Current location: Alto de Poio
Distance covered: 635 km
Distance to Santiago: 140 km
Friday the 13th.
We laughed it off in the morning, but we weren’t laughing in the afternoon…
It was a really mixed day, full of hope, anger, followed by despair and once again hope – coupled with ecstasy. It may sound a tad melodramatic, but in my defence, the sun was blaring and our misadventure had us stay out in the sun a little too long…
That morning, we decided to have a late start after a hard day the day before. Due to this, and knowing that a very steep climb was followed by an equally difficult descent, we decided to leisurely make our way to the top of the mountain and sleep at the “mountain refuge”. By our estimations, we would get there for lunch, have a nice meal, enjoy the evening and retire to sleep by 9 to the sounds of the sheep grazing nearby. Well, as was previously mentioned, planning on the Camino is as useful as predicting the weather in London – ie, pointless and ultimately disappointing.
The hope: at about midday and not far from our destination on top of the mountain, we arrived at the Cruz de Ferro, where a tall cross stands in a pile of rocks and souvenirs, messages, photographs and other objects left by the passing pilgrims. Approaching this living testament to millions of pilgrims who walked the Way year after year felt quite special. I stopped to think about what it must have meant to each person, to be here, to walk, to be surrounded by so many others – different yet sharing the same quest to Santiago. Our time at the Cruz left us reenergised. We were now ready for the last few kilometres leading to our lovely-sounding mountain-top “refuge” in Manjarín.
The anger: it turns out that our paradise in the clouds was a makeshift “village” of rusty tiles, dilapidated surroundings, plastic-covered and overall depressing looking hell hole. The ‘mountain refuge’ was unquestionably the scummiest ‘building’ I have ever seen. You could see through the walls, the roof seemed to be on its last breath, everything was falling to pieces and the mattresses… Oh the mattresses … It was clear to both of us that sleeping outside would have been a decidedly healthier and safer option. So we decided to move on to the next town, which was another 9 km away.The anger came when we asked if we could buy some food, as we didn’t come prepared for such a long hike, but the men running the place refused. As one of them threw some bread to a dog, we were told that they had nothing to give or sell. However, we were offered well water which was kept in old p,attic bottles, for a donation. Our already boiling blood was now steaming. But we marched on.
The despair: have you ever walked in the Spanish sun between 2 and 5pm? On an empty stomach? Going down an achingly steep hill? With contempt weighing down your already heavy backpack? That was our despair.
The hope anew: the poetically beautiful village of Acebo, and the private room we took for the night, avoiding the quintessential snores and shared facilities of the municipal albergues. Thank you dirty ugly village of Manjarín for teaching me never to refuse help to a hungry person and thank you for forcing us to walk the extra bit and discover a true little piece of paradise.
Beauty can so rapidly intertwine with disgust and contempt. I guess that day’s lesson was not to despair too quickly… Or never to take a walk in the Spanish sun on a Friday the 13th!
By the way, thank you all for following the blog and the thousands of hits so far. I’m delighted that so many of you keep checking-in on the “no plan, plan”!
Here are some more pictures of this beautiful land.