Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

October 1st, Day 30: Portomarin to Melide ‘Let’s Walk a Marathon Today’

We wake early in Portomarin, but we don’t move fast. It’s raining, but it looks promising that it might ease up a bit soon, but at 8:30, it’s still pitch black outside. One of the girls who was working the bar the night before is back for the morning shift after less sleep than us, so we sit for a coffee and some toast. At 9am, the rain is done.We bid our farewells to the crew here and hit the ground running. We have ambitions to walk 40km to Melide today. This is ambitious enough to begin with, but seeing as it’s already 9am, we’ve set ourselves up with a long day ahead. Our Irish roommate, Liam, looks at us with skepticism – he doesn’t have much faith that we’ll make it. He sets out for an easy 15km day.Despite another late night, we’re energized and in good spirits this morning. I realize I can only feel better than how I woke up feeling yesterday!

We have a steady climb out of town to the main road which we’re parallel to for a while. The weather improves and Ramon catches up from behind. He cruises past and Tammy and I stop for a snack late morning. The Camino is much busier today, filled with people walking the required 100k to Santiago in order to get their compostella.

We walk on a bit and decide to stop for lunch at the 20km mark. We’re feeling pretty good but a long break on a 40km day is necessary. We find a small cafe on the way. We’re not even in a town, it just seems to appear out of nowhere… and we take a picnic table outside. It looks as if the lunch crowd has come and gone, but the guy working inside is ready for his siesta. Tammy goes in to order and comes back with two vino tintos! My eyes grow wide when I see her carrying these – vino tinto, half way into this long day! She says she couldn’t keep the attention of the waiter long enough to order anything else. I laugh. We will drink vino tinto!

I head in and order a pilgrim’s lunch for us to share, and when I head back outside, two others have joined us. Ale is on the opposite side of the table from me, and I thank her profusely for sitting with me the morning before and for her patience and kind words. The other man that has joined us is in the middle of telling his story of why he is on the Camino. He has just finished chemo and radiation to treat a brain tumor. He decided to walk the Camino while he awaits the results of the treatment. It’s humbling to say the least. I don’t know how much more of his story he wants to share, so we let him guide the conversation and change the subject as and when he’s comfortable.

Lunch arrives – pimentos, potatoes and eggs, chicken with fries, topped off with tiramisu and a cortado. Fueled up, we hit the path for the remaining 20km. The crowds have cleared out seeing as most people have reached their final destinations for the day. The afternoon sun is shining and the green pastures look inviting… I could just go and sit for a bit…

We cross quaint villages where we don’t see a soul and spend the late afternoon walking through Eucalyptus tree forests. We’re reaching end of day and as we approach Melide, a gentle breeze russles the leaves of birch trees that line the path into town. It’s deceiving because we are here, yet we still have about 4 km to go to reach the other side of the city.

My legs will no longer work. My shins feel like they have steel rods running down them, and I can feel blisters under my big toes. I have borrowed Tammy’s walking sticks in hopes that the pressure I can put on them may take some of the pressure off my feet and the click clack of the sticks on the concrete is almost trance like. Tammy is patient with me, more patient than I am with myself, and slows to my pace and asks how I’m doing. I’m sure my answer is filled with profanity!

We cross a small, old bridge into the old section of town at sunset, and by the time we reach the first albergue, it’s dark. It’s after 8:00, so we walk up to scope it out. We are fried! We have just walked a marathon! We don’t see the others though and the vibe seems low energy, but we have no energy to walk on any further, so we pay 10 Euro for our beds and check in.

The guy working the check-in desk doesn’t speak much Spanish or English, and our conversation is broken. We must look pretty rough because he’s giving us sort of hesitant looks, and then hands us two packets of shower gel along with our pillow cases. We try to talk a bit more and find out he is from Morocco. We’re able to converse a bit better in French, and I tell him about my travels there a year ago. I think we’re growing on him.

I order Tammy a vino tinto and I order a large, cold beer. Tammy is on the computer and I sit at a table in the foyer, my back facing the room. I feel pretty anti-social at this point in time, but there’s one American guy with a thick southern accent, and I just know he’s going to strike up conversation. Low and behold, moments after sitting down, I hear “Where ya from?” Turns out Chad is a pastor from Tennessee, here to live through Christ.

Gifts from our Moroccan hospitelaro.

I politely converse for a bit and excuse myself for a shower to rinse off this 40km day. When I return, our Moroccan friend is closing up and offers us last call, filling our wine glasses up to the brim. We sit at a table and he comes over with a plate of proscuitto and chorizo for us… we were too tired to go out looking for dinner and he has taken sympathy on us. It’s these little gestures that mean the most on the Camino. He bids us farewell and locks up for the night.

I spend the evening doctoring huge blisters on my feet. I didn’t think I’d be dealing with this on day 30, but that’s what 40 km will do. Tomorrow we have 35km to cover in order to keep with the schedule of arriving in Santiago on October 3rd.

We send a quick message to the others, who are only doors down from us in another albergue. We will meet for breakfast and set out together in the morning for our next to last day of walking.

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