Friday 21 April 2017

A Long, Slow Journey 7: Gravitational Pull

By now we’ve begun to feel the gravitational pull of Santiago. Our bodies would love it if that meant we could amble gently downhill to our destination. But pilgrimages seldom work that way. Santiago is the literal as well as metaphorical high point of the Spanish section of our camino. So our path climbs, albeit gently and through some delightful patches of forest.

[Forest delights in Galicia] 
Rain is threatening, and we keep wet weather gear handy. We’re now deep into our second week of walking, and our feet and other parts are in various stages of distress. An old ankle injury is causing Lynne some pain. She had considered catching a bus to give her leg a rest, but instead has bound it up and soldiered on. She is one determined pilgrim! And in truth she will not be the only pilgrim to limp into Santiago.

[Pilgrim legs: strong but sore] 
After leaving the delightful woods of Reiris, we walk through quiet rural lanes that are lined with autumn-tinged grape vines. We have a brief stint on that constant companion, the unpleasantly busy N550 road. Then, as we approach the picturesque village of Tibo, the threatening clouds finally open up. Rain pours down unstintingly for several minutes, causing us to run for shelter in a small barn.

[Threatening clouds on the approach to Tibo] 
The deluge soon passes, and it isn’t long before we’re entering the tight, cobbled lanes of Caldas de Reis. Again there’s a beautiful mediaeval bridge to cross, and another forest to climb through. Happily our way fits snugly between the N550 and a railway line, with only the dull hum of traffic and the occasional whoosh of a train reminding us we’re on the fringes of a busier world.

[The smelter on the outskirts of Padron] 
The town of Padron is clearly a part of that world. Its aluminium smelter hogs the riverfront and belches smoke skyward. This seems at odds with its historical significance in the story of St James (Santiago). Legend has it that Padron was the first land sighted by those bringing St James’ body from the Holy Land to Spain. Of course Australians can’t ride their high horse here: the site of Captain Cook’s arrival at Kurnell has long been blighted by an oil refinery and fuel depot. Historical significance, like ecological significance, guarantees nothing.

Padron is our last overnight stop, and we leave so early that we need torches to find our way through the lanes. At one point we miss a waymark and find ourselves stooping to go through a dark tunnel. It seems wrong because it is. 

[Wrong way, go back: Lost near Padron] 
We retrace our steps and soon find a pilgrim shell marker. But today not even navigational errors and sore ankles can dampen our enthusiasm. We prefer to think of the words “last leg” in a positive way.

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