A note for readers: This is the 11th in a series of articles intended to describe my experience of walking two of the many pilgrimage routes that make up Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Although I documented those experiences on Facebook as they were unfolding in October 2023, this is a much deeper look into their implications.
Should you need to review previous articles for context, please scroll down.
For the first kilometer of the Camino de Finisterre, all I can hear is the barrage of the downpour against the plastic material of my poncho. It is deafening, sounding more like hail than rain, and though thoroughly amused by it, I pray this racket won’t last for the duration of the day’s 21-kilometer trek to Negreira. By the time I cross the Rio Sarela on my way out of the city, the rainfall has become more reasonable, toggling between light and moderate, yet constant. Two kilometers from the Cathedral, I pass a clearing that affords one last view of its distant spires, appearing today like specters in the misty air.
There is a delicate, sublime music in the walk today. Its instruments are the rain and steady wind, my body and mind, and all of my senses. There is a voice too, and it’s spoken out of the sweet aroma lifting from the deep eucalyptus forests that mottle the landscape of western Galicia. Its language is Grace, and I breathe its words. It feels as though I’m in what the Celts would refer to as a Thin Place, a liminal sense of the world, where everything I might want to know or understand seems to be within reach, and yet, not quite. I attempt no questions, but remain open to answers...better this way. I do know this: I have never felt as completely well as I do in these early moments of forest walking. As all of its elements envelop me, I am having the finest day of pilgrimage that I can recall.
Aguapesada, the halfway point, is the perfect place for a food stop, located as it is just before a significant climb. I afford myself a long break here, and am able to dry out a bit before continuing on the remainder of today’s walk.
In yet another stroll across time, I cross the Rio Tambre on the 13th-century Roman bridge at Ponte Maceira, a beautifully preserved hamlet. Before long, I’m following the 700-meter detour to my accommodation just before the town of Negreira. When I arrive, I find my hosts, a married couple, to be in a festive mood. Today’s pilgrims are their last guests for this season, and their hospitality carries with it a playful, easy style.
The rural area that surrounds this small hotel and albergue is charming, and I take advantage of a break in the rain with an early evening saunter past the small farms, the local church, and the cemetery. As I walk these winding roads, my memory wanders to the mountain trek from Leon and its trials of the penitent way, my arrival in Santiago, and the turn there toward the coast. So far, this outer journey is a study in contrast in every way imaginable, and yet the inner one remains a constant, seamless movement.
I leave this sweet hotel before dawn, and assisted by my headlamp, find my way along darkened, narrow roads, back onto the Camino route, and into Negreira. Today’s walk of 33 kilometers to the town of Olveiroa, begins dry, and I’m hopeful it will remain that way. Although the pack cover and poncho are stowed in the lid section of the bag, the forecast suggests they won’t be necessary. I move through Negreira quickly and enter a forest landscape. The light fragrance of eucalyptus is once again in the air.
Sunrise is magnificent, the sky a smear of golden orange and salmon under layers of broken clouds and a hazy blue sky. The morning air is quite damp and chilly, and low-lying fog settles thick in the valleys, soon to be dissolved as morning comes on.
The landscape of today’s walk proves to be more diverse, a mix of forest and farmland, each with its own unique aroma. For the most part, I’m walking on paved roads which makes for more lower leg fatigue, but the views both near and far are lovely, even under a mostly overcast sky. Although I can sense the potential for rainfall in the air, I’ve not felt a drop all day.
Perhaps it is the absence of rain and wind, but today I’m more focused on the surroundings, the aesthetics of the hamlets, the expanse of the land, the ever-changing sky, the carnality of it all. I’ve a sense of falling in love with Spain yet again, even as my farewell is looming. Only two more walking stages follow this one. A good time now to stay in the steps I take today.
The weather has turned mostly sunny and rather warm as I arrive in Olveiroa and check into the albergue where I’ve made a reservation. Curiously, I’m not as tired as I’d have thought after a long stage; perhaps the sunlight energized me. The room to which I’m assigned has six bunks. One has been claimed, but its occupant is not here now. Based on the few pilgrims I encountered on the road today and given the late afternoon hour, I’d be surprised if anyone else arrived. I shower and tend to laundry chores, and by the time I return to the bunk room, my new friend, Gregory from Romania, is there to greet me. He speaks virtually no English, which matches my Romanian perfectly. Fortunately, he is equipped with a translation app, so other than having to pass his phone back and forth, we can chat like old pals.
Our time together will be brief. He is walking from here to Muxia directly, and I’m off to Finisterre where I’ll spend a day before heading to Muxia via another route. Tomorrow, we’ll walk together to where the Camino splits about eight kilometers from Olveiroa. It will be a long day for us both, so we agree to leave well before first light.
The primary concern of albergue life reveals itself soon after lights-out, but his snoring is light, more like heavy breathing. Sleep comes easily.
Next: To Finisterre and a stroll through memory.