Spain 2018, part 24 (Way of St James: Melide – Arzúa)

Not everything was grey on the thirty-fourth day of my pilgrimage on the Way of St James. In the town of Melide the fog disappeared, although it was still cloudy, and when later we reached a forest, there was strong green colour of the trees that was dominant. Francesco was in a particularly good mood and most of the way he was singing. These were different Italian songs and as I’ve already mentioned earlier, I realised that the Italians have a song for every occasion and each thing in the Universe. This is indeed a nation that truly loves music.

And then again, the forest started to resonate with some wonderful instrumental music, I presume from Galicia. It seemed very odd, as if some forest fairies had decided to entertain the passers-by, but soon the situation became quite clear – a couple of girls were playing music with the hope they would earn some money from the donations of the pilgrims that were passing by there. Again in this section there was a new, increased influx of pilgrims, since the so-called Primitive Way (Camino Primitivo) joins the French Way (Camino Francés) precisely in the town of Melide.

This music intermezzo was taking place right before a picturesque crossing over a stream and immediately after the stream a young man was offering to put a very interesting type of a seal into the pilgrim’s passports – using sealing wax to fix a thin red ribbon that had a tiny silvery foot on its end. In other words, the business was in its full swing.

Crossing over the stream in the “magical forest”

When we left the “magical forest,” the Way led us beside numerous farms and they also included granaries. I still found it very interesting to take photos of them and if I appeared pensive and as if I would just walk past them without taking notice of them, Gabriel would draw my attention to the picturesque granaries, lest I should overlook them.

By taking photos of the granaries, I felt like the character of the National Geographic photographer played by Clint Eastwood in the film “The Bridges of Madison County.” I may have seemed as if I had never seen granaries before, but I actually had never paid any attention to them. A couple of months after my pilgrimage in Spain, when I went on a trip around western Serbia, I saw that we also have similar granaries, but this certainly did not make the ones from Galicia any less picturesque and attractive.

Granaries in Galicia

A granary

A granary by the Way

A granary by the Way

In-between taking these photos, rage started occasionally to come up to the surface. Rage? Oh, yes. Since my joy for the reappearance and the repossession of my backpack had faded away, now I was thinking about the events of the previous day and the “disappearance” of my luggage. I was furious at the transporter of the luggage who took my backpack by mistake, I was furious at the destination to which my backpack was taken and I was also furious at the religious group that I listened to for a while on the eve of the night we shared the hostel as they were signing in exaltation about God, love and all the sublime human ideals. How could the transporter of the luggage pick up the backpack absolutely without looking at what he was taking? How could the transporter or some other hostel/albergue fail to notice a huge, bright red backpack that was a surplus and that was not taken by anybody for hours? How was it possible that nobody looked at the envelope of a huge red backpack standing somewhere abandoned with all the data written on the envelope? And finally, how can the group sing about God and love when some people working directly for them caused suffering to another fellow being?

Of course, it was clear to me that it was absolutely pointless to bother about something that had been resolved and that nobody was actually “guilty” there, least of all the religious group, nobody did anything to me on purpose, but rage is not a rational category and I simply let it wander around my organism for a while. I had no strength or surplus energy to fight anything, including even my own rage. Because of the lack of rest the previous night, my right leg, or rather the front tendon on its ankle, started to hurt a lot and that was a serious and a growing problem. The rage weakened with time anyway until it disappeared completely.

I was also thinking again about the Lesson from the Way no. 9 (Spain 2018, part 22) and about the essential question: “Should one give up and, if so, when?” It is a major challenge and problem how to interpret certain obstacles we come across and how to act about them, and the resolving of this requires experience and wisdom and intuition or instinct. Are these just the challenges we need to overcome, something that makes our life’s way more difficult, but also something about which we need to learn lessons and then just rise above it? Or, are these the signs we need to stop, give up and move into another direction? I don’t think that there is a final answer to these questions. Each situation is different, we are all different, and each moment and each lesson in our lives are different. And in line with this, each one of us should take the decision which at the given moment and under the given circumstances seems to be the best and the most correct one. I actually think that this is more about that once we have taken a certain decision, no matter what it is or what its consequences are, we should accept it with peace, without guilty conscience, and without looking back and thinking “If only…” Unless the taking of completely wrong decisions is the lesson we actually need to think about, learn about and correct it. (Here I’m both joking and not.)

The fact that all things have their good and bad sides, including also the decisions we take, soon got its validation on a much simpler case. I have already mentioned earlier two men who did the pilgrimage with a cart pulled by a donkey. Although they themselves walked, it still seemed as a huge advantage along the Way that they had a donkey pulling the cart with all their things and that they could spend the night wherever they felt like it. It was right in this section that we again walked more or less parallel with them and this was happening precisely in the place where we all had to go a little bit uphill and then downhill. While going uphill, they had to help the donkey, because the latter could not pull the cart on its own along that slope, and when we got to the downhill section, they also had to help, lest the cart rushed down and hurt the animal.

It is not easy or simple to go along the Way even with the help of a donkey and a cart

As for the three of us, although Francesco often treated us with his singing, he was in a particularly good mood today. I guess because we were getting closer to Santiago and the end of the pilgrimage. Thus, when we got to village Ribadiso de Baixo, I went down to the bank of a small river in order to take a photo of the bridge (this one was probably also from the period of Ancient Rome), as Francesco sang to me a beautiful Italian song while standing on the bridge.

Francesco and a canzone

In addition to treating me to a beautiful song, he also took a photo of me, so now I have a memory of the moment from two sides.

Beside the small river in village Ribadiso de Baixo (Photograph courtesy of FT)

From there we had just a little bit over 3 kilometres to Arzúa town, but even in this part we came across interesting granaries.

A granary above a gate

And then we got to the final destination for the day. It turned out that we had booked the accommodation at an albergue that was located almost at the exit from the town, so very tired and with pain in my legs I barely managed to drag myself to the place. The room was fine and finally I could take a shower, wash my laundry and put it out to dry early.

The laundry is getting dry

Then I lay down in bed, wrote the text for the day and posted it on Facebook so that my friends could read it. Still, since I felt particularly drained, I asked them not to cheer me on. During my pilgrimage, they often sent me messages of support, encouraging me to keep going and saying that the finish line was near. Although I was grateful to them on the one side because they followed me and wanted me to attain my goal, I was on the other side too tired of the Way and everything that was happening to me to be able to respond to their messages with kindness and I just felt worn out.

Day 34: “And? What’s next?!!”

Yesterday was quite a special day indeed. Although I could not post any photos, at some point I decided to publish my text anyway, more as a possible preparation for the concrete application of Lesson no. 9.

Namely, yesterday afternoon, my eyes were again full of tears, but this time I did cry and from time to time quite audible sobs of desperation came out of me. My backpack did not arrive. First, the host of the albergue kept convincing me that the luggage regularly comes late, that the guys transporting it probably just stopped somewhere to have a drink, but eventually we did called them and it turned out that the transportation company did not see my backpack at all.

I started with an investigation, called the albergue in the previous town, it was not there either, I called the transportation company again and no, they definitely did not see it. Then I called the civil guards, they first told me to go back to their office, but eventually they did send a patrol to come to see me. I explained it all to them and they called the same people as I did, but then they also went back to the albergue to check there. And so I waited for them for a few hours. First I felt empty and dull, and then very sad and that sadness simply would not go away.

I have nothing valuable in the backpack, the backpack itself is of a very good brand, but it is old and has already started to lose its advantages, in Santiago I even have 4.5 kg of completely clean clothes and that is only three days on foot away and even much closer by coach. But still, I was very, very sad. No, I was lost. How much more do I have to endure?!

In an attempt to try to do anything I looked at what it would cost me to buy a ticket back to Belgrade the day after reaching Santiago. The ticket would be very expensive, if there were panic, I would buy it, but I thought I could for less money spend a week in Spain until the day for which I already had the plane ticket. On the other hand, I always worry when I start rationalising about money. Are these all the signs that I am in a COMPLETELY wrong place? What should I do? I had no idea. As I’ve said, I felt completely lost.

Very strangely though, I did not consider at all the possibility to go to Santiago by coach the following day and to stop walking. It would be a bit of a challenge to sleep in what I had walked in that day and then to walk again in the same clothes, but the next place where we would stay was a little bigger and had shops. I hoped I would be able to buy at least a tooth-brush and tooth paste. Here, both the hosts and some Americans offered to me a few basic provisions, but I was so sad that I did not want to do anything, not even take a shower. I just sat bleakly in the bar, not knowing how to procede.

I only wanted my things, not because of any value of theirs or some sentimental attachment, but simply because they were mine. Just as I sometimes enjoy eating chocolate or just eating when I’m under stress, it also meant to me that my things were with me and that the misfortunes came to an end. They comforted me that the backpack was certainly not stolen, but rather misplaced somewhere, and yet nothing helped. I was utterly desolate and completely convinced I would never see it again.

After I had sat at the hostel’s bar for some 3 or 4 hours, I got up and went to the dormitory in order to see if the guys had some charger that would fit my computer, since mine was in the missing backpack. No, they did not have it. And just then came the host and told me my backpack had just been brought in. I dashed to the bar and there was my backpack with two civil guards next to it. I threw myself around the neck of one civil guard thanking him. The younger one moved a little away, but he, too, had to get his share of hugging and thanking.

It turned out that there was a large group at the albergue at which I had left my backpack and when their transportation company came to collect their things, they also picked up my backpack. But, I no longer cared about any of this.

On the other hand, the stress was so big that I had my dinner with a feeling I had a huge stone in my stomach and I also slept very poorly last night.

This morning when I got up, surprisingly I found myself to be beautiful while looking at me in the mirror, which was actually the case for quite a number of days in the recent time, but on the inside I felt exhausted and with a very present strong sensation of huge level of tiredness. Tiredness of it all.

Again we started to walk when it was completely dark, but nothing of this kind bothered me any longer. I just wondered: “And? What’s next?!!”

To start with, it was rather foggy, as well as chilly, just as it was yesterday. There has been a threat of rain for a couple of days now, but there has been no rain today. Still, after the long day yesterday, the enormous stress, with no afternoon rest, poor sleep last night and today’s walking, the right front tendon started to hurt me more and more, and I was very tired. I enjoyed immensely when we got to the albergue, settled, I took a shower, washed my laundry and could finally rest.

And today, please, refrain from cheering me on. I know I have just a little bit to go. I’m only prepared to accept the expressions of commiseration, understanding or even the lack of it, but once again, please, no cheering on.

In front of me: 40 km
Behind me: 827 km

Later that day, Francesco, Gabriel and I went to eat octopus that is a speciality of this area. In Melide town there are also a lot of restaurants that offer this speciality. Although none of these two towns are on the coast, they have developed the recipe and Francesco in particular insisted that we should eat this. And Gabriel and I were more than ready to agree with him.

A dish made of octopus in Arzúa town

In addition to the octopus, Gabriel and I ordered again the dish that had by this point become our favourite addition to whatever else we were eating. These were the padrón peppers (pimiento de padrón). I first ate them on the Canary Islands years ago and I liked them so much that whenever I have an opportunity I order them.

Padrón peppers

Still, I was very glad when the dinner was over, we went back to the albergue, I collected my dried laundry, prepared my things for the continuation of the walking the next day and went to bed.

Verica Ristic

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