Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 12

For the second time this trip, we didn't all sleep in the same room. JH and I had a private room and Gyueon slept on a rollaway bed in the outer room. They slept well. Once again, I didn't. Once again, the heat was turned up to a billion. I fell asleep to the whoosh of the ceiling heat vent. I woke up with a start, sweating and thinking I was on an airplane. I turned off the heat, a long time later I fell back asleep. I woke up later than usual at 7:30, to a whoosh but this time it was the wind outside. Uh-oh.

For the first time, the forecast was correct. So far we'd gotten by with rain coats but now it was time for the long plastic rsin coats they we hadn't used yet-- brand new Jeju Olle ponchos for Gyueon and I and JH putt on her old green one.

We set out in the pouring rain. At first, we thought that as long as the course stayed on sidewalks, our feet would stay dry. Pretty quickly, rain was soaking our legs below rain cost coverage. As our knees reached maximum saturation, the water gravitated downward, slowly downward. When the pants were wet, the water attacked our socks, eventually filling our shoes up. Our shoes became heavy and made strange noises when we stepped.

We stopped under the awning of a restaurant for some relief and JH revealed that her raincoats had been breached. She was completely soaked. She took off the old green coat and threw it in a trash can. I took long coat off and gave it to her (I was confident that my lighter one would be sufficient-- it was). We slogged on.

Now that our feet were soaked, it didn't matter that the way turned off sidewalks and onto an old Roman road that was so flooded it was more like a Roman river. We splashed through, strangely enough still trying to avoid the deeper parts.

We passed a country cafe and a man waved us in. We shook off the water, toon off our packs and rain gear and sat down. We ordered three hot chocolates but got served a plate of cookies as well. We chatted as best we could with the man and his wife (JH thinks daughter). He drew a rough map, listing the upcoming villages, which was very helpful. The rain never eased up. We stood up to pay and go but they wouldn't accept payment. The woman spoke the only English she seemed to know to explain why, "my son…" I wish I knew what she was trying to say. We thanked them. Just as we left, the man came out and gave a group hug, "Bom caminho".

JH had tears, I was moved. Gyueon almost said, "thank you". That's how special it was.

We splashed on. It wasn't pleasant but I wasn't suffering a bit. I was warm and my upper body was dry. However Gyueon was uncomfortable and JH was suffering. I was worried about hypothermia.

She led most of the day at a blistering pace like she was trying to outrun the rain. She was going so fast with Gyueon right on her tail that I almost lost them a few times. I stopped to retie my boot. When I got up, they were gone in the mist. I had to work to catch up. I stopped to take a picture. They were gone. A branch fell between my head and my pack so I stopped to remove it. Gone! The tip of my walking stick got stuck in a crack in the sidewalk, nearly tearing my arm off as it pwanged upright. They were gone, gone, gone by the time I freed my stick. A monster could have caught and devoured me and spit out my bones and they wouldn't have ever known.

All day, she'd kept up the pace but a second flooded road did her in. I'm not sure what was going on in Gyueon's head but he looked done as well. We reached an intersection in what we think was Vergada and found a bus station. Well, a place where buses pull in. There was no ticket machine or ticket window or worker, just a minimalist roof where 20 or so people where waiting for a bus. Imagine a typical bus stop. Now triple the size and take away all amenities. That's what this was- a super-sized bus stop with nothing.

JH worked hard getting information. I stood and did nothing, making JH angry. She worked everything out while I was a useless jerk.

The next day I realized why I acted that way. I was disappointed that we were skipping another section. We had just 5 km more to go. And now we were skipping that AND the next day, going directly to Porto. We were already wet, couldn't get any wetter. Why not finish?

"What about our shoes? They will be wet tomorrow. What will we do?" JH said. I didn't bother pointing out that: a. We don't know that we won't be able to dry them tonight; and b. they are already wet and will probably be wet tomorrow. Nothing we could do except wear wet shoes. When a Korean woman asks (in Korean), "what shall I do?", do NOT ever give a logical solution. Just commiserate.

A few days earlier I realized that I'd run out of clean underwear. JH said, "what can you do?" I said, "I'll just wear these again. Sem problema."

Not a good answer. Did you catch a second mistake? I tried to be slick and charming about it by using Portuguese. Pretty cool, huh? Nao, muito parvo.

We eventually got on a bus to Porto and really started getting cold. I was shivering and trying to read about Porto and figure out where we would stay. As we got closer we realized they we had no idea where the bus station was. I tried to pay attention after we crossed the Rio Douro into Porto but was a bit off in my calculations.

After a bit of running around and retracing our steps, we found a place to stay. Once again we got separate rooms. We quickly got organized, arranging clothing over the space heaters, showering, changing into dry clothes. Gyueon's pack was full of water, so most of his stuff was wet. Our sleeping bags were a little wet. We hung stuff on every available hanger, nook, nub, even on the TV.

Taking a shower required two people. The inside latch on the shower door was broken so one person had to latch it from the outside (so water didn't spray everywhere) and be ready to unlatch the door when the call came. Good thing we are married.

As I showered, drowning in a vertical coffin, I realized that skipping to Porto had been the right thing to do. JH was soaked and demoralized. Gyueon was a little freaked out.

Jeonghwa is tough. She proved that last winter during our walk around Jeju Island. One day, we got completely soaked. Everything but my pajama bottoms and one t-shirt. She was a little better off on that trip. That whole day we'd worried about how we'd get dry. It worked out.

She'd proved her toughness today too. She peed on a residential street with a car, a wall, me, and the rain blocking her. With her pack on.

I knew I'd been kind of a jerk and should apologize. We talked about it over dinner.

We relaxed, took a mini tour in light rain, and saw an extraordinary sky over Praca Liberdade. Wondered why so many seagulls were flying. Creepy.

We found a grocery store and bought stuff for tomorrow's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We've gone over budget a few days.

Dinner was good. We talked about how badly we want to finish. I will finish on bloody stumps of legs if I have to. JH and Gyueon, not quite that extreme. We are a team and will adjust and get by together. All is well.


1 this isn't even bad rain. I was afraid to take my camera out.

2 getting deeper

3 the only smiles all day.

4 the only living creature worse off than us.

5 scary or beautiful sky?

1 comment:

  1. enjoying your blog and looking forward to the next posts from Porto as I walk this way later in the year-hopefully in better weather.
    stay strong