Santiago de Compostela – Negreira
We wake late for a day we know we will have to be walking and it is almost 9:45 before we leave the pension after having coffee and toast for Pam in the cafe on the ground floor.
The sky is heavy, grey and forbidding however it is not actually raining when we finally step out into the day.
A group of horses and riders are congregated around the fountain in front of the entry stairs to the cathedral and we take photos as the horses drink before the group click clack down the street to the main cathedral square.
Our path also begins at the cathedral square where we exit downhill and wind our way through the streets of Santiago following the yellow arrows out of town.
It begins to lightly rain after we have been walking for about thirty minutes.
Today I am going to use the poncho I have carried since Brisbane for the first time as I am completely disillusioned with my other wet wear gear. Pam is going to wear the Columbia jacket that she purchased in Logrono and has worn in dry weather many times.
We reach what seems to be the outskirts of Santiago quickly heading down a hill and over a stream via an old stone bridge. The Way becomes a gravel path heading up through eucalyptus forest.
The eucalyptus have grown via suckers far beyond what I am sure was their original purpose. An example of introduced species running rampant in their new country. This is the first example I have seen of a native Australian species running wild in another country.
We could be walking in the Daisy Hill state forest. Eucalyptus and ground cover.
As we walk the rain stops for periods just long enough for us to take off our wet weather gear before starting again. This process repeats itself until I can no longer be bothered removing my poncho as I am just as wet with sweat again as if I had just been walking in the rain anyway.
At least the poncho is not a super sauna like my Rainbird jacket.
The wind begins to whip up and I begin to get cold……hahahaha I am so badly prepared for the rain it is a complete joke.
Though we are walking through alternating bushland and suburbia/villages there are no cafes or bars for many kilometers. We stop at the first restaurant we come to, taking our dripping gear off in the plastic covered patio area where many other pilgrims are also eating.
A large group of Italians suddenly break into song, one of them is having a birthday and everyone in the enclosure joins in clapping at the end. There is a Korean couple sitting with a red haired German girl and the Italians ask the Korean in English how they sing ‘Happy Birthday’.
The Korean man answers ‘same tune, Korean words’ and after a short period of coaxing he stands and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean which results in another round of congratulation.
By now the rain is constant and getting heavier. The increasing wind has my poncho blowing in all directions as we leave the restaurant. I feel chilled at once as my body temperature has settled while we rest.
From the restaurant the Way leads down and we soon find ourselves walking along a track that is being re-graveled in the pouring rain and we have to back up to allow the skip carrying gravel space to pass and reload.
We squelch along the muddy track before heading down, down, down through a village. We have been keeping pace with three other pilgrims, one male and two females. Suddenly one of the females slips on the rocks of the footpath we are currently traversing and nearly loses her balance.
Falling on wet stone footpaths would be no fun however would be a step up from falling on some of the rougher terrain we have already passed today.
We have the major climb of the day ahead of us, Three hundred meters elevation on eroded gravel paths through eucalyptus forest in the pouring rain awaits.
By the top we are both wringing wet from a combination of rain and sweat. We have climbed into the cloud that was above us not long ago however the rain has not abated in the slightest.
At least I am no longer cold, indeed steam is coming out the top of my poncho hood as it wraps around my body in the wind.
The Pilgrims Law of Undulation always must have its way and soon we are descending again until finally we are back at river level and cross what must normally be a quiet stream as it cascades at least a meter above the weir that lies just upstream from the narrow medieval bridge where we walk.
The rain is now teeming down and we leave the camera/iphone in the backpack rather than take pictures.
From here a soggy walk along the river flat awaits. We stop for a rest in a bus shelter and strip our packs and wet gear from our backs for a while.
Steam is rising from my entire body through my soaking cloths.
By the time we are ready to keep going I am cold again, it really is hard to strike a balance with my body temperature, the rain and the wind.
Pam is having all the same troubles and one more. We have repeatedly had hotel laundry services doing our washing and apparently the stench of the pilgrim’s clothes is only countered by using copious amounts of detergent.
She shows me the bubbles rising from her clothes as she flexes her limbs.
Better to foam at the knee than the mouth I guess.
She tells me this is ‘character building’.
So now I am twice the ‘character’ I was this morning. That could be entertaining.
On we walk, squelching along a little track that winds through the muddy river flats.
We rejoin the bitumen walking uphill for the last kilometer (according to the signs advertising the hotels in Negreira) as water cascades down the drains on each side of the road.
The intensity of the rain redoubles for this last stretch, sheeting down stinging our faces.
We sight a sign to the very first hotel in town and turn right along a narrow stone walled path. We follow this path for about fifty meters and cross the main road into Negreira. We are not walking another step today.
Once we are ensconced in the hotel it is all warmth, alcohol and comfort.
The weather report shows flooding in Santiago and days more of the same weather to come.
Mick & Pam