On the Road: Memories of a Pilgrim with No Direction 12

After a nearly two-hour setback just to get a creaky old bunk bed with a hairnet thin fitted sheet and pillow case as bed linen, we knew we needed a little cheering up and sought a restaurant to raise our spirits to where they should be.  We went to a basic place recommended by some locals and ate the Menú del Peregrino which satisfied but did little more.  Then we went for a little walk and returned to the albergue to shower up and stuff now that the majority of the pilgrims had already done so and the bathrooms weren’t so crowded. 

         It would have been a fine time to take a rest but I was feeling restless and decided to spend the rest of afternoon exploring the town.  Redondela had more to offer the visitor than O Porriño.  Its two most distinguishing features are its towering train track bridges which literally cross over the town.   One is still in use, the other has been abandoned, but is still erect.  This may not spur you to drop everything and race over to Spain to see them, but they do add character.  The old town is attractive with a church dedicated to Santiago, a nice park called an alameda, and a handful of cafés and bars to while away the day.   I even walked down to the coast where there was supposed to be a fantastic beach.  Fraulein had been kind enough to give me some directions buy I must have missed the turnoff because I ended up at the port which, though had a tiny beach of its own, was not exactly what they had been telling me all about.  I sat down at a small fisherman’s outdoor café and drank coffee while I tried to jot down a few essentials of the day, but didn’t get much further. 

         Aitor joined me a little while later and we planned out the evening. If there is one thing I can’t stand about public albergues it is that they close their doors at ten o’clock.  That’s right, they have a curfew.  This might be reasonable in the early spring or late fall months when the night comes early and there is little else to do, but in Galicia in the summer, when it doesn’t get dark until late, it seems outright ludicrous.  But rules are rules.  We asked Fraulein if we could stay up later in the common room downstairs if we made it home by ten and she gave us permission.  That was the second time I had spoken to her that day and her disposition was much friendlier.  I was beginning to get the feeling that she wasn’t that bad after all and that maybe she had just had a difficult morning.  Maybe being a pilgrim was making me softer or I was suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome.

            We decided we would have a light dinner in since we had pigged out so much in the previous days.  We look for something healthy and decided we would get some empanadas (beef pies stuffed with different fillings), red wine (good for your cardiovascular system) and fruit (undeniable reconstitute).  It just so happened that Galicia specialized in empanadas and that the bakery just down the street had some award-winning recipes.  The Lord was on our side.  There were numerous fillings to choose from.  Redondela is famous for its chocos (baby squid in its ink), so we bought a large hunk of that and, since we were members of a gastronomic club and felt it was our duty to compare and contrast, ordered a hunk of the other four types too: Tuna fish, scallops, beef and octopus.   10 pounds in all. 

        Then we went to mass.  On the way we encountered three pilgrims on horses clopping up the stone streets.  “Wow! Some people really do ride to Santiago.”

         Afterwards it was back to the shelter before we turned into pumpkins and dinner time.  We shared copious amounts of empanada generously with some of our new friends from the Camino.  And then we hung out for a little while.  Most people were upstairs either asleep or trying to get there.  The scouts sat around and had a group chat and we talked to the guys from A Coruña. 

            At eleven o’clock I decided to hit the sack and hope for the best.  Aitor and Andrés hung out a little longer…

         …One reason I went to bed so early was because I knew better.  In albergues you don’t always get much sleep, and in the summer even less.  Despite their purpose they are really no place for resting.  They can be active all night as people come and go and sleepers toss and turn on crickety springs.  Pilgrims fall asleep late and get up early too, so the actual “window” of rest was really something fleeting in duration.  If  I crashed at eleven I had a fighting chance of getting some shuteye before the whole room rose the next day.  Andrés and Aitor did not heed this rule and paid a price.

         From the very beginning I could tell it was going to be real test because the man in the upper bunk to my left was roaring away a snore from minute one.  It was one of the scout leaders. Conscious of what Andrés had told me, I hoped he wouldn’t get me going too, but even if he did, I seriously doubted I would ever be able to match the volume he was producing.  He eventually stopped but that was at four-thirty in the morning when he woke up to get the troops up and moving.  Thanks for nothing. 

        Somehow I managed to get a few hours in and from what I gathered fared better than my co-expeditioners who hardly got a wink in.  Aitor was particularly affected by this setback, as he ended up in the lounge downstairs unable to cope with sleeping at such heights.  He warned very early in the morning, “I’m in a grumpy mood this morning and can’t be held accountable for my actions.”  Andrés added politely but tersely, “I’m flexible, but I don’t think we should be doing this again.”

            Figuring we were not going to have a continental breakfast with freshly brewed coffee waiting for us down at the lobby, I took out a piece of fruit and started the day with that.  And 600gms of Ibuprofen, of course.  We left Redondela in the dark, buying a loaf of fresh bread on the way… 

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