Camino Portuguese XXI

 While it would be true to report that we took a short walk today in order to have time do our washing and catch up with blogging, it would not be so interesting to recount just that. (By the way, we did do our washing by hand…as always….but not in that communal washing station above)  The walk itself was unremarkable, but at the same time had a little bit of everything that has been particular to this camino: eucalyptus trees, corn, grapes, cobblestones, dirt paths, roads, grassy verges, train tracks, fountains, flowers, bars, churches, houses, locals at work, friends bumped into unexpectedly.     

So let’s tell you about where we left from this morning and where we ended up tonight.

Perhaps you’ll remember yesterday turned into a long hot slog, but at the end of the day we all agreed every single step was worth it.


   We finished in this gorgeous monastery that was established in 1209.  Just us, Art and Mike and the two German girls., Katrin and Svenja……plus one very congenial hospitalero and five remaining monks (who we think actually live elsewhere).

Pedro, the hospitalero, took us for a tour of the grounds and buildings.

  In its time, this complex has been not only a monastery with its own cemetery and meditation pool, but also a school and prison, as well as an albergue. It has even been used as a movie set and it takes no imagination whatsoever to step into that “other world”:

These movie-set beds in a room far away from the pilgrims’ dormitory would (we thought) be perfect for our resident Roncador (translation: Snorer), but a little good-natured pranking provided an alternative solution:

We have had a lot of good laughs on this camino!! Americans have a reputation for being loud, obnoxious and in our experience they frequently don’t *get* Kiwi humor. Art and Mike are certainly exceptions to the rule (although the snoring was LOUD!) and we have shared joviality with them every day. We’ve also talked deeply about suicide, grief, relationships, education – sometimes the camino is an experience that allows or even encourages people to share more openly more quickly than they might in another setting. This is a treasure.

Another treasure after our tour was the mass in the church. After the bells tolled there was a long (15 minute) silence as time was given for folks to arrive. It occurred to me that it was good to just stop. To be. To wait. During the service I understood a little more of communal faith – for hundreds of years in this church the family of God has gathered to hear the Word of God read aloud. So often in our faith tradition, Bible reading is an individual pursuit, but when Bibles were not available for every family, let alone individuals, this daily sharing aloud together would have been very precious. I think it still is today. At the end of the service one of the locals was asking the pilgrims which of us came from New Zealand (as had been indicated during the pilgrims’ blessing). He was keen to tell us that he was the first person in this region to plant kiwi fruit – we wonder if the ones we had seen that afternoon were his, and we cherish that little interchange.

Special too are the shared meals. At the monastery Pedro cooked a simple healthy delicious dinner for us  – tomato salad, bread, lentil soup and fruit.

Is this post already too long? Read on if you like. There’s another meal story.

The German girls walked on to Santiago today. We four oldies stopped 13km shy of the goal and we shared a final exquisite dinner. Padron peppers and potato croquettes made up the veges! Then there was calamari, battered and fried to perfection. Squid exquisitely cooked in garlic and oil. Tiny pieces of pork in an unusual (to us) almost spicy sauce. Slices of roasted pork in yet another delicious sauce. Bread, of course, too. We ate. We talked. We used the wifi. Then the proprietor brought us a plate of dessert – gratis! Little pieces of cheesecake which was delicious. Santiago tart; our first this trip. Membrillo (which for the uninitiated is quince paste) on a smooth creamy cheese, possibly tetilla. Divine.

But we might not have eaten there at Casa Touceda. We had entered the restaurant/bar and chosen the best of a selection of bad tables. A television was blaring, causing the slightly drunken guys at the bar to converse very loudly too. Considering our own conversation was likely to be non-existent given these circumstances, we contemplated taking a table outside. There were two good reasons not to. Firstly it was stinking hot (the air conditioning in the restaurant was set at 27 degrees and felt positively nippy in comparison to the outdoor temperature). Secondly, there were more drunk guys outside smoking.

We could have returned to another bar, Casa Javier, where the atmosphere was more peaceful. However, Rob and I had eaten a very average undersized overpriced salad there earlier. We had also shared a very average undersized overpriced undercooked plate of fries. So that option was unappealing. Fortunately the proprietor showed us to a quiet downstairs room where the tables were bedecked with crisp white linen and the television on the wall was turned off. Needless to say, we stayed and enjoyed a very pleasant meal, reliving some of the experiences we have shared, remembering people and places, discussing the future (well, Mike’s future anyway) and laughing a lot.

These camino days are ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.

Question for the kids: how would you deal with a Roncador?

Herbon to Teo – 16.3km (longer distance than necessary due to taking the wrong road and needing to backtrack, plus we wandered round Herbon a wee bit)


3 thoughts on “Camino Portuguese XXI

  1. You are allmost there ! You walk fast. Next message definitively will come from Santiago I think. Bom caminho. Nice blog. I like it

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