Mi Camino Flashback: Day 4 – Me Time with the Big Man Upstairs

L1040714Sept 18 – Melide to Arzua (13km): What a difference a day makes. One day killer blisters made me wished I’d never embarked on the Camino de Santiago; the next day, with my sore feet snugly fitted in a comfy, open-toed pair of  Teva sandals, I was a whole new person ready to take on hail and brimstone on the Camino. Okay, not that dramatic. I was just happy to be able to continue my Santiago de Compostela journey with much less pain. After much rest and a good night’s sleep, coupled with a good breakfast of coffee and a delicious garlic croissant, I was truly in good spirits on Day 4.

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KINDRED SPIRITS: I had told guide Jesus to go ahead and leave me on my own as I couldn’t get lost even if I tried with all the yellow arrows. Just 100m down though, I was joined by the dark-haired, red-coated girl I waved to yesterday. Joanna is from London and I thanked her for not being Irish! (No offence, Irish tour mates!) Travelling solo and unguided, she revealed that she recognised me as when she started her 100km from Sarria, the first people she saw was Jesus and me! What’s more, we shared the same tour agency too, CaminoWays. Cool connections!

Our first stamp stop was this lovely 19th century Santa Maria de Melide church (above left), whose priest was dressed in layman clothes and enthusiastically explaining the decor to all visitors (pity I don’t understand Spanish!) Later on, Joanna introduced the English couple she made friends with, Graham and Penny – yea, more English people! – who told me that they visited  Singapore before and found our famed Changi Prison Museum, which tells of the Japanese  Occupation of Singapore during WWII, moving. I totally agree.

ME TIME WITH GOD: After the trio went ahead, I had a good two hours walking on my own. The weather was extremely beautiful, bright but not hot, and the routes were much flatter and lined with beautiful huge trees. You feel safe everywhere on the camino, even while walking alone. I made time to observe His Glory in the nature around me and it was really blissful just being able to walk and talk with God, thanking him for all things in life (blisters and all). It was probably the most enjoyable part of Mi Camino. At one point, I asked myself: “Would I rather walk in pain on the Camino or deal with unreasonable and ungrateful clients at the office?” After picking the former in a split second, my 50+ km journey thereafter was frankly a breeze…
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SELLO MEANS STAMP: During a scenic forest stretch, I had to cross a small stream via a slippery-looking rock bridge. Praise God that despite my non-grip sandals, I managed to make it to the other side safely. That’s when I came across a guy (above left) selling camino souvenirs such as tee-shirts, scarves and bags. He has a “sello” sign and I didn’t realise then it meant “stamp” and not “seller”. Later, Jesus explained that because of his prosthetic leg, this chap would donate 10% of his sales to a fund that helps others who need prosthetic legs. I regretted not buying anything upon knowing his story, so if anyone of you reading this chanced upon the chap, please buy something from him, thanks. Also look for sello signs like at this unmanned fruit stall (above right). Just stamp  your passport, leave a donation, pick up a fruit and be on your way.
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BRIGHT BLUE SKIES: When I reached the first stop Boente, I caught up with a few others including Jesus and Jacintha who was fussing with her hat. After a nice cup of cappuccino, and all my blisters re-plastered, I continued with Jesus in tow and got to see green grapes on roadside vines (above left) and the nearby Santiago Church which offers free bookmarks and whose priest shook hands with every visitor asking them where they are from. You will also get to see a lot of cows – the brown ones are those that provide milk for the fine cheese that Arzue is famous for.

L1040722A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: At our lunch stop at Ribadiso de Abaixo, a solid Gothic medieval bridge (above) and tour mates Phil, Mary I and Annette greeted us. “We soaked our feet in the river!” yelled Phil. Alas, I only had time for lunch at this beautiful village. The last 3km was mainly on tarred tracks through residential areas.  I learnt to change layers fast on the road with a backpack on as we experienced quick weather changes – rainy one minute, hot sun the next! I had more me time too as Jesus had to go ahead when some tour mates had problems at our next hotel. I carried on singing, whistling, and praying while I walked. Still, it was a great sigh of relief to finally see the Arzua town sign!
20130918_144926HAT’S OFF FOR JACINTHA: Upon arriving at Hotel Pension El Retiro, tour mates having lunch gave me a rousing applause, the sweet suds. I then had probably the best meal on the trip – a cold glass of Estrella Galicia beer and a sumptuous plate of fried chicken drumlets. Yum!

Here’s a funny story. As we were eating, I turned to Jacintha and asked, “BTW, did you leave your hat on a milestone?” Startled, she admitted she did and Jesus and I had a laugh telling everyone how shocked we were to find Jac’s recognisable hat on a milestone and wondered if she left it there, lost it, or did something happened to her. A flustered Jac just wanted to know what did we do with it. “Oh thank God!” she cried when we said we left it where it was, amid bellows of laughter from the rest. And thank God indeed cos Jac had used her hat to represent “sins and misgivings” etc, just like what most other pilgrims would do with stones, pebbles or shoes!

Lesson to be learnt on the Camino: Never pick up any item from milestones or you might just get burdened with someone else’s sins!

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