Not dun roamin’!
I received a text message from my UK mobile network this morning, to let me know that I have been out of the UK for more than two months, so I’ll be charged 0.78p/MB from now. They feel that I’ve done quite enough roaming… I will try to find wifi hotspots to upload my photos from now on, so my I updates might be somewhat delayed.
We had a little bit of trouble finding breakfast after leaving Casa Tomas. Although the owner of Bar Guede, where we ate dinner, told us that he’d open at 8:30, the place was closed. We wandered into Bar Luciano, where the owner was too busy reading an invoice to respond to our “Buenos Dias!” I wondered if his door was only open for the beer delivery that was taking place, but he eventually gave us his attention. He made us coffee but could only offer a plastic-wrapped “Madeleine,” by way of food. As we were consuming this, another two pilgrims walked in – an Italian woman who started her Camino in Seville and a Spanish man who started in Zamora. Perhaps I’ll come across them again in the next few days. We decided to try our luck at the Copa cafe, across the square. Here, finally, we found a warm greeting and croissants with butter and jam.
Today’s walk started nicely, as we followed the arrow on the Galician stone statue and left Xunqueira under blue skies. We crossed a road bridge, from which we could see a pretty, stone, bridge downstream. I wondered why the Camino didn’t take us across that. Its very pretty, but perhaps it doesn’t lead to the right path out of town.
We thought we were in for a pleasant day as we passed a friendly mule in a field with a Horreo, and a couple of playful dogs. Soon, however, we saw a brownish fog ahead, and we walked past blackened hillsides, where the vegetation was wiped out by the forest fires that raged here a couple of months ago. I guess the fog had picked up some colour from the ash that one can still smell in this area. This was the worst fire damage that I have seen on this Camino. (But perhaps I walked past worse-hit areas on the last foggy day). I tried to imagine what the people who live nearby must have felt as they evacuated homes without knowing what they would find when they returned.
We walked through fog for most of the rest of the day. Much of the walk was on hard pavements by the side of the road, so I put on my headlamp and we waved to alert the passing cars to our presence. We took a break in Penenas or Pereilas, where the barman told us that he’d seen the other pilgrims pass by earlier. At San Cibrao, the arrows directed us through an industrial estate. We made good speed since there was no incentive to take photos or enjoy scenery. All in all, it was not much fun.
After we made it through the long line of factories and distribution centres, we sat down at a bakery for empanadas and Coca-Cola, feeling a little worn out.
When we emerged from the bakery, we found that the fog had lifted. Our mood improved as we walked through suburban streets towards our goal. The arrows led us on one pointless detour from the road, past a few gardens, to a railway track and then back to the road. Apart from that, it was a straight run to the pretty suburb of Seixlabo with its heavy stone buildings, and then to the city of Ourense itself.
In a telephone chat with Michael, Uwe described Ourense as “modern and clean.” If that sounds like faint praise, then so be it. The pedestrian zone has a few grand buildings and the cathedral of San Martin is probably worth a visit but the city centre lacks spectacle.
One thing this city has, though, is hot springs. There are spas spread out along the river Minho. I was keen to try them.
We checked into Casa Habana (a beautiful, central apartment that was recommended to us by Tomas, the owner of Casa Tomas) and made our plans for the rest of the day. We skipped the free, public baths that one can see from the bridge (and they look very nice). Instead, we visited the private, “Japanese style” spa at Outariz, since it was recommended by Tomas. I am sorry to say that I was underwhelmed. Only one of the baths was hot enough and somehow it just didn’t work for me. It was odd, too, to see how the Japanese spa concept was interpreted. Mixed bathing in swimming costumes makes for a very different sort of experience. One middle aged lady was wearing a swimming cap and goggles – an odd sight. And one, younger woman had mascara smudged over her cheeks as she canoodled with her beau. Meh. On the positive side, we found that the long soak did wonders to soothe our aching muscles.
In addition to spending an hour at the spa, we managed to do some essential errands. At the post office, I sent my Jacques Brel photograph to Wiltshire, and Uwe bought stamps for postcards. And later, at the small but well stocked Entrepicos shop, I was able to find a new pair of boots as a backup / replacement for my rapidly disintegrating boots. I will be alternating footwear for the next few days until I feel confident that I can wear the new ones without problems. The salesman in the store was happy to let me try many pairs. We ended up staying long after 8pm when the store closes. I settled on an Italian brand, Aku, rather than the local Spanish favourite, Bestard. You will, therefore, be spared all the worst puns about hard Bestards and dirty Bestards. I also bought hiking trousers to replace my convertibles which have started to scratch my leg.
After all that activity we were ready for a good dinner. We were keen to try the local speciality, Pulpo Gallego, and we were not disappointed. We had a terrific meal of pulpo, sardines, pimientos pardon, croquettes, and other treats, washed down with a few celebratory beers. In a way this was a farewell, since Uwe is going to walk longer distances than me for the next four days. He wants to reach Santiago on Friday, so that he can spend Saturday looking around before he flies home on Sunday. I will take things easy in my new boots, but I hope to catch up with him in Santiago on Saturday evening. It will be good to have a friend to celebrate with, when I get there there.
Day 61 (27/Nov/2017): Xunqueira de Ambia to Ourense (22km)
Not dun roamin’!