Walked from: A Fonsagrada
Walked to: Cádavo Baleira
When: 18 October 2019
I’ve had the most extraordinarily interesting, rain-filled, mist-shrouded day. Things started off pretty much as normal; I left at around 8.15am and it was still as dark as night outside, everything coated with a damp, misty sheen. Throughout the day, it rained, then it stopped, then it started again – the layers of clothing kept changing to adapt to the weather. I passed through a lot of undulating woodland paths; the greens of the moss-coated stone walls, the beige and red shades of the many mushrooms, the scent of the pine trees all especially vivid on this dark, dank day. A hilariously muddy downhill after the one point of obvious historical interest on today’s route (a solitary building on top of a hill at Montouto that had been a pilgrim hospital from the 1300s until the early 1900s) was rewarded with a hot chocolate and a cafe full of increasingly familiar, friendly faces. So far, so normal. And then I met Claire and Wraith.
Claire and Wraith are the people that put the extraordinary into my day. Originally from the south west of England, they moved to this tiny corner of Galicia four years ago to live off grid in a village some 20 minutes walk from the Camino route, on the stretch between Paradavella and A Lastra. I met them as they were out walking their dog – they were chatting to the one other English person I’ve met so far on the Primitivo. It transpires that he was the first, and I was the second, English person they had ever met doing this walk. Words tumbled out of their mouths, such was their enthusiasm at talking to native English speakers. Stephen, the English man, continued on his way. I walked a couple of kilometres off route to take up their invitation of a hot drink and the opportunity to see their home and the land they were farming. We sat for several hours, me firing off questions about how they came to be here, how they live, the local community. Theirs is not my story to tell, and I don’t think I have the capacity to cope with the physical toil and hardship I perceive them to deal with on a daily basis. But, with no farming or construction experience whatsoever, they have made a life for themselves in this valley, a place full of hardy Galicians where electricity arrived for the first time in 1995. And I tell you what, they seemed very happy. It was a huge pleasure to meet them.
I arrived in Cádavo Baleira hours after I’d expected to, half prepared for all the hostels to be full – everyone I had met was walking to this small town today. But I was in luck – my fellow peregrinos (as those walking the Camino are called) had largely headed for the private albergue in town. There were just four of us staying, two in each dorm, and as the sole woman, I had a bathroom to myself. Content with my accommodation choice for the night, I headed to the local shop for a $1.50 bottle of red wine, sharing it over a chat with an inspirational man from Denmark who spends much of his year walking the trails I dream of. Today’s Camino showed me – in the clearest possible ways – that there are many more options in life than the path most travelled.