Friday, March 14, 2014: To start off our fourth day of hiking, I fell into a thorny bush. Shortly after leaving the municipal albergue in Melide, you pass a small pasture that’s home to a miniature pony. Me, being the sucker I am for animals, tried to reach the fence to give him an apple, not realizing that the bush I was leaning over hid a six foot drop. I ended up straddling a dirt ledge, with one leg dangling over the drop in the thorny bush. As I sat there, unsure of how to make my next move, the pony kept sticking his mouth through the holes in the fence trying to get at the apple that was still in my hand.
One of the girls had to give me a hand so I could get out. I left Melide with a bruised ego and a thorn buried in my finger. At least the pony got his treat.
The plan for the day was to hike to Arzua for lunch, then Christine and I would continue on for another fifteen to sixteen kilometers to O Pedrouzo. I remember being very quiet that morning. I was sad to be leaving the others, which was silly seeing how we’d be reunited in just a few days. We had worked it out so that Christine and I would arrive in Santiago de Compostela in time for the pilgrim’s mass on Sunday. We’d then take the bus to Finisterre, stay the night, and be back in time on Monday to greet the ladies as they arrived in Santiago.
The hike to Arzua offered a mix of different terrains. At times we’d be following the highway, and at others we’d find ourselves in the woods having to cross rivers and stone bridges, such as this one:
We reached the town within a few hours of our departure from Melide. Up ahead we could see our friends from the day before — Richard, Blue Hair, and a few others we had become familiar with at the pilgrim’s hostel. We greeted them where they had stopped for lunch, but ended up picking a café a little farther down the main road. I think we all secretly wanted to spend our last meal on the Camino together with just the five of us. The mood was very heavy, especially for Consuelo and I.
During the few days we had together, I became very close with this lady. I even started calling her Mama (or my Spanish Mama). You have to understand that we could barely even hold a conversation, usually having to rely on Adriana or Johana to translate. Or, I’d listen to her speak and respond in English, and she’d end up doing the same but in reverse. Love emanates from Consuelo. She is a natural nurturer, and one would only need to look at Adriana for proof of this woman’s amazing character — not only is she awesome, but she also raised an awesome daughter.
I was quite emotional over lunch, and despite how hard I tried to hide it, I think Mama was able to tell. We finished our meal and decided to take one more selfie. We then exchanged hugs and as soon as Mama came to me I started to cry, as did she. She then told me that she now has four daughters, which made me cry even more. As Christine and I walked away from the group, the tears continued to fall. Both Chris and I were very emotional on our way out of Arzua. The only thought that brought us any solace was knowing that we’d see them again in three days.
Somewhere on the way to O Pedrouzo, Christine and I joined up with Richard and the others. Eventually, it just became the three of us.
Richard became a good friend nearly as quickly as the ladies. His jaunt in the woman’s showers did nothing but give us plenty of opportunities to make fun of him. It even became an inside joke between all of us. The three of us bonded over the difficulties we were each having at home, and I’d like to think the time we had together and hearing each others stories provided insight into what we were facing as individuals. It was our group therapy along the Camino.
This first day with Richard is a bit blurry. One thing I do remember is that at some point later in the day we stopped for a break and a beer, and ended up never leaving the bar. O Pedrouzo would have to wait until tomorrow — we were staying in Salceda.
Two things cemented this decision for us: 1. We were told that the albergue in O Pedrouzo was not yet open for the season; and 2. The owner of the albergue adjacent to the bar we were at not only had rooms available, but was one of the most courteous and welcoming people you could ever meet. It wasn’t what we had originally planned but it turned into an awesome alternative.
There’s one thing you should know about Salceda — if you stop at the bar, you can bet your ass you’re going to get drunk and be well fed.
I can’t remember the name of that particular bar, but it’s on your right as you hike along the highway. It’s owned by a raucous family who will not only meet you shot for shot, but they will also likely drink you under the table and refuse to take your money at the same time. Needless to say, we had fun.
If you do end up visiting this place, bring a permanent marker with you. Every surface within this bar that could be written on, has. From the tables to the walls, even in the bathroom, you will find messages from previous pilgrims. At one point I had to use the restroom and I found this message on the wall facing the door that nearly made me cry as soon as I read it:
My troubles from home had been weighing heavy on my mind the entire time I was in Spain, and having that time to talk with Christine made me realize how confused and unhappy I was. When I first saw this message it offered me hope. Now that I’m seeing it again, I know it’s true. I was feeling a happy buzz that night, so internally I was thinking like a bit of a drunken philosopher.
I really enjoyed our time in Salceda, and thankfully I didn’t get drunky pants (Christine, on the other hand…). I couldn’t imagine what hiking hung over would feel like, and I didn’t want to find out. By the end of the night we returned to the hostel (El Albergue de Boni — Bonifacio is the owner), and the three of us went to bed in our dorm meant for six (I told you Boni was awesome. I guess it also helps that it was offseason…).
The next day would be our final full day on the Camino. The end was in sight.