Padron to A Coruña (20 km, felt like a constant climb)
I’m flat on my back. I can’t move.
Or, maybe I don’t want to move.
My boots are off. Yes, my boots are off. I can see the tips of my socks. I can smell them. So, I must have taken my boots off. Yes? That is a specific act. Not an accident.
My backpack is not where it is most often during the day: on my back. So, that too, is a clue.
I may very well be relaxing.
All I can do is send my senses out to the far reaches.
They come back with information: You are lying on fresh grass. And it is soft. There are fallen, rotting apples nearby, from that tree, I imagine. And corn, from fields freshly harvested. Wet soil, the rich loam of farmland confirms it. Pine needles, too. And a strange mix of flowers, both alive and dying. There is a stagnant pond out there, too.
Keep reporting in, I tell my senses.
Meanwhile, my mind struggles to manage the clouds I see drifting by.
“You! Elephant shapes! More to the left!’
“Too many dogs. Are there no original clouds left up there? Try being a lion or something, for god’s sake!”
“You, sailing ship! Well done! How about if the rest of you fall in behind and form an armada? Can you do that for me?”
Managing clouds is like herding cats.
But more rewarding.
On the road to Santiago:
To the outsider, it looks like I am merely waiting for our pension to open, Casa das Bentinas in the tiny village of A Coruña. Just another Camino bum, sacked out for the afternoon. Sleeping on somebody’s lawn.
Little do they know, that if my mind drifts, the fluffy clouds will likely scatter and ominous dark rain clouds will fill the void.
A little gratitude, please. And do not disturb my rest.
Amazingly, our end is in sight. We are staying a mere 7 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela.
We could have pressed on like so many of our Portugal Camino companions but it occurs to me that hundreds more pilgrims are pressing on from the east, the north, and the west.
That’s a lot of pressing on.
By mid-afternoon, Santiago will be bursting at the seams with freshly arrived pilgrims.
Better to stop, rest up, revitalize and re-energize and then early tomorrow morning, while Peregrinos all over Spain are just waking up, we march triumphantly into the central plaza like conquering soldiers.
That is the plan, anyway.
Today’s journey feels like the Reader’s Digest version of everything we’ve experienced to date, with a little weirdness thrown in — we got the hills, the beautiful forest paths, the cobblestone alleys through small villages, the rolling countryside, the derelict stone houses that cry out for restoration, the busy highways, the ancient churches with their golden altars.
And then we saw these life-size granite figures:
And these, whatever they are:
And it’s not even close to Halloween.
The “dummies” are actually part of a long-running protest against the construction of a commercial waste dumpsite in the mountains between Padron and Santiago. There were signs posted everywhere protesting the proposal.
In my very bad Spanish, I thought they were asking Peregrinos to not pee in their yards.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
On the outskirts of Padron are the decaying ruins of a military barracks, or a monastery, or perhaps a convent? The mind is always putting these places back together as gorgeous hotels or apartment buildings or homes:
Once again, in leaving a city, I felt like we barely gave it a chance.
Padron has so many secrets to reveal but it takes time to earn a city’s trust before they are revealed to you. You need to roam around at all hours, pick up the different rhythms, walk down unpromising narrow streets, push your curiosity out to the city limits, talk with its inhabitants.
Then, if you are really lucky, you might discover the true heart of the city.
But that takes time.
Also, exhaustion saps your curiosity.
It is unfortunate how many times we pass ancient buildings, curious statues, old churches, monuments beside the path — and we’re just too tired to explore deeper — or we have too far to go before we stop for the night.
Today, I paused before the towering Santa Maria de Cruces church and watched the steady stream of pilgrims climb the steps to the plaza entrance — and walk right by, to follow the yellow arrow around the corner.
Some stop to take selfies with the elaborate entrance as a backdrop. Some run inside to look for a passport stamp. A few linger inside long enough to absorb the majesty of Santa Maria’s interior. A very few.
Granted, this is church Number 3,761 on the Portuguese Camino — and the granddaddy of all churches is down the road in Santiago, calling out to the pilgrims.
Maybe we’re all just ready for the big finish. Everybody sure seems in a hurry today.
So we drop off the Camino moments before getting sucked into the Santiago slipstream.
Casa das Bentinas is a renovated 19th-century farmhouse that is beautifully appointed inside and out:
Casa das Bentinas is on the outer edge of a very old village, called either Ames or A Coruña. This is one place that hasn’t been spruced up to Medieval splendor for the tourists. People live in the houses on the narrow lanes, as their families have for centuries.
The pension is an 1846 farmhouse that has been thoroughly refurbished and modernized. And it is gorgeous.
The owner, Luis, shows up at 3 p.m. to check us all in — a German couple, a single German woman, a woman from Latvia, and we Mexicans. Almost a full house.
Luis sets out some wine and offers to come back and drive us to a restaurant around 6 p.m. Other than that, we are left on our own.
The restaurant turns out to also be owned by Luis, and it is modest by any measure. But Luis is so damned congenial nobody minds and for a bunch of hikers, food is food and tastes best when you are really starving. This tasted pretty good.
I want to hang out in the living room with its overstuffed couches but they only remind me how very very tired I am.
And tomorrow, we conquering soldiers, will march on to Santiago and claim victory under the golden morning sun in the Praza do Obradorio.
And maybe take selfies in front of Santiago Cathedral.
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