Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 24, to Ponte Vedra, 18.2

I dreamed that I was camping out in the open and someone was trying to steal my maps. I woke up trying to kick the metal bunk frame. Luckily my feet were stuck inside my sleeping bag. 7:30, time to get up anyway.

The three Koreans and I (the Korean Koalition) were up and out very early. Out for the biggest croissants that have ever existed. They were so big that "Full Double Rainbow, All The Way" guy would really lose his mind if he saw them. "What do they mean?", he would ask.


After breakfast, we bumped into Mark, who was just leaving the albergue. The five of us walked together for nearly an hour. Mark told me about his job as a gardener and about his previous adventures. He's walked the French camino as well as the Silver camino route from Seville, among other trips. He gets 7 weeks off from his job and takes them all together in January and February.

I knew Mark was itching to walk faster and was just waiting for an opportunity to leave gracefully. He got it when we detoured to pick up sandwiches for lunch later. He said, "see you in Ponte Vedra."

It was a very smooth and comfortable walk today in perfect weather, 10°C and sunny. We were hiking in long sleeve tshirts, our rain gear and wool caps pack away. For once, the sight of water didn't annoy us. It was our first easy, perfect day. Usually we blunder into problems and we almost did.

Near the end there is an alternate riverside route that avoids a busy road. We took 5 steps and a farmer trotted over and warned us that the water was very high and urged us to just continue on the road.

Phew! Crisis averted! Perfect day still alive!

I joked that the albergue was probably burning down but when we arrived at 2:30, it was still intact. The sign said it opened at 4. No problem! We went across the street for drinks and JH took advantage of the free wifi to book our post-camino accommodations.

Peregrinos generally are a dirty, stinky lot, with messy hair and muddy boots. We look like we don't belong in most establishments, among freshly showered and clean-clothed people.

We looked up at the other customers and realized that we were the best dressed and best smelling people in the cafe. We were red carpet ready compared to them. Later we saw that the cafe is next to what looks to be an unofficial shanty town/ recycling center.

Mark came in as we ordered. He'd just finished lunch next door and saw our packs. I noticed he was wet from the waist down. "I fell in the river," he explained, "I took the river option and fell off a dodgy bridge." He was happy.

I told him that we'd had no drama today. With a smile he said, "that's too bad. It must have been a dull day."

If I were traveling alone, I'd agree. But it would have been a lonely day. We joked that he'd taken the hit for our team. Thanks to him, our perfect day was intact.

The mercurial Mark said he'd see us later at the albergue, he was going into town.

The remaining four debated tomorrow's plan. We knew Mark didn't plan that far ahead and wouldn't feel left out. He does his own thing. I wanted to continue staying in albergues and walk 18.3 to Rotonda. The problem was that there were no stores or restaurants around. We'd have to buy food tonight and hope that the kitchen there was adequate. Plus, 18.3 is a little short. On the plus side, €5 each.

The others wanted to go 23.1 to Caldas de Reis and share a tiny room for €10 each. Plus side, cafes and restaurants.

The decision was made: Caldas de Reis. I knew it was the right choice.

At 4:15, we entered the albergue and were greeted by the welcoming committee-- a very friendly cat named Peregrina and two nice volunteers.

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