Mercadoiro to Ventas de Naron

Portomarin:

Our second long walk day. We headed out in small groups again, Alita, Jon and I teamed up for the first short walk to Portomarin. The morning was cool and overcast, but that just made the walking easier. When we came to Portomarin we had to cross the highway bridge.

Bridge to Portomarin

Fortunately the traffic was light as we had to share it on one side of a narrow sidewalk with the very long drop to the river on the other. Then up a long flight of stairs and a steep climb to the town center. We met up with the others for coffee and a sello at the Posada Del Camino bar, across from the church, which was closed. But, that didn’t stop up from taking pictures and doing some shopping. Unfortunately for me, I failed to charge my cellphone fully and it proved to be dead for the rest of the day. Alida took pictures which I hope that she will share so that I can update this post. Speaking of Alida, she picked up a “day sack”, a sort of cloth and string backpack for light things as we were going to be doing distance and hill climbs today, several of the group elected to ship their backpacks on ahead.

Off again:

Again the group broke up and soon the three of us were headed out of town, but somehow we missed the yellow arrows that pointed our way and had to ask a couple of times which way to go. It seems that we had to walk down the main road on a sidewalk and re-cross the river but on a different bridge. Suddenly I stepped wrong in a broken section of the end of the sidewalk, stumbled off and thought that for a moment that I had done it. My ankle-it had to be the right one with the bad knee-was shot with pain. I took a deep breath and fended off the concerns. If there was any way to walk this off I was going to do it. Slowly I started again and pushed on towards the bridge. On the other side, as we looked back Jim waved at us from the road where we had just been. We took a few minutes (welcome ones for me) to wait for him. Once he joined us, we started up the long and steep hill ahead. If I had been intimidated by the hill on the first day, this one would have surely done me in. It seemed to go on forever but by this point I was resolved that no matter how far up any hill went, I was going. And so we climbed, breaking off into smaller groups. Along the way we ran into a solo pilgrim from the USA, a young man who struck up first a conversation with Jon and me and then he and Jim settled in as Jon and I walked ahead. At the top of the hill we walked through/between several fields, finally winding up at a highway with the camino running alongside of it on the other side-not the most pleasant of walks-for several km with traffic whizzing by.

Rain and looking for Gonzar (who ‘ya gonna call?):

After several km the yellow camino arrows indicated our crossing point. Once back on the other side the camino took a welcome turn into the woods again. Then it started to rain a bit. Everyone stopped to break out rain gear, but I decided to just walk ahead since there were dense trees over the path and sure enough, the drizzle tapered off before I left the canopy. I continued on alone, leaving the others behind and soon was overtaken by a couple in ponchos. They smiled, waved and wished me a buon camino. If there is one Spanish phrase that you could not help but learn through sheer repetition, this would be it-and a most pleasant one at that! As I walked I mulled over the friendliness that everyone exhibited, both peregrinos and locals, about what I was doing and wondered again why this was important to do, and what deeper meaning lay below. But no answer other than the chance to join Jon and Jim and the beauty of the experience seemed to arise. I was simply doing it. And as simple as it was, that seemed to be enough. Maybe a revelation would come later…or not. Never mind, I thought, some things are best held in the moment. As I walked on, the path again left the forest and ran beside the road. Soon it veered off to a clump of trees and passed by a small picnic area with tables. Mary Jane and Sharon were sitting on one of the tables. We exchanged notes about everyone’s whereabouts and then I continued on, telling them that I wanted to walk ahead to Gonzar, where we were to meet for lunch. Truth was, if I stopped, I feared that I would not start again for a long while.  As it was, a bit after I left they started to follow. I could see them, back down the hill behind me as I approached a cafe/bar on the side of the road. Thinking that this was it I went in, looking for the group, but saw no one. When they caught up with me we stood there for a while on the side of the road not knowing how far we were from Gonzar, trying to decide what to do. Mary Jane and Sharon decided to continue to walk on ahead but I elected to wait for my little group. The ladies took off and slowly disappeared up the hill just about the time that the group showed up.

Lunch and Ventas de Naron:

My group stood discussing where Gonzar was when Jon happen to notice the sign that pointed down the hill behind the bar. I don’t know how we missed it before but there it was. So off we went to investigate leaving Jim behind to check out the fare at the bar. Sure enough, the town was out of sight down the hill less than a couple hundred meters right behind the bar. We found Eleanor and Geoff at the Casa Garcia albergue starting to have lunch. After retrieving Jim from the roadside bar we decided to joined them without Mary Jane and Sharon, as they were long gone by then. The peregrino lunch we had turned into a mixed blessing: I opted for the boiled cod and potatoes which sounds bland but was tasty-with a little salt added. Jim and Geoff decided to split the spaghetti and order side salads. It turned out to be badly overcooked pasta with a red sauce that looked and tasted suspiciously like Campbell’s soup. Mmm, mmm, not really so good. And herein lies a lesson about Spanish dining that was to be oft repeated: They don’t do Italian. Period. After lunch we started out in different groups. Jim and Geoff left first and the four of us started out. As we headed out the sun began peeking out from the clouds and soon we were walking under the blue Galician sky again. We found ourselves walking for quite a distance alongside the highway, sometimes walking right together, sometimes spread out, but always uphill. As it turned out our elevation from Portomarin to our destination of Ventas de Naron was to be our highest climb, from 387m to 700m, a little over 1,025 ft in elevation which is quite a hike uphill. We arrived at Albergue Ventas O’ Cruceiro mid-afternoon to find our companions waiting each with their stories of the day’s walk. We relaxed, did some laundry or rather hung out laundry that had not dried from the previous day’s endeavor.

The “crazy Spanish lady” and me.

During dinner that evening the crazy Spanish lady from the previous night briefly entered our lives again. She appeared at the bar looking for someone-a Nigerian I think-whose family needed him to return home. She talked rapidly with the innkeeper and apparently it was suggested that he might be at another albergue nearby. Satisfied that she was on the right track she briefly looked about the bar and noticing the couple at the table next to us she suddenly exclaimed “sexy guy, sexy lady!” With that she disappeared out the door. That curious phrase had peppered her speech the night before and I wondered if it had any real meaning or if it was just something that one who did not speak a language pick up and use with only the most basic inkling of implications. I would certainly not know at that moment because just as quickly as she had come in she had left again, off to seek out the Nigerian at the next albergue. Crazy Spanish lady, you are a clearly good soul to make it your mission to find this man to give him his family’s news, if not an odd one. I wonder as I walk the camino that should I meet you again will I find out about the Nigerian and his family issues and will I have the opportunity to discover your real story? The night that we talked at the albergue Mercadoiro I never asked you anything personal and now I regret that missed opportunity to have learned something about you before we parted company. I hope that you complete your task.

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