Mi Camino Flashback: Day 2 – The Luck of 13 Irish Women

L1040488Sept 16, Portomarin to Palas de Rei (25km): “You’re so far away from home!” echoed almost every Irish person I met on the Camino de Santiago after I told them I hailed from Singapore. And believe you me there are HUNDREDS of Irish people on the Camino at any one time! I had 13 in my tour group alone! (Plus one American couple whom I suspect have Irish blood in them..) Just throw a scallop shell at any direction and I guarantee it will hit an Irish pilgrim…

No matter what time you start out on The Way, a good breakfast helps…

20130916_070526CAMINO BREAKFAST: On the first night, our guide Jesus already informed us that breakfast in Galicia is simple: bread (hard rock buns to be exact) with condiments, croissant or cake, slices of ham and cheese, coffee/tea and juice. Certain hotels served buffet-style and in which case you will have more choices like cereals and fruits. It’s not fancy but it’s decent.

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LONG & UPHILL PATHS: Today’s route has long stretches of roads which means – thank God – lots of flat ground. But that doesn’t mean there’s no steep slopes. No sirree. The moment we crossed the mighty Rio Mino at Portomarin, a very steep long stretch of hill slope awaited us (far left). All I can say is at least it was in shady woodlands. Even so, it was a chilly cold misty morning and I kinda regret not bringing my gloves or heat pads. But it’s still bearable and anyway I was soon sweating as I inched my way to the top where we finally see soothing tree-lined views of the countryside (pictured top). Along the way, you will also see a lot of crosses tributes (above right). Leaving stones or other items especially at the foot of crosses or top of milestones is a pilgrim ritual. Others would leave notes, messages, photos of loves ones as a form of a tribute or another.

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ENJOY THE VIEW: 
For someone born and bred in a concrete jungle, and loves travelling to big cities, the Spanish countryside was really an eye-opener for me. One moment it’s green and dewy, with the lovely smell of pine, the next it’s like a twilight zone as a thick coat of mist covered the highways and the trees.  Jesus the guide is a native of Santiago de Compostela. As a hospitality graduate, it’s no qualms for him to trek 100km to and fro 3x a month to guide people from around the world  – “But so far, mostly Irish,” he quipped – to his beloved birthplace. His quest right now is how to get pilgrims to stay longer in Santiago as most would leave after attending the mass at the Cathedral de Santiago. His mission, I told him, is to set up enticing 3D2N stay-overs at Santiago. He’s working on it. *thumbs-up*

PIT-STOP PASSAGES: As there was much distance to cover, our first stop didn’t come along till 8km later at Gonzar. While queuing for the toilet, chatted with a lady who’s Irish (surprise, surprise) who explained that the weather is warmer here than Ireland in September and hence walking enthusiasts like her flocked to Galicia. Other than that, she wasn’t quite sure why there’s so many of them here in Spain! Lunch at Casa Molar in Vendas de Naron is another 5km away but at least I had the chance to bite into a truly awesome Jamon sandwich and delicious cold can of Coke. Even a slight rain didn’t dampen my spirit until we turned the corner and there lies a super steep hill, tarred and paved with pebbles. Lord have mercy…

L1040530AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS: At Ligonde 4km down, look out for this cross (above).  I learnt about the pilgrim stone ritual from Emilio Estevez’s stirring movie “The Way”. The stone is to represent your sins or problems that you would like God to wipe away forever. Of cos you can actually do this anywhere but since it was a camino ritual I wanted to do it. So, when we arrived at the iconic 17th century stone cross that represents the life and death of Jesus (the Christ, not the guide), I placed my two pebbles from Singapore at the foot, said a prayer and offered thanksgiving to the Lord. It’s all good.

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ARE WE THERE YET?: Our last stop was at a cafe famous for its giant ant sculptures (their stamp is cute too with a row of ants!) Here we caught up with a few  group members and I also discovered I had accumulated 5 giant blisters on my feet…

What happened next was arguably the longest 5km of my life. We had already covered 20km over 8 hours, and I was utterly shacked. “How close are we?” “Quite close” is Jesus’ standard answer which I’ve long learnt that it meant “it could be if you walk faster…” Not with the blisters which were now truly hurting. It didn’t help also that I didn’t take a loo break at our last stop and there was no decent bushes for me to pop into.

Hours ticked by before I was about to demand for a taxi when Jesus called out, “Congrats! We’re here!” Hotel La Canaba, a log cabin-styled hotel, was located on the fringe of Palas de Rei and hence I thought we were still a long way off. Utterly relieved was an understatement…

L1040561At the lobby, tour mates who were already having their second bottle of wine, gave me a rousing welcome from the balcony, bless them. “You made it!” Thank you thank you, barely really, I muttered with a strained smile. I was so tired I didn’t join them despite loving wine just as much but hit the bed immediately after a quick shower…

WHAT MATTERS IS: Later on, tour mate Phil (short for Philomena) told me that she had sent my blog posting of my tough first day to her daughter in Ireland who felt for my pain. She text her mum saying, “(Marguerita) will make it! How could she not when she has the luck of 13 Irish women with her?” Well, if you put it that way. How could I not indeed? Here’s to the next 52 km then!

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4 comments on “Mi Camino Flashback: Day 2 – The Luck of 13 Irish Women

  1. J Wan says:

    Ooooh love this! Love the power of women, love the inspiration that you are dishing out with every word, and especially love that first picture of the group of trees standing together in the middle of the road, ready to face anyone and/or anything that comes their way.

    Like

    • marfield49 says:

      Thanks love! Thanks for your encouragement. Yes, love the first shot – was hoping there are13 trees but I think there’s more, haha. That was the first thing I saw the moment i reached the top of that steep slope and it was like “Thank God that’s over… to the next point” :p

      Like

  2. aurumeve says:

    Beautiful pic! I miss the camino!
    AurumEve.com ~ Global Jewelry

    Like

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