I shower, the hot water soothing my aching muscles. After my promised gin and tonic I eat with around thirty other pilgrims in the dining room and, as usual on the Camino, make several new friends. More alcohol follows and I sleep soundly, aware that Santiago is just seventy two miles over those hills.
Galicia has a mysterious air to it. Nurturing Celtic roots and greener climes, it never fails to surprise me. I’ve not visited Ireland on my travels but I imagine it appears just like this north-western part of Spain.
Its eerie mood comes from the mist which cloaks the countryside. To walk at 7am, still dark out here, is a lesson gifted by Mother Nature allowing a hiker to observe how she wakes up. It’s a present worth unwrapping. Study, be still, listen, savour and remember.
Darkness fades, lightening into greys and silvers and I notice the mist swirling around me. A rising sun, always behind a pilgrim on the Camino Francais, announces its presence – an orange glow revealing the cloud’s belly and the tips of the mountains. Over the course of an hour my environment brightens as I climb, the air warms and from frigid beginnings I overheat, peeling off layers.
Mist sits in the creases and folds of the valleys, wraps around forests, drapes over peaks and trickles over the landscape, thinning in parts as the sun wins the battle. It recedes and disappears until night falls once more and its wispy fingers emerge like ghosts to hound the countryside.
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I reach Hospital da Cruz, nothing more than a few stone houses clustered around a solitary cafe. A few familiar faces peer through the window as I approach and wave me over. Isabella, Dario, Yvonne, Fernanda and Fabio stayed at Gonzar the previous night and we share a warming drink before leaving. Over the course of the day we will disperse, dipping in and out of each other’s company.
I notice the trail has become busier. The last four or five days of the Camino Francais see pilgrim numbers increase. This is for two reasons. First, to gain the certificate of completion for the Camino known as the Compostela from the Cathedral authorities in Spain, the minimum distance required to walk is sixty-three miles. This mileage point lies before Portomarin and many choose just to walk just this last part. Second, one of the other Camino routes to Santiago gaining in popularity is the Camino Norte, which converges with the Camino Francais at the town of Arzua, twenty-six miles from Santiago.