It was either Day 42 or 43 – I’m pretty sure I spent 2 days in Sanabria but it turns out I was on my way to discovering that Basil Fawlty is alive & well in Padornelo! (Let’s remember that this character was actually based on a Spanish inn-keeper in the first place. Mine was the female version.)
So leaving Sanabria in the rain, with a very fast Patrick ahead of me and long gone, I chose to follow the main road instead of the Camino down by the river. I trudged the tedious bitumen for hours but it was incident-free. I later met up with Patrick, now also on the highway, and he said the mud and water on the path down by the drowning river was horrendous. Soooo glad I stayed up on the road.
It was 23 kilometres to Padornelo which is in Galicia. The significance of this is that you are now in Santiago country. You’re no longer in Spain – you are in Galicia. The same as if you were in Portugal. It’s the last legs of the walk and you’re pointing West and all things are good and great!
Except for the rain and that last 10ks to Padornelo. In the sunshine and when it’s dry, you are safely off the highway away from cars and trucks and bikes. Out in the rain that day, I was plodding an uphill altitude of 320 metres along a 10 k stretch of bitumen in dark blue rain gear, a grey covered backpack and nothing at all to show motorists I even existed in the sleet. I wasn’t scared as such – walking the Camino never scared me – but walking in dull clothing in poor weather gave me the heeby-jeebies.
Parts of the ancient path took me alongside the highway and under new train track construction across the valley of 2 mountains. It was spectacular to say the least.
The hike uphill for 10 ks was just plain hard. Even though I’d hiked up kilometres for hours earlier in September, in the southern parts of Spain, this particular day trekking up the busy highway in the grey rain stands out very clearly.
Patrick said he was going to trek on to Lubian which would make his day from Sanabria around 30 – 40 ks. I wasn’t interested and said I would halt in Padornelo. I last saw him in his green poncho trudging quickly up ahead of me.
After hours along this highway and feeling quite sorry for myself, I stopped in the little cafe just before Pad. to shelter, whiz, eat and drink something. And maybe dry off a little. There were 2 older men pilgrims sitting and eating and talking, but I was in no mood to deal with them or the language barriers and I’m afraid I may have been very abrupt. Not that they cared. Drowned rats are introverts.
I ate and then staggered to the hotel on the highway a bit further along and booked in for the night. It was the 15th of October. I was done in and soggy. Then I met Basilia Fawlty, who was behind the counter in the bar – the only place I could find to check in.
She was a dowdy-looking creature, with frowsey mousey hair in tattered curls. Middle-aged and as tired as if she had just been climbing the endless road in the rain from 9am til 2pm (a typical day for me – not much by others’ standards).
I asked her if she would stamp my passport. She said NO! Was I ever surprised! I was gobsmacked. I nearly cried.
Why? Here’s the thing – when you go on the Camino (whichever one you choose) you will start out with a pilgrim’s passport. Your credential – “Credencial del Peregrino”.
Whenever you stop for the night you get the host/ess or innkeeper or hostal manager to stamp your passport. You can also do this every time you stop for a drink or a meal. It’s running proof that you walked from A to B. And here was this woman refusing to stamp my credencial! Cow! bad word! drat and damn! person from Hell!!!
Some Spanish locals are very pleasant and helpful to peregrinos because they feel it brings them good luck to even touch a pilgrim. One guy even kissed my hand a few weeks back!
Not this cow! She refused to stamp my book. I took the key to my room and began my ablutions, trying not to sink into the usual pit of despair as you do when rejected.
Later on, I got my revenge. Her son spoke English and I asked him if he would stamp it and told him that his mother had refused. Well!!! He stamped it post haste and also yelled at her for refusing to in the first place.
(I was secretly thrilled at this exchange – see, I told you that pilgrims aren’t saints but very faulty people.)
Anyway – that night she served me dinner and I have to say that Atlas, with the world on his shoulders, would have been quicker and less pained. And in retrospect, it was this meal that gave me the trots for the rest of the trip/walk/hike. (I suspect she did something nasty to my dish?)
The hotel was a truck stop for busy truckers. It was raining. The woman was a cow. Or rather, I would have loved an actual cow – this woman was just petty OR she was dying of something (too many shoulder chips?). Or she was just plain sick of foreigners?
The next day it was raining again. I decided I’d had enough of scary “grey nomadding” up the highway and ordered a taxi to Laza. That was my intention at least. Laza was 44 ks west of Basilia Fawlty. Sounded fine to me!