The guidebook said that today would be hard. The guidebook said that today would be long and uphill. The guidebook said nothing about what to do when the achillies region of Mikey’s left foot was so blistered that he would have to make one of the steepest and longest ascents of the Camino in flip-flops. Here we go!
The day began with a heavy fog that seemed like a remnant of last night’s storm. Oh, and Mikey did get his wet laundry packed away in a plastic bag. We’ll just have to find a place with a washer and dryer tonight.
Everything just really seemed alive this morning as the sunlight bounced off of the wet ground and shimmered through the receding fog.
This hórreo straddling the path just seemed picturesque. Not just fun to say, hórreos are a type of elevated granary that can be found all over the northern countryside. You’ll probably remember the Asturian “treehouse” style we saw earlier. Well, this is the same idea, but in a Galician design.
And these are conejos! Sadly, they were in a fenced in area, so they’ll probably be someone’s dinner before too long. RIP, Thumpito.
We were definitely climbing into the mountains. This perspective was pretty neat as the fog encompassed a valley below and one could barely makeout the windmills on the distant peaks.
Enough of that – it was the (sometimes) straight and narrow path for us!
Although we had rushed out the door this morning and had made good time, upon arrival in Mondoñedo, we learned that the cathedral (one of just 5 in Galicia) wouldn’t be open for another hour. Grrr!
Mikey found a cafe right across the plaza and settled in for a leisurely coffee break with some entertainment.
Having walked the Camino with Mikey last year, Frank will perfectly understand what is transpiring. Upon arrival, Mikey set his backpack down and said hello to the two servers who were conversing on the terrace. He placed an order for a coffee and was promptly served.
Now, for the next 20 minutes, the two gentlemen proceeded to rearrange the outside furniture multiple times before finally returning it to its original layout. As they both returned to their original perches, there was something of a final resignation akin to, “Well, we tried, but the patio has always been set up like this.” (The Spanish are so entertaining to watch!)
“Chairs – The Musical” now over, we headed into the cathedral. Built in the late 12th century, it is a real gothic jewel.
I mean, the magnitude of this original window is just amazing. Yeah, there are many more ornate rose windows out there, but to imagine the complexity achieved with such rudimentary medieval tools is wholly impressive.
This is a fresco above the main altar.
It’s always interesting to examine the subject of religious art. For instance, this original gothic mural dating back to the 13th century portrays the “Killing of the Innocents.” Kind of weird when the family sits alongside it at mass.
Of course our scallop shell symbology was not hard to spot.
Neither was St. James (who happens to be showing a bit of leg!)
This 15th century wood carving was pretty interesting. It was entitled “The Holy Family,” but Mikey really wanted to grab his Sharpy and add, “… goes trick-or-treating!”
Oh, and if you need a costume – check out the bishops’ slipper collection. (“Seriously, Francis, the jade pair just looks divine!”)
Upon exiting the cathedral, we located the Old Fountain where we refilled water bottles.
More important, however, was the route that departed from it. You see, before she left the albergue last night, the old woman who collected our money warned against taking the “official route.” Instead, she kept shaking her bony finger at a photocopied map, insisting that we take the alternate route.
OK, we’ll concede that it began alright – albeit uphill.
Yet, once we lost the forest shade, it was one-lane asphalt roads with bright sunlight overhead.
And we climbed, and climbed, and kept climbing. This was apparently one of the most vigorous and direct ascents along the Northern Camino. (Mikey sure wishes he wasn’t doing it in flip flops.)
And we’re not kidding around here! It was a relentless climb that left Mikey feeling like he could eat two kids’ meals. (OK, that was a good one!)
What wasn’t funny was the 22km (13.5 miles) without a water fountain. Yes, we had turned at the Old Fountain by the cathedral and even topped off our bottles, but had no idea that it would be the last chance for the day.
Finally, Mikey spotted a building alongside the lower highway and figured that he should try there. Saying goodbye to his Filipino shadow (this guy had followed Mikey all day), he headed down through a pasture in search of water.
Like the CA ban on personal photos posted in revenge, there exist certain happenings that should only be imagined in the mind’s eye. For instance: our rotund and dehydrated pilgrim trudging down a steep hill through a (hopefully) unoccupied section of pasture. He has his plaid shirtsleeves rolled up to the sholders and is staggering through the hay in flip flops and cargo shorts. The destination?
It was a biker bar. Not the guys with tight shorts, but the bearded ones with leather jackets and lots of chrome. Sorry, no pictures were taken out of safety, but just imagine a sunburned Mikey in aforementioned attire parchly staggering into a biker bar in the middle of the afternoon. Come on guys – this is the stuff Hollywood was made for!
One bottled beer later – (never drink from a glass if the establishment’s hygiene is in question!) and having refilled his water bottles in the sink (Brita filters on both), Mikey abandoned any idea of backtracking up through the fields and headed out alongside the highway shoulder.
Mecca – it was Mecca. Along the way, Mikey decided to reserve a bunk bed at a private albergue. Knowing how quickly the municipal ones can fill up, he requested a lower bunk in the “Red Room” at a private place. (Sounds kinda risqué, huh?!)
Oh, Mikey got his “Red Room.” In fact, the place had been open less than 3 months and no one knows about it unless passing by the location. So, the kind owner honored Mikey’s reservation and he got to sleep alone in a room designed for 4.
In stamping Mikey’s credential, the owner of the albergue pointed out, “Below the cathedral stamp which has been in use for over two centuries, I now place mine which is just two months old.” (Mikey wished him equal longevity in business.)
Oh, so you must be wondering about the stamps, huh?
In a few days, Mikey will have (hopefully) reached Santiago and have filled in the empty spaces.
Oh, and this was dinner. An octopus appetizer, salad, ribs with fries, and a coffee infused cake. Not bad for 10€!
Well, goodnight and we’ll talk soon about Valalba and a short walk through the countryside.