Monday, October 23, 2023

Day 1 - 22 October - Santiago de Compostela to Negreira

 As Daft Punk famously sang: 

… She's up all night 'til the sunI'm up all night to get someShe's up all night for good funI'm up all Mexican lucky

It’s been a long day. I’ve been rained on quite a lot. Mrs C and I have shared a romantic sandwich lunch whilst sat in a bus shelter and our top floor apartment is more spenthouse than penthouse. I am a very lucky guy. In fact, I am Mexican lucky. It has been a great first day back on Camino.

We had our alarms set for three o’clock this morning to facilitate a three thirty leave and drive to Alicante airport, around seventy five minutes away. Having disposed of two (very worn) lightweight, easy dry tee-shirts at the end of our Portuguese Camino, I found myself with only two remaining such items but in need of a third so I gave Mrs C a choice to make at three fifteen this morning. “Right then, what’s it to be - do I travel today in my Sheffield Wednesday shirt or my Mexican Lucky tee-shirt?”. For context, Mrs C is less than keen on my being seen in public with either of these shirt options but not equally so as it transpires. “Mexican Lucky” was her immediate response and so today I have been driving, flying, bussing and walking whilst sporting my Mexican Lucky tee-shirt, a birthday gift from two dear friends as a nod to my propensity for often getting the lyrics of popular songs hopelessly wrong. 

The shirt itself is just a light blue, round-neck tee-shirt with a sombrero on it above which are the words Mexican Lucky. What’s not to like?

Our travel arrangements went smoothly and having alighted the bus from the airport to central Santiago at nine twenty, we found ourselves at Praza do Obradoiro, in front of the cathedral, just ten minutes later. Despite the relatively early hour, the square was already peppered with peregrinos excited at having just completed their Caminos. By contrast I felt a bit fraudulent being there with them, having just stepped off a bus ten minutes earlier. So we didn’t hang around for long - we had our own Camino to get started but this time heading away from, not to, Santiago. 

The weather forecast was not promising but we set off out of the city in decent enough conditions, even if the temperature was barely into double figures. Within a mile we were walking along eucalyptus woodland paths which were to feature for much of today’s thirteen miles. No chance of emerging from these woodlands with blocked nasal passages, such is the distinctive and pleasant scent of the eucalyptus.

We had been walking for about an hour when, on a steep(ish) downhill path, we happened upon an elderly French couple and their daughter, on bicycles, coming towards us. Or not. Mum was exhausted, it was as much as she could do to hold the bike stationery and upright. Daughter had parked her bike and was walking back down the hill towards Dad, also stationery. Bugger. I’m going to have to help aren’t I (shades of Day 15 on our Camino Frances last year). I didn’t know they were French at the time and so, in my best Spanish, I asked Mum if she needed some help. She did. Bloody hell the bike was heavy. I pushed it up the hill for twenty metres or so, conscious that there was still a long way to go to reach more level ground. Suddenly, Dad went flying past me like Evel Knievel on steroids. What trickery was this? Elec-bloody-trickery, that’s what. They all had electric bikes! Apparently, both Mum and Dad had over-tentatively approached temporarily unstable path conditions and lost traction and therefore momentum as a result. However, daughter had managed to get Dad going again and my twenty metre effort got Mum on to more stable ground and she was off too. 

Electric bikes - surely that’s cheating?

Time for a drink. The small hamlet of Quintáns was just a few minutes walk ahead and bar Os Arcos had a suitably cold and refreshing Estrella Galicia beer with my name on it. It was only eleven o’clock but I had been up for eight hours after all.

We continued along woodland paths and quiet country lanes through the Galician countryside, passing affluent private residences with paddocks for the horses and nice cars for their owners. But all this greenery doesn’t grow itself. It needs rain and Galicia gets plenty of it. Our decent weather start turned slightly less decent necessitating the donning of wet weather gear, ponchos and all, and a short stint sitting in a bus shelter to see out the worst of it where we also took opportunity to consume our ham sandwiches. Yesterday’s fresh baguette is today’s dry sandwich but just as well we took those carbs on board as we then had a steep mile and a half climb to the top of Alto Mar do Ovelias which was hard work, particularly whilst wearing wet weather gear which tends to keep you dry on the outside but not so the inside when effort is involved. From there however pretty much downhill all the way, over the impressive stone bridge at Ponte Maceira and then on to Negreira where we have a private room on the top (fifth) floor at Albergue San José which sounds quite quaint but actually resembles the building in Slough which houses fictitious paper company Wernham Hogg in the TV series The Office. Our room, with large balcony, was adequate enough but as tired and spent as one might imagine to be the case with Wernham Hogg’s Slough offices.

Whilst it might not be immediately evident from all the above, we have had a wonderful day. The walking has been a joy, feet appear to have withstood today’s challenges without incident and the rain has never been more than a minor inconvenience. And tonight? What a treat. We found the nearest bar to the albergue, drank beer and wine, watched Girona FC beat Almeria 5-2 on the tele and ate comfort food. Mrs C left half of her chicken and fried eggs but made herself a chip buttie. You can take the girl out of Burnley and all that!

Me? I settled for a huge plate of serrano ham, chorizo and cheese, half of which will be filling our sandwiches tomorrow. I am a lucky guy. Mexican lucky perhaps?

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