In Galicia, in the month of December, the sun doesn’t rise until 8:47, and even later by end of the month. And so, a late start on the Camino is inevitable if you don’t want to hike during the dark. Today, I hoped that would be 10am but the taxi driver didn’t come until nearly 11 to drop me back off on the Camino at the last place I walked. It was a relatively short hike. Much like yesterday. But the wind and rain were one category short of being a hurricane. Twice I was blown from one side of the street to the other. And the poncho I had hoped to rely on to keep me slightly drier than the day before literally blew into shreds to the point where, after finally finding shelter, I took it off and threw it in the first plastic recycling bin I found. And I thought the following days would be more grueling because they are longer. Distances I’m not accustomed to. But to be honest, today was rough. And yet, I have to say, I couldn’t have been happier to finally be back on the Camino.
Perhaps I have last night’s accommodations to blame. I slept in a very cold room last night. Something I was predicting, but hoping against all odds of it actually happening.
My lodging was a beautiful granite stone casa rural, which basically translates in American terms to B&B. Or, more precisely, freezing cold house in the middle of nowhere. Despite its evident beauty and age—it’s easily 500 years old (*actually, the newer part is from 1700, and the old central part, where the fireplace is, was built in the 12th century. I was a little off)—and the lush Anne of Green Gables surrounding countryside, and despite the fact that it’s probably necessarily cool and relaxing in the summer months, in winter it is drafty icebox. The radiator is useless. And the main source of heat—a fabulous old wood burning stove in the middle of the great room on the first floor—was occupied entirely by the old woman who runs the house. I was dying to sit in front of that fire, at least for a few minutes. But it wasn’t to be. She curled up on the bench like a house cat, all toasty warm, and watched TV the entire time, while I retreated to my chilly room.
And the thing about the cold is that you lose your ability to think. You can only think of the coldness your body feels. The way your nose runs like a leaky gutter spout, the way your bones feel stiff and crackable, the way your your heart beats faster trying to regulate your body temperature. Add to that the painful discomfort of then having to get naked and hop into a porcelain tub, unsure if your water will be hot or cold. In this particular tub (no shower), there was a glass splash guard blocking my ability to test the water without actually getting into the tub first. And so, fully dressed and shivering, I undressed, hopped in the tub and turned the knob to “C” for caliente, hoping it wasn’t a misleading description. Luckily, there was hot water. Very hot. And I didn’t mind very much scalding myself a bit simply trying to get the cold out of my bones. But, this is a casa rural. And the one thing I’ve learned through the years is that hot water won’t last very long in a Spanish casa rural. And besides, others in the house need it too (although I believe I was the only guest here). And so my moment of bliss came to an end after an indulgent four minutes.
The wind picked up this morning and the rain from last night never stopped. Someone informed me this is a La Niña year. Teresa, the dueña of the house, told me before I hit the road, there was a group of Madrileños that had come a week before to set off and do the Camino. They made it one day before quitting and going home due to the bad weather. I immediately felt stronger than another human being! Or stupider. It depends how you look at it.
At any rate, the walk itself started out rainy but mildly windy. Gusts of December air slipped through the open spots in my jacket until I zipped it up and donned the ill-fated poncho, which, a peregrino who came up behind me helped me with. The first person I’d seen on the Camino! Someone did say, and it’s a loose quote: There are no bad weather days only bad clothing. And for the most part I have to agree. But by the time I reached Portomarin, the wind was atrocious, the rain was heavy and my feet were noticeably wet. Underneath my clothing, I was relatively dry, but I felt swampy.
By 2pm, ish, I made it to Bodega Perez, the only place open for lunch in the entire town, except for a pizza place. There were other hikers here as well. We nodded in solidarity and then I ate like a fiend. I had passed so many potentially cute rest stops and restaurants and tiendas, all with alluring signs that said: “Pilgrims welcome,” and “Descanso,” only to be sadly taped over with another sign that said, “Closed for personal reasons.” (You mean, closed because it’s miserable out?). The promise of food, bathrooms or rest does not exist in winter. Fellow pilgrims: plan accordingly. And by all means, get used to peeing in the great outdoors.
When I wasn’t fighting with my flapping, falling-apart poncho I was singing Moon River and taking as many pictures as I could without completely submerging my phone in the downpour.
I made it to my next accommodation by 4pm, weary and beaten, but feeling accomplished. It’s lovely too. It’s a simple but warm pension where I will be able to sleep tonight without clenching my jaw from chattering. Who could ask for more?