Thursday, 27 August 2009

Insights and a Serious Attempt at Introspection...

(Wednesday August 12th to Thursday August 13th)

I am back in my home and only a fool would try to negate its beauty. There are no urbanisaciones directly in front of my window, as I write this, only pristine Andalucia.

I am lucky.

So for the most part what will follow will be my own investigaciones into the plot and mainstay of the next book, to be entitled simply “Compostela”. Diego Gelmirez, the first Archbishop of Compostela, wanted immortality: history has given him that. He was the architect of what pilgrims have sought for many, many years. He gained that prestige by capitalising what he knew only too well was historical shaky ground: he had good reasons for this: locate the relics and you bring in the wealth!

Yet it is this story we are fed as pilgrims today, even though it has no substance; things haven’t changed so much, yet after his death, in the place which should have given him that immortality, he disappeared. We don’t even know where he was buried. It is as if this powerful bishop never was, despite his own efforts to make his way into the history books – yet so much has been written about him. This is my challenge! For me it is obvious that the story that we have been fed about Santiago de Compostela is false and I hope, if you will stay with me you will begin to see it that way too. But before I continue where I left off, with that history (see previous posts: June>). I feel that there are a few lessons about the Camino that I need to share. You can ignore them if you wish. Just come back in a few days and they will have moved on to some historical truths...inconvenient as they may be.

How to be honest? I think looking back at these postings I have been very honest.

But what have I truly learned from this Camino?

I have learned, once again, that the Camino is a microcosm of the world that could be. Those who have walked it, (or within whatever transport they took it) already know this. Those who have yet to experience it, will, in one way or another learn this: that much is guaranteed.

I have learned as the I Ching counsels “not to put too much trust into those with whom we have recently become acquainted”: sad but true.

I have learned that there are angels on the Camino. Usually where you least expect them (and I am still not totally convinced about angels anyway.)

I have learned to ask for what you truly need, for it will be provided.

I have learned that sometimes we are too hard on ourselves.

I have learned that the distance is not something we need to really concern ourselves with: it is about putting one foot in front of the other.

I have learned that blisters go away, in fact most annoying things go away eventually.

I have learned that you can speak Spanish in Portugal and be more or less understood, but that you may not have the slightest idea of the response believe me, it doesn’t really matter, the Portuguese are the most helpful people on earth.

I have learned that parrots have a sense of humour and that I can raise swallows from the dead.

I have learned that sometimes I have to let myself be taken care of.

I have learned that what “the church” has told you is very much open to question.

I have learned to open myself up to others: if you can master this you may find that the ones around you can help you move further upon your journey. This,I have found, is very important.

A corollary to the above would be not to let a moment pass by: sometimes an instinct which says “Do this Now!” can lead to contacts which can help you further your quest I was to find this time and again...: There is no such thing as “luck”.

I have learned that I am quite content with my own company, especially in the rain.

I have learned that most of the times the things that annoy us are part of ourselves and anyway, they don’t count for much in the overall scheme of thing. Learn to forgive and forget. see

I have learned that whatever religious path you may have been taught we all come together in the most fundamental things.

I have learned that life is a beautiful gift: you only have to open your eyes to the “ordinary”and accept it to recognise how lucky you really are.

Perhaps most of all, I have learned that I need to wage war against “righteous indignation” those moments when the world provides us with idiots and you know you are right. It is easily spotted: it begins with these words:...they should..., why don’t they... you would think that they... it’s not right that...But it’s counter-productive and only increases the frustration. I’m working very hard on a Live and Let Live philosophy. But it’s not always so easy.

That’s enough for now. I know there are more: will be more. For now I am concentrating my energies on researching “Compostela” the next book and I hope you will join me on my journey as I share my research with you here. An optimistic publication date will be late 2010, but in the meantime I invite you to read Pilgrimage to Heresy or her sister Peregrinos de la Herejia. I welcome your comments.

Watch this space for further updates.

Buen Camino!



Monday, 24 August 2009

Homeward Bound... Part Four

Leaving Fernanda’s and starting the long journey home via Castello Branca: what an amazing drive where there is literally no-one to share the road with you, to Cácares, to Merida, to Sevilla, (if you are driving the Ruta de la Plata: they’ve made it MUCH easier in the last few years though I feel for the villagers whose roads no-one ever travels anymore) eventually to Ronda and (almost home).

Goddess Gladys, I salute you at any time, and anywhere because you take care of me. Most people won’t recognise you in the little Cadiz village of Benamahoma but it is there that I worship you, and I had made a promise.

Thanks to Fernanda I had enough gasoline not to have to worry about the drive home and I had a vow to keep. It is not far off the direct route to Ronda and so I took it.

I won’t go into how I first encountered Goddess Gladys (“Goddess Gladys, full of grace, help me find a parking space!) nor how I actually came face to face with her in Benamahoma many years ago now; but I know that she travels with me. Call me an idiot if you wish, I spend every first week of September in her environs and I had promised a visit on my way back from this Camino, just to say thanks. I was expected in Marbella, but I took a chance.

She was fenced off. I didn´t care. I immersed my tired and swollen feet in her “fuente” and said, “Thank you for staying with me, for always being with me” before a local lady told me that I would be fined for such things. I said I didn’t care “Vale la pena!” I said, and directed her gaze to a plaque just underneath the “Santa”:
It says:

Nacimiento de Benamahoma

Un Romano Peregrino
Nos narra a continuacion
Una historia del Camino
De su Peregrinacion

“Vine Galicia a Roma
Desde Galicia a Jerez
y alli en Benamahoma
Andando campo a traves

Todo el Camino sedento
Rechesandome la sed
Para gozar la sed
Hal retarme el nacimiento”

I have never tried to exactly translate this but I’ll try in my own way here:

A Pilgrim from Rome
Once told us about his sacred journey
A story of the Way
Of his Pilgrimage:

“I travelled from Galicia to Rome
From Galicia to Jerez
And there to Benamahoma
I travelled once more

The whole Camino I was dry
Saving for myself the thirst
For the joy of being thirsty
To return to this source.”

I love this.

Perhaps my translation is faulty but it is how I perceive this pilgrim’s thoughts: saving his real thirst for the time that he quenches it in this “fuente”: this “source” of the River Majacete, a place I know well, and love well. Find me in the first week of September and here I will be....year after year. It is one of the few things in my life you can count upon.

I did this, as a promise. And I share in his joy! And mine...

The local lady who had questioned my right to bathe my feet in this river, not only understood, once I had pointed out not only my swollen feet but the message, went to get me some of “Gladys’” water to take home with me. I had made a contact and I hope added something to the faith in this remarkable statues’ fame. Certainly every time I have seen her she is garlanded more and more.

“Gladys”, your homely face brings me back year after year, and not just me....

I was on my way downwards from Ronda, a beautiful drive in its own right much frequented by motorciclistas when I encountered my first sighting of wealth: La Zagaleta – they have their own helicopter pad! Shortly after I passed an urbanisation I have often admired for its architectural brilliance. But all I could think of was “Please take me home to Galicia!”. Marbella is “paradiso” for many, but is it for me? Is where I live “Spain”? Having only just returned from my Camino into the place in which I make my living I am not ready to comment.

Something I have thought of for a very long time is to open a “re-grouping centre” somewhere either in Santiago or nearer the coast. A place to talk or not talk, to write, draw, play the guitar, sing or pray. Re-entry is a shock to all of us. The lessons we have learned, the simplicity of the Way, these can disappear so quickly once we are back to “real life”. I would love to be able to help in some way, perhaps even work with encounter groups or similar incorporating my back group as psychotherapist with my pilgrim side.

Maybe one day. We’ll see.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Homeward Bound... Part Three

My trip back was not without incident. Simone Volvo was determined to show her age but even in Pontevedra I met someone prepared to keep his garage open well past 8 o’clock at night on a Saturday. As a result, I did not get to Fernanda’s as I had intended to but got hopelessly lost near Ponte de Lima as they were in Feria and had detoured traffic. No matter I am not a stranger to sleeping in my car and the next morning woke up to a beautiful river site. It also gave me chance to explore what was certainly a pre-Romanesque church and even to sing in it! I was at Fernanda’s by early lunchtime - not that she would let me participate in the preparation of such. She said to me “We were wondering when Tracy would arrive” I felt like the Prodigal Son!

I only stayed one night, though prevailed upon to stay more I was afforded “my room”: one with a double bed normally given over to couples who have walked far. This is a Camino philosophy in me the hopeless romantic can’t ignore. The next morning, Jacinto, her husband on his way to his office with Mariana their dancer daughter, (Fernanda had already left for work at the Post Office), told me where to leave the key.

These people leave me in awe!

And a little aside, I had told Fernanda that the repairs in Pontevedra had left me short of money until I could get to my bank in Spain. By my bedside when I awoke was a 50 euro note.

How do you go about approaching the Vatican with petitions of Sainthood? Seriously!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Homeward Bound... Part Two

(August 1st to August 4th)

The next morning I was packed and, more or less “ready” to leave. But I was thinking about “my” Camino and the things I had learned. As I came out of the Alameda I noticed a familiar dog, with food and water close by. A friendly face exited the restaurant and said good morning. It was Pedro.

Now it is funny how we meet people on the Camino who somehow have lessons to teach us. I was actually thinking about Pedro as I left the Pension. And here he was! We shared a breakfast and he told me about his previous Caminos: one every year for seven years.

“Choose a stone”, he said as he produced a handful from his pocket. I chose one “Now choose another,” I was told, and then I chose between them. As it was I chose the one I had originally selected. Pedro then produced wire and a leather thong and made me a necklace I shall treasure forever – inscribed with a very delicate yellow arrow.

We bid each other farewell but of all the people I met on this Camino (with the notable exception of Fernanda) it is Pedro I shall remember most.

Now, I live in an enviable part of Spain, Marbella is the Monte Carlo of the Costa del Sol. But for me it is not the real Spain and I have known this for a long time; it is where I make my living and I am not complaining, but the simplicity of this man’s life really struck a chord in me. He says he will stay in Fisterre until December (perhaps the Solstice? – I didn’t ask) and then go home only to come back a year later. I could not but at some level-feel envious of his simple purpose: to be at the end of the world after such arduous walking (no refugios for pilgrims with animals.) Wherever you are Pedro, I wish you well. But you have no need of blessings from such as I.

O Lucky Man indeed!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Homeward Bound... Part One

(The week of 24th July to 31st July)

And now I am home, although I am wondering if Paolo Coelho was right in The Alchemist in that what we seek, we have already at our own front door. I feel a little homesick for my Galicia: one of the few places I have ever felt “roots”.

Life is not always so simple, you see.

The week in question was packed with incidents and I was staying at the Hostal Alameda which I cannot recommend too highly (Check out, Antonio and Angel: nice people,reasonable rates, and very central).

During my week in Santiago I met some really helpful people at the Museo das Peregrinaciones; I toured the Cathedral Museum (although my request to see the excavations was turned down, this time), and I went to San Martin Pineiro (now designated as a museum) and watched the organ tuner at San Pao de Antealtares. I was treated royally at both Casa Manolo (still by far the best pilgrim bargain in town – say hello to Paloma) and the Hostal Suso, both of which are featured in Pilgrimage to Heresy. On the day that it didn’t rain (would that it would rain in Marbella: we have had temperatures in the upper 30’s since I have been back!) I drove Simone up to Malpica and followed the Costa da Morte all the way around to Muros, a little fishing village I love well. I even went to look at a village house I have long fantasised about, but it had just been sold, for far less than it was listed. I am sure there will be another, perhaps this time in Santiago itself. I went back to Follas Novas to talk with Don Rafael – what a gentleman – and to sign copies of Peregrinos de la Herejia at Encontros (they should have a shipment of my book in English fairly soon).

On the day I was due to leave I couldn’t quite get up the ganas to go. It felt like leaving where I knew I belonged. I love Santiago de Compostela more than any other city in the world (Granada where I lived for 3 years comes a very close second). After my final fairwells at Casa Manolo I ventured back to the Placa de Obradoiro after the fireworks had finished and there I met Pedro and his dog.

He had walked from Barcelona and was sitting on the floor just below the Ayuntamento just staring up at the Cathedral. I asked if I could join him. He told me that he had only just arrived in Compostela but was not to stay too long: “I follow the Camino de las Estrellas” he told me. He was off to Fisterre his final “etapa”. His dog, a husky-mastiff cross was wearing no collar and Pedro told me that he had been warned by the police to put one on or face a multa: a fine. “I don’t want to take away his freedom,” he said gesturing to his well-travelled friend who was compliant by his side.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

"Fireworks" on the Noche de Santiago...

Friday July 25th: I froze my butt off and it was worth the wait! This year there has been a needed change as previously the pyrotechnics have damaged the walls of the Cathedral so the firework display, as such, was rather more "muted" so I have been told. I thought it was spectacular in the truest sense of the word but it was accompanied by a Sound and Light presentation against the front of the Cathedral and a false front of a smaller "Gothic" facade, and also on the walls of the Palacio de Diego Gelmirez and the Cathedral Museum. I thought they might set this façade alight at the end but they didn’t and the environmentalist/recycler in me was pleased but the thrill-seeker was a bit disappointed.

I was an emotional wreck by the time they got to the theme from The Mission anyway, but the final part from the end of the Firebird left me with tears streaming down my face, laughing with joy just like Miranda in Pilgrimage to Heresy when she first sees the front of the Cathedral (and, as it turns out, Rebekah on the Forum).

The fireworks themselves brought the usual oohs and ahs. But I have to say that although I have not yet read the Galicia press (what of it I CAN read - my Galego work) I think that the overall impression of the hundreds of people gathered there may have been disappointed. Half way through “Spring” - all green and dreamy with Mike Oldfield – the whole sound and light thing broke down which necessitated a visible rewind. It immediately did this again and took three minutes to get it right, accompanied, unfortunately, to a good deal of whistling and cat calls.*

However, for me it was an amazing presentation, de verdad, even though the projector/laser/music thing broke down twice at the same place (I can imagine the President of the Xunta being a bit, shall we say distressed, especially as conservative estimates put the whole thing at 230,000 euros but don't quote me). But as the fireworks drifted into smoke and the last chords of Stravinsky floated into the cool night sky there was at first total silence...

I was directly under the balcony where all the "Functionarios" had gathered after their no doubt expensive dinner at the Hostal de Reyes Catolicicos in Praza Obradoiro. There were an awful lot of them and the security was Very Fierce. I heard a little muted, almost embarrassed, clapping from above but no more than a few people. Then it too stopped. Moments passed before a few more decided that it WAS the end after all as the "credits" rolled up the wall of the Palacio de Diego Gelmirez (all Italian names I noticed - but then we probably don't know much about such things in Spain ) A few joined from the crowd, and then a few more as we realised that "this was it". As people dispersed the atmosphere was remarkably subdued and not at all what you expect after such a - and it really was fantastic and I for one loved every minute if it - espectaculo.

I have never seen the celebrations before. Despite five or six times in Santiago and three plus one more pilgrimages this is the first time I've been here for the 25th. I have, however, seen last years' on YouTube and it really is amazing, even when on a monitor screen. Perhaps people expected more of the same. This was very "artistic": elegant, contemporary, perhaps even a little erotic (a couple kissing in very large scale projected onto the Cathedral front - hmmm...could lead to dancing...) It was less "fireworks" and more "exhibition".

Either way, this is one pilgrim who was very glad she was there and still wonders how "they" knew my favourite pieces of music.

Thanks, Consello de Santiago

*A little note: at the time of writing apparently the Xunta are asking for their money back!

And finally, I am writing this on the day that I leave Santiago, and so I enter and leave at the same time.

There will be more posts as I catch up, but they will be from a writer/researcher/tourist not from a pilgrim. There will be more people to talk to, more places to see, and perhaps more lessons to learn. I certainly will be using this time in this beautiful city to reflect on those I have learned already and will be thinking about how I can incorporate them into my return.

As I have always said, walking is easy…it is re-entry that is hard…

In the meantime, we are all Pilgrims on the Way in our own hearts and so, Ultreia: Buen Camino, todos y Suseya.

Santiago...Otra Vez, y Por Fin!

Thursday July 23rd: By the time I wake up absolutely everyone has left and I am not to see them again. I spend an hour cleaning up while waiting for the rain to stop, which, thankfully it does and I can't help thinking about three wet hombres de la provincia Vasco.

Today was a difficult walk in many ways. It wasn't the distance: it was the distance to... I wasn't ready for Santiago and like Miranda, I wanted to turn around and go back in the direction I came from.

The first view of Santiago as you approach from Milladoiro to the south is above a new bridge over the highway. The cars, oblivious to the pilgrim photographing them from above, are going very fast, you are still going slow, slower if your feet are still swollen and blistered as mine are. But from there you can just about make out the Cathedral in the distance.

As I enter Santiago I manage to get the Camino back and by the time I walk up to the Alameda I am in my sitio otra vez. One of the first things I see is my book in the window of Encontros bookshop in Rua do Vilar. It is a very welcome sight and helps to reinforce the feeling that I am where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing.

I enter the Cathedral by the south door off the Placa de Platerias as a good Portuguese pilgrim should. I go to see Susana, I go to see "Priscillian/Santiago". I go around the front to the Placa de Obradoiro, and I "lose it" once again.

I am a day early. Many I have shared space with will have been and gone by now, but that was never my intention. I have been a slow pilgrim: talking to every dog, photographing every flower, church, roman bridge…it has been a joy.

I probably should have gone straight to the Alameda, but the Seminario Menor called me like a homing pigeon. I have written about my experience there on the Camino-de-Santiago forum and so will reproduce it here if you are not a member. Do check it out though: friendly people and good topics:

“Seminario even more Menor than before...”
(Menos means less in Castellano, Menor means lesser)
I swore I would be positive on this Camino. I would fight against "Righteous Indignation". I have done pretty well all considered, but there are exceptions. Read on...

Last time I was here in April of last year I posted that the Seminario was closed for renovations. So having got here a day early I thought I would check out the changes for one night before going to the little hostal I always stay at.


The Seminario Menor is a cold, sad place to end a pilgrimage at the best of times. Groups disperse and many people find themselves without the people they have walked with and this is not the place to make new friends. People talk in whispers, and limp. But then, there are the "renovations"...


Oh the windows are new and apparently the fire alarms etc have all been updated on the orders of the Xunta at a cost of 250,000 Euros. The walls have been painted and so have the iron headboards. Blankets now come wrapped in nice, and presumably not-to-be recycled plastic covers along with the not recyclable "sheets and pillowcases" as part of the anti-bedbug squad (terrible lack of recycling in the Albergues in Galicia!). But the vending maching is expensive (20 cents for hot water!), there is no kitchen or refrigerator, half an hour of Internet is 1 Euro and call me a prude, but I Really Do Object to having to share my intimate moments with urinals!

Yes, still communal, as are the showers.

Couldn't part of that 250,000 have gone on making life a little bit nicer for tired pilgrims who have, after all, come a very long way?

Oh, and it will cost you 12 euros (10 in the "off season”).

There is also a preponderance of tourist literature from a certain private travel company beginning with a "V". I was to find out later that it is a travel agency located on the corner of the Alameda. You can take a day trip to Finisterre complete with Spa Package if you like, though there seems to be something of a monopoly as to your choice of travel company.

Being the Shit Disturber that I am, I asked: is the Seminario Menor now a commercial enterprise?

The nice young man on the desk (and he really was nice) looked more than a bit discomfitted at my question. He explained that the expenses demanded by the municipality were only covered partially by a grant and the rest - he wasn't sure if it was 40 or 60% - was paid for by this travel agency. Now this was kind of them, but I have to add "with interest". I noticed that my receipt clearly indicated a profit-making concern as IVA of 16% was added.


So if you choose to stay at the Seminario "Belvis" (now a Pension Residential with 1 star, though where that might be I can't imagine) just know that the reason you are now paying 12 euros a night and not 5 euros for three days as before is so that you can sleep secure knowing that the fire alarms work.

Personally, I’d go for the Alameda or the Hostal Suso everytime, that is unless you like sleeping in 1930’s era hospital wards...

(Oh, and just a quick P.S: The fireworks shortly to be discussed and organised this year by an Italian company cost in the region of ...250,000 euros...but they were oh so nice I have to admit.)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Almost Too Close…

Wednesday July 22nd: I realise that my pilgrim days are coming to an end and I am in a mixed mood about getting to Santiago now. There is an albergue half way at Teo which allows me to postpone my entry for one more day and so this is my plan for today.

A noisy lot are up early. They are downstairs from the loft where most of us are still sleeping having already woken everyone up with their phone alarms anyway.

Just a little word: You don’t need to wake up exactly at 5:30 but even if that is your choice, please, remember, you are not the only one it will wake up. You would think that this would be obvious, but apparently no. It seems to be a 21st century pilgrim thing as I don’t ever remember anyone doing so in 1999. Plastic bags, yes, but… Try this instead, tell yourself “I will wake up at….” And you will. Seriously. And everyone else who doesn’t want to join you in the dark (no need on the Camino Portuguese anyway) can carry on having sweet dreams of flower-trimmed and shady pathways beside dancing streams glistening in the silver rays of a sunlit morning…

It is tipping down with rain. I know better by now. It will clear once the sun comes up (it does, more or less). I hear some of them complaining about the weather and someone suggests catching the bus (from Padron to Santiago....!) I am the last to leave as always but the rain has settled to a drizzle.

As it is, I have to say this was by far my best day walking. Not in spite of the rain, but because of it! I have wrapped my feet in the plastic remains of the sheets they give you in Galicia (serious bedbug protection, but seemingly not recyclable: something very seriously needs to be done about the state of recycling in Galicia as the only place I saw it done was O Porrino and there it was too much: i.e. where do you recycle used tissues, rather nasty toe plasters etc...)

The plastic feet solution works very well. I am walking alone and singing in the rain the whole way. I pass through tiny "aldreas": villages of a sort where there are perhaps 10 inhabited houses. People are remarkably friendly, perhaps more so because of the rain. No doubt they think I am crazy and perhaps I am. I splash my face in El Esclavitude (a Holy Fountain my guidebook says) and pray for sun tomorrow - today is fine as it is (I get my wish).

It is quite possible to walk directly from Padron to Santiago but if you don't have to rush, why? The albergue in Teo is lovely and well kept and from there you can still walk and catch the Pilgrims' Mass the next day (though they won't read out your starting point and country until the day after you receive you Compostela, so take your time).

Karen is being entertained by Yugo from Italy. Katrina is nursing her bad knee upstairs. I claim a bunk in the corner by the window (I am told later that Yugo has delegated that "this side" is for the snorers, so I have chosen well).

Now, with the rain coming out of Padron, I have forgotten to top up my coffers in Padron and find that after a coffee in Esclavitude I have 3 euros to my name. I resolve to bread and water once more but it is not to be. While Yugo is making Karen laugh at who knows what - he speaks 5 languages), dinner is being prepared. Once it is completed, Yugo announces to all that they are to come to eat. I tell him that I have only 3 euros and he shrugs his shouolders in a "somos todos peregrinos" gesture. The Big Supper Build Up is followed by the Big Supper: tortilla, (stuck on the pan but who cares), salad, potatoes, wine. It is wonderful to be part of a group again, something I have really missed on this Camino. We are three Spanish: one, Fernando from Mos in Galicia, where I have recently visited, two Vascos; three Italians from the south of Italy, the irrepressible and International Yugo from Milan, two Austrians, and me from.....?

Fernando, who initially seems very reserved, experiences a metamorphosis after dinner. He says he loves the Ferias. He explains in great detail how he loves to dance and will dance with anyone. Yugo takes great pains to get this translated into Italian. I lean over to Karen and say: "In other words - he's a "party guy"!

This needs no translation and makes everyone laugh.

Since I have no money, I do what everyone jokes about: I do the washing up and refuse all offers of help. When I go off to bed, and quite late, Yugo is teaching Katrina some sort of card trick which requires she has to leave one hand behind her back. This turns out to be a lot more difficult than it seems and makes Karen laugh as she has been caught with a similar sleight of hand trick involving a pen (don't ask me) some time that afternoon. I find out the next day that Yugo had begun his pilgrimage the same day that I did from Porto, only his was from Lisboa!!!

The Vascos are getting ready to leave early and are apologetic as they don't want to disturb me. I tell them that I will be thinking of them walking in the rain from my nice cosy sleeping bag. It has been a very good evening of the sort I have only too rarely experienced on this Camino Portuguese.

Into Padron...

Tuesday July 21st: It is a cool morning and I walk into town to see the Church of Thomas a Becket, the only one in Spain. I have read that the stones from the castle where Queen Urraca (very important for my next book) gave birth to Alfonzo VI (ditto) were used in its construction. It is closed. They are paving the area around it and I wonder what secrets are buried beneath. I walk back to the Hotel Davila and wander to the back where there is something simply not to missed. In 1991, someone had the amazing foresight to plant some bamboo canes: not just a few but thousands! What amazes me is the imagination and vision of the planter. Today it is a veritable cathedral of light and darkness such as I have never seen before. on't miss it whatever you do as you will not see anything like it anywhere. You don't have to be staying at the Davila, just ask.

It is raining as I approach Pontecesures. Formerly it was called "Infesta" and I hope to find out why (no luck so far - August 2nd, but, I have found out that that area was a hotbed of Priscillianism and the word "infested" was used by the church to describe such areas). I miss the Roman bridge quite intentionally as it will take me 2 kms out of my way and the rain is coming down fiercely now and I am glad of the poncho I bought in Valenca though have cursed it for its heaviness.

The first people I see up on the balcony outside the Albergue at Padron are the Austrian girls Karen and Katrina, and the lady I saw yesterday in Brillos who wanted to share a hotel in Caldas.

I bag an upper bunk at the front. Downstairs two men are arguing with the hospitalera because they have a group of young people with them and don't want to pay the obligatory (now) 3 euros. She suggests they contact the Polideportivo but doesn't have the number. They are not happy. She is not happy. I, however, am very happy as it is beginning to pour with rain.

As it lessens I venture out for food. I am determined to find some Pimientos de Padron and it isn't hard. I return with them and invite anyone who wants to join me to do so. Katrina produces a bottle of red wine and we are joined by Maria from Cadiz and Blanca from Madrid. It is a good night and I am more than happy to do the washing up in the very simple but very effective sink of stone. (The other German lady says it would be difficult to clean it.)

We again cannot venture out for the concert that is staged not far from the refugio, but with the door open I am able to drift off to sleep listening to distant gaiteros. Lovely. More soon.