Friday, June 18, 2010

Portomarin - crossed the 100km mark, and saved a hawk!

I can´t believe it - I crossed the 100km mark!! I´ve actually walked more than 700km at this stage and have a little less than 100 ahead of me! If anyone at this stage uses public or any other form of transport your not entitled to the Compostela at the end. The last 100km are a MUST if you want the Compostela (or the last 200km if you´re a cyclist). So therefore it´s really important to be in top condition once you reach that all important 100km mark. All of that went through my head when lying sick in my bunk bed in Villafranca. The people in the albergue wanted to drive me up to the top of the mountain the following morning, to O´Cebreiro, but I felt so much like a cheat! It´s a pretty steep climb and hadn´t I trained extensively in the mountains between Oviedo and Leon for stuff like this? On the other hand maybe I should allow myself another day rest for my body to really recover?
The next morning I felt much better and asked them not to drive me all the way to the top but to La Faba, about 6km below the top. At least I wanted to walk that bit up, and what a great walk it was. Steep uphill with an amazing view of the surrounding mountains. Sunshine with a little cloud and a light cold wind blowing, absolute heaven. When I remember how I huffed and puffed climbing up the Pyreness, and now? One dose of Ventolin and I am good to go - I think I´m actually very fit at this stage :))
I crossed the border into Galicia and a while later O´Cebreiro eventually came into sight: the village with the Holy Grail! Well, not actually thee grail, but nevertheless the GALICIAN GRAIL, I suppose that´s impressive enough. Legends has it that one windy , snowy night a farmer came all the way up to O´Cebreiro to attend mass. The priest, not impressed with the low attendance rate of "1" didn´t want to celebrate mass but the farmer was a bit pig headed, as farmers are, and insisted. Then the wine turned to blood and the bread into flesh, and thus revealed the Galician Grail itself. And it´s still there and you can take a close look!
Apart from the Grail it´s an absolutely enchanting village: round (!)houses with thatched roofs. I had originally planned on staying there and taking care of my tummy, but since it was only slightly cramping I decided to move on across the mountains and not to feel like a total wimp. I walked actually 17km that day, to an amazing albergue, furnished with thick logs on the inside. Even the bunk beds were made out of logs and the windows were all panoramic with an endless view across the mountains. I slept like a baby. The next morning the view was gone. We were engulfed in clouds and I could see the early risers from albergues before this one march by in rain ponchos and big jackets....., while I enjoyed my brekkie with a hot chocolate ;) It cleared up though and the walk that day was almost easy. Apart from my insides I have hardly any pains in my legs or feet any more. I´m well used to the weight of my backpack and if I hadn´t had the twitchy tummy with the heartburn everything would´ve almost been 100%. But you can feel that things have changed: way more people are on the road and the fight for sleeping places, the getting up early, the rushing and running has even more increased. I am still determined not to let all this craziness affect me. I´m still the last to leave the albergues and I might arrive at 6pm if that´s the way it is. I trust to find a bed, and if not, I have my tent with me. But queueing at the door of closed albergues from before 1pm on to secure a bed and get into fights with other pilgrims, running past everything that is beautiful or interesting, no, that won´t happen to me. What´s the point of bringing your everyday stress onto the Camino?!
The next day I found another great albergue, the day after all was full and I slept in the tent. A frechman lost his nerve and screamed for a taxi to bring him to Portomarin. After all the walking on old roman mountain paths and mud he just couldn´t hack it any more. And so I crossed the 100km mark the following morning. I still can´t believe it - I walked 700km, across mountains and plains, through forests and fields, while the countrysides were changing, people´s dialects were changing, types of buildings changing, miles falling away behind me, and now Santiago is so near! While walking down towards the big lake of Portomarin I saw a bird on the side of the road ahead of me. First I thought it was a goose because of the sheer size but then I realised it was a hawk. Hit by a car with a badly broken wing. Now, I know a little about hunting birds and how to handle them, and totally love them. So I was able, with the necessary precautions, to pick him up and to carry him towards Portomarin. A spanish guy had joined forces with me and together we tried to find out if there was a veterinarian in town. Unfortunately for the beautiful bird there wasn´t, but a woman showed us the way to the Guarda Civil. The policeman there called the animal welfare and they said they would send a vet over within the next 30 - 60 min. I do hope they were able to stabilise his wing for healing. He wasn´t hurt anywhere else on his body and a he was a young, strong bird. He was just too young and silly to know he couldn´t compete with a car....... Here, have a look - and until next time. Keep your fingers crossed for my last 100km!! :)

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