Monday, October 23, 2023

Day 2 - 23 October - Negreira to Santa Mariña

As Mud famously sang;

Alright, feels tight, feels tight, feels tight,Feels tight, my knees really hurt in the nightStay calm, stay calm, stay calm, stay calm,And apply that tiger balm, yes apply that tiger balm

Today has been all about knees, wees and itineraries.

Twelve hours in bed was a good antidote to yesterday’s early start, even if Mrs C was experiencing restless legs during the night. It was raining when we woke up, not unexpected, so we didn’t bother rushing. We departed our accommodation at half past nine and found a supermarket in which to buy a couple of soft rolls, then on to a bar for coffee, croissant and complementary cake and churros. We set off proper at ten o’clock by which time the rain had ceased even though a wet mist prevailed.

Is Mrs C morphing into St James?

Negreira wasn’t a particularly attractive town although we exited via an impressive stone archway. We took the green optional route away from Negreira, initially following the cascading Rio Barcala before commencing a five mile, three hundred metre ascent towards Alto da Pena where I treated myself to a beer at the albergue bar of same name. The walking environment had been stunning, primarily through forest where the eucalyptus was joined by its pine, oak and silver birch contemporaries. The pathways were strewn with leaves, shredded eucalyptus bark, conkers and pine cones which combined, at times, to provide slippery conditions underfoot, particularly on the narrow uphill paths. The natural pathways have been augmented, sometimes by concrete but mainly a dry mix and scree which makes for easier walking conditions generally but is prone to wash away with heavy and prolonged rains. It is also prone to getting in my boots. If I stopped once today then I must have stopped twenty times to take off my boots and empty them of small stones and the like. 

Unfortunately, by the time we reached Cafeteria Alto da Pena, Mrs C was struggling a bit with hurty knees and her discomfort continued throughout the rest of the day. I did attempt some psychological therapy of the “pull yourself together” variety but, alas, to no avail. Fortunately, the walking conditions underfoot took on somewhat easier form for the second half of the walk although Mrs C’s gritted teeth told their own story. We were now in more open, rolling countryside passing fields of recently harvested corn as we made quicker progress on roadside paths, not that there were too many cars to worry about, but still mainly wide cross country paths.

We parked up to enjoy last night’s leftover serrano ham, chorizo and cheese in the soft rolls acquired this morning, sitting either side of the 55.795 km way marker on the roadside. Thus far there has been little chance of our getting lost courtesy of these ubiquitous official directional guides. The stony ground either side of the 55.795 km marker didn’t make for the comfiest of bases on which to sit and consume our lunch but aesthetically it was an improvement on yesterday’s bus shelter.

When walking long distances in the middle of nowhere, wild wees are a fact of life and I’m not just talking us chaps you know. Throughout our walk today, the weather had changed from wet misty to dry misty, to cloudy, sunny cloudy and then a bit spitty rainy, the latter necessitating ponchos once again even if we could just about have gotten by without them. Anyway, Mrs C felt the wild wee urge whilst sporting her rather dandy poncho. One of the consequences of hurty knees is an inability to crouch comfortably but when one is “in poncho”, the ability to crouch for purposes of modesty and efficiency isn’t necessarily quite so important. Suitably emboldened and with no peregrinos in sight within two hundred yards in either direction, our middle of nowhere location enticed Mrs C to the prospect of wild weeing at the side of this surprisingly wide and tarmac’d country path, rather than perhaps seeking a rather more discrete, off-path location. Anyway, wild wee barely completed when - whoooosh - a transit van flew past as Mrs C was still zipping up etc. So, our surprisingly wide and tarmac’d country path was actually a road. You live and learn. 

Thus far over our two Caminos Mrs C and I have eschewed the use of walking poles or similar but when hurty knees come-a-calling, one may need to reconsider such stance. Mrs C did just so when speculating that some sort of walking staff might prove helpful and thus I set about spying the landscape for something suitable and it wasn’t too long before a long, sturdy stick was located. What with the poncho, walking staff and hat ensemble it struck me that Mrs C now bore more than a passing resemblance to the many depictions of St James himself. This reminded me, scarily, of the film The Santa Claus, where actor Tim Allen plays a regular guy who gradually morphs into Santa himself. Could similar be happening to Mrs C? Having thought about it, I might possibly be able to accommodate such a scenario although I would definitely draw the line at her growing a beard and anything else come to think of it.

We arrived at our accommodation Albergue Casa Pepa, in the tiny hamlet of Santa Mariña at around half past four. Mrs C’s knee issues are cause for concern and we have decided not to proceed with our original plans to walk to Finisterre via Muxia and instead to take the more direct route straight on to Finisterre. This will allow us to take a short day of walking tomorrow and two relatively modest days thereafter, with a spare day thrown into the mix just in case.

Decision made, we sat in the late afternoon sun at the albergue bar and celebrated appropriately, later taking advantage of their pilgrim meal offering of lentil soup and pork filet and chips at the princely sum of twelve euros per person. Having anaesthetized Mrs C with a couple of Estrella Galicia beers, I shall now proceed to applying the tiger balm. Every cloud has a silver lining!

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