November 12, 2002
Palas del Rei to Ribadiso de Baixo
While we were resting Mikel started bantering with the
camarera (bartendress). I had to admit that he was smooth and
admired his technique. I found myself remembering what it was like to
be 30-something. Just about that time, the two young Swiss girls appeared
and ordered coffee. Mikel had an even bigger audience. He was doing
well and I didn't want to hamper his potential so I put on my pack and
told him that I would see him later.
Another kilometer further, I came to the town of Melide.
I figured that this would be a good stopping point and searched for
a place to eat. As I came to the main street and began looking around.
I was approached by a man who he told me that I should go one block
"alli" (over there) because that's where I would find
the best restaurant in town. He must have been psychic, or perhaps,
I just looked wet and hungry. I don't know if it was the best restaurant
in town, but it was pretty damn good. The menu of the day included champignons
con jamon (mushrooms with ham) and conejo (rabbit) both of
which I ordered — an excellent meal especially when you're wet,
cold, and tired!
The rain had let up so I decided that it was an opportune
time to move on to the Melide albergue. I thanked the proprietors,
threw on my pack, and wriggled into my poncho. I then headed up the
street looking for the yellow arrows. When I started out that morning
I hadn't planned on staying at Melide. The distance from Palas del Rei
was only 15 K, and that meant I would have to make an extra long trek
the next day to keep on schedule. But the rain that morning had dampened
my enthusiasm and I was discouraged. Soon I found the trail again and
headed for the albergue.
When I got to the point where the trail went forward
but the albergue was off to the right, I hesitated a bit to make up
my mind. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. It was the Frenchman who
had kidded me about my snoring. When I told him that the albergue
was, "alli, a la dereche" (over there, to the right),
he said that he was going on to the next one.
The next one was another 6 K — at least two hours
more. Well, it was only 3:00 p.m. and the rain had let up. I figured
that if the Frenchman could do it, so could I. Besides, I wanted to
sleep in the same dormitory as him, just to be a pain in the butt. I
know that it's petty, but I wanted to get even for his jibes of the
morning. Besides, I couldn't get any wetter. I might as well go on.
Boy, how wrong I was! About 45 minutes later the heavens
opened up and the rain came down even harder than it had before. My
pants became so soaked that they were drooping down. I had to keep hitching
them up. Finally, I looped my belt through the pack's straps. At several
points, the camino was flooded. The camino de Santiago
had become el rio de Santiago (the river to Santiago). River
songs started drifting into my mind: Up the Lazy River; Old Man River;
Swannee River; Mississippi Mud; Proud Mary' Row, Row, Row Your Boat;
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
It was a pretty good-sized albergue, consisting
of multiple dormitories, plenty of toilettes and showers, laundry machines,
a well-equipped kitchen, and a large dining room. The complex seemed
to have been an old farmhouse with various out buildings. The kitchen
and dining room seemed to be in what was once a large stone barn. It
had a big fireplace and several radiators that were giving off plenty
of heat. The dining area was so warm, the hospitalera said, that we
didn't need to use the coin-operated dryers. As more and more pilgrims
entered the albergue, the room looked more like a laundry room
than a dining room.
It was a nice albergue, but only one thing bothered
me. We were in the middle of nowhere. Actually we were in the valley
next to the river and what few houses that were nearby were up the next
hill. I asked the hospitalera,"¿Hay una tienda cerca
de aqui?" (Is there a store near here?) "¡No!
¿Un restaurante?" (A restaurant?) "¡No!
¿Un bar?" (A bar?) "¡Si! ¿Donde?"
(Where?) "¡Alli!" (Over there!) Okay, it wasn't
the best of circumstances, but it was better than slogging in the rain
for another hour to the next albergue.
|Later, I walked over a kilometer in the dark
(there were no streetlights) to find out that the "bar" was
actually a refreshment stand at a small park/playground next to the river
— and, it was closed.
On my way back to the albergue I ran into Vicente
who was walking down the street with a bag of food. Obviously he had
had better luck than I had. When I asked him where the bar was, he indicated
2 K straight up the hill. That road was also dark due to a lack of streetlights.
He said that he was lucky because some farmer gave him a ride up to
the bar and brought him back to the village. He offered to share his
bottle of wine with me. I followed him into the dining room. There the
other pilgrims were collaborating to put together a meal and they offered
to share it with me. It consisted of all the major food groups of a
pilgrim's diet — bread, rice, pasta, potato chips, chocolate, and,
of course, a bottle of wine. I contributed a couple of oranges and some
cheese. I had no idea how much insulin to take so I decided to wait
three hours and test my blood again in order to take an adjustment dosage.
(It takes that long for one's body to process the food and reach the
maximum glucose level.)
Three hours later, just before I went to bed, I tested my blood — the glucose reading was 349!