The seventh day of the Portugués started off in unusual circumstances as I found myself actually locked inside my hotel, somewhat stymied in my attempt to make an early Sunday morning start on the road to Pontevedra.
This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in albergues.
I might have understood the detention policy if it was the sort of place where you paid up when checking out, but it was the sort of place where you paid up when checking in.
After making sure that there wasn’t a thunderously obvious alternative door to allow for a quiet escape, I had no option but to knock on the concierge’s door at a little after 7am.
The look I received was an awkward mix of consternation, incredulity and irritation, followed by a resigned shrug of acceptance and then finally a generous smile, as no doubt the latest in a long line of Peregrinos was at released onto the Way.
Leaving Arcade took me across Pontesampaio, a handsome 18th century stone bridge where the locals managed to see off Napoleon when he was trying to throw his weight around here back in the day.
They’re naturally quite proud of themselves about that.
Up until this point, the opportunities for Camino chats had been notably down, when compared to my experience on the Francés, with a much larger quotient of standoffish pilgrims who appeared to be more focused on the physical challenge and less on engagement with their fellow walkers.
It was therefore an excellent moment to meet Ralf and Tanya from Germany, as Ralf had enough natural ebullience and cheerfulness to entirely make up for the character deficiencies of almost all the previous representatives from his part of the world.
We quickly discovered that we’d followed each other’s footsteps in walking the Francés last year and then immediately returning to walk another route as soon as was possible.
Ralf was wise as well as engaging and it was he that first nailed the issue that had been rolling around in my head.
The Portugués simply wasn’t going to be long enough, for any of us.
The first two weeks of a Camino are really for the body, as your heart and lungs and limbs and joints slowly come to accept that this daily assault is simply not going to stop any time soon and they’d better just get with the programme.
It’s only after that point that the remaining time on a Camino becomes a test and a journey for the mind and for the spirit.
I suppose it might’ve been overly optimistic to hope that the spiritual realignment that comes of a five week pilgrimage could be achieved within ten days, but it was definitely worth a try.
Ralf’s assessment was both well-timed and prescient, as this would actually be the last day of comparative seclusion, as the exit from Pontevedra the following morning would finally bring me into the orbit of my Portugués Camino family.
In the meantime, I made my way to the regional capital city of Pontevedra along a spectacular riverside walk, making only one wrong turn when seduced by a cafe sign that promised naranja in return for a generally unwarranted diversion.
As I made my way into Pontevedra, a local zoomed past on his bicycle with a Bluetooth speaker blasting out Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”.
As I spent the rest of the day exploring this beautiful town, relaxing with a vino tinto and tapas, I had to accept that I was indeed a Fortunate Son.
Hotel Isape, Arcade
A very comfortable hotel, complete with balcony and an actual bath (sort of) and a little restaurant, although the food wasn’t much to write home about.
Tedious Cough: finally beginning to fade, to the extent that I might be able to consider albergue living again soon!
Blisters: 0 (1)
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0
Applications of Factor 50: 4 (11)
Filling of Water Bottles: 2 (11)
Wrong turns taken: 1 (4)
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: Five!
Song Of The Day: Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater Revival