run into the square. I’m not so sure. If we’re doing this properly we’re supposed to go in on our knees but that definitely isn’t going to happen.

Clouds over Melide

Melide brings lunch and we hide out in a cafe whilst the heavens open. My luminous jacket does a good job of minimising the rain soaking but it does, for reasons unknown, make me smell like a chicken farm. I decide I don’t care, but I do feel sorrow for any non-peregrinos who are too close by.

The terrain is up and down and we walk through the greenest of tunnels made by the old growth forest. If the weather had been better I would have some excellent pictures.

We approach the hill before Ribadiso and all of us are firing on all cylinders. We power up it. I think of the quote from the film ‘Gallipoli’:

Jack: What are your legs?

Archy Hamilton: Springs. Steel springs.

Jack: What are they going to do?

Archy Hamilton: Hurl me down the track.

Jack: How fast can you run?

Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.

Jack: How fast are you going to run?

Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard!

Jack: Then let’s see you do it!

We overtake everyone and steam, literally, into town.

We’ve booked ahead and are staying in Los Caminantes. We arrive around 3:30pm and find some beds. The albergue is pleasant enough, if a little cramped.

We unpack and I discover that my Platypus water system in my backpack has sprung a leak. My sleeping sheet is now ever so slightly damp. In the grand scheme of things, given what’s been falling from the sky all day, it’s not a problem. The Platypus goes in the bin, after 10+ years of good service. I shall replace it on our return.

H looks like he’s got bed bugs, so we shove everything in a washing machine and do a full debug. Let’s hope it does the trick.

Bed bugs to peregrinos is the equivalent of shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre. They are absolutely the last thing you want. A fellow traveller, Zoe, from Australia, is wrapped up in an albergue blanket waiting for her clothes to dry. She spots a bed bug in her blanket and drops it with force. She informs the hospitalero, who seems indifferent and asks Zoe to put the blanket back on the shelf and get another one.  Oh dear. Not impressed. Perhaps best avoid this albergue….

Zoe takes the blanket and dumps it outside, in the rain.  And another few blankets for good measure.

We adjourn to the local cafe and eat a highly unhealthy dinner of yet more spaghetti, fried eggs and chips.  We are all crawling.  Hopefully from imaginary bed bugs and not actual ones. We return to our albergue and spray everyone and everything with anti-bed bug spray. And we wash H’s clothes again, just in case.

Bed is early, at 8:30, as we’ve run out of things to do.

We have a friendly room but a number of snorers. It takes two episodes of Jon Finnimore’s Souvenir Programme to pass the time until sleep.

Surreal graffiti