• Theresa Fersch

9 Miles - Day 4 of Relentless Rain

Last night, we laid around our Airbnb for hours just doing nothing. Eventually, we ventured out (again in the rain) to find a restaurant. Strangely, this town is known for its hamburger joints. So Brian found a well rated one and we took our time with tapas and vino tinto (red wine). As per our usual meals, the discussion ranged from soccer, to trump, to US and Australian National parks, and then to of course bodily functions. We were laughing over the vending machine with condoms and all acknowledged that we each noticed excessive physical exertion does increase certain hormones. Not only do testosterone and estrogen levels increase but Brian and I  noticed our hair and nails are growing rapidly. I’ve had to bite my nails down twice in the last week just to keep them from getting torn on anything and my bangs will be fully grown out by the time I return home. 

Our $4 burgers were amazing. Not at all like what you get at home but even better. The bread reminded me of a giant soft pretzel but not as thick or dense. It was the perfect ratio of bread and beef. I could only eat half of mine so I gave the other half to the guys and saved my remaining appetite for the pastry shop down the street. Before we left, though, the super dry waiter came over with three shot glasses and a very thick dark drink that was like a coffee laquor. Then he brought out a sweet tasting biscotti-like toast that went perfectly with it. After that, another guy came out and started doing magic tricks, every trick ending with a shot and a toast. Pretty soon my response to his magic was loud and way overly dramatic which only encouraged him to do more. It was a lot of fun but we were like “we gotta get out of here.” We paid under $20 for all of us to eat there and the numerous shots were free.  We stopped at a bakery on the way back for some sweets, tea and espresso. There was no way I was going to sleep anytime soon.

Brian asked me to pay at the bakery and when I got to the counter, the place was suddenly very busy. The nice young woman behind the counter was very patient with me as a pulled out of fist full of coins and had to flip them all over one by one to assess their value. It took me a solid 30 seconds to I realize 1) I did not have enough coins and 2) that she knew that instantly without having to read the value of each coin. When I pulled a 20 out of my wallet, she had an “oh finally!” look on her face. We all got dessert and drinks for $4. 

When we returned to our Airbnb, the owner who lives downstairs popped his head out and told us in Spanish that he needs our passports. Airbnbs in Portugal and Spain must be registered and they’re required to track all foreign visitors. We just give them photocopies of our passports that we store in our wallets. We only needed to pull out our real passports for customs at the airport and to enter the DHL facility in Porto. 

I slept very well last night with my leg slightly elevated. My ankle still hurt like hell when I woke up though. It was so weirdly warm when we left the house and I had to take my coat off. I assumed it would be really cold based on last nights temps which forced me to blow dry my hair after my shower for the first time on this trip. 

We stopped at two places on the way out in the morning. At the first, we got coffee and at the second, we got coffee again and homemade hot pockets which were fantastic. Europeans aren’t into heating and cooling their food though. Most things are served at room temperature and we all agreed these would be better if hot. As we sat there getting all hyped up on too much coffee we watched the news about the rioting in Catalonia. The people believe their high incomes are supporting the rest of the nation and they want to separate from the rest of Spain. They’re literally killing each other in the streets and we have heard l nothing about it in the United States. I couldn’t watch the tv, it was so violent.

We didn’t start walking until almost 9 and by then it was cold again and raining. I have no trouble pulling my jacket out of my pack and putting it on without breaking stride. 

We were all running low on cash so we hit an atm on the way out of town. Brian got cash without trouble but when Vegemite attempted withdraw from his account, the machine “retained” his card! Fortunately the bank was open so he went inside to find out what happened. I took my pack off and found a dry place to sit outside as Vegemite took a number and sat next to everyone else in the the bank. I knew we’d be here for a while. Note to self: don’t use an atm unless the bank is open just in case the machine eats your card. After about ten minutes, someone came outside with Vegemite and gave him his card back. 

The guys decided they should try another machine at a different bank. I suggested instead, we divide up the cash Brian had between the three of us and Vegemite call his bank the next time it’s open. That way we can find out if that was a random ATM incident or if there was actually something wrong with his account. I was so frustrated when they dismissed my suggestion and decided to try his card at another bank. What made me angry was I haven’t said a word about pretty much anything the guys have decided on this trip. I walk whatever route they pick, eat where they want, sleep where they want, and the one time I say “hey guys, I don’t think this is the best course of action,” they completely ignored me as if I wasn’t even speaking. But if you lost your card the first time, doing it again expecting a different outcome makes no sense. The second time a machine took his card and we had to sit around waiting for help, the bank refused to return the card at all. so Vegemite ended up having to call his bank anyway. Whatever. People always assume they know better than me. I kept walking knowing they’d both surpass me later anyway. Eventually, I got over it and we found out Vegemite’s card had been compromised while traveling. He only used it to withdraw money from ATMs and Brian’s been using the same machines so it’s very possible there was a skimmer on one they used and now our card is compromised too.

We continued to walk in the rain until we found a cafe filled with damp pilgrims. I ordered orange juice for Brian and pineapple juice for me. I get around much easier in Spain though I still look like a kid when counting my euros. 

We walked through rain and cold wind most of the morning but I did not mind it. I love having my umbrella. When we were watching the news this morning at the café, there was a weather map of all of Spain and the entire country had a forecast of beautiful weather except for where we are in Galicia. I remember when I was here four years ago, a local told me that I was very lucky that in all the time that I was in this region of Spain, we never got rain because this area is almost tropical. I guess I’m seeing that on this trip. Everything is very green though!

I was not ok with the hills though and there was quite a bit of climbing today. Unlike the other day though, today we weren’t in the woods with rocks and roots everywhere. Instead, we walked up steep roads and past houses. I Noticed people have their bread delivered to them the same as mail. Next to their mailboxes is a slightly bigger box that says “pan.” (Bread).  

Although it was a short day, we started much later than usual, and the hills really slowed me down. I knew once the climbing was over though, there were a few food options. When we caught up with Vegemite under a bus stop, we told him to text us when he finds a place for lunch. We wouldn’t be far behind him. 

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was packed with locals but there were also pilgrims. Those working behind the bar were very nice but the locals clearly got preferential treatment. I waited my turn and ordered a sandwich and an ice cream cake. The dessert was not at all what I was expecting. It was a wonderful homemade vanilla ice cream cake with thin layers of frozen chocolate. It was so good and lifted my spirit a bit. The sandwich left much to be desired. Just thick dry bread with room temperature cheese and a thin layer of chorizo. I brought half of it with me for a snack later. 

When we left the restaurant, we were greeted with pouring down rain and heavy winds. I crawled under my umbrella and started walking quickly. All the climbing we did today was over and now we had to climb back down. If I thought my ankle hurt going up, I was in for a terrible surprise on the way down. My vitamin-I had worn off and I was now in serious pain. 

As we were coming down the mountain, I was thinking that this trail is not as scenic as the Camino Frances, but then I could see off in the distance, between the clouds, beautiful towns tucked away throughout the mountain. I realized that in these last four days, we have probably missed the most amazing views and it is probably the rain which has got me so down. With only about 2 miles to go, Brian and I stopped at a bus stop to get out of the rain and so I can take more medicine for my ankle. After a couple of minutes of rest, I was ready to go again, I jumped up, and planned to breeze all the way into town. But instead, as soon as I started walking, I remembered how bad my ankle hurt, and I knew it was going to be another slog into town. I wish I could go back to where my normal foot pain was the only thing that bothered me. At least with that, it subsided quite a bit with rest. But nothing seems to make my ankle feel better.

I also realized, I could’ve packed a little more efficiently. I brought my rain jacket but not my rain pants. With my umbrella, I am snug as a bug in a rug from the waist up, but I am absolutely drenched from the waist down from the rushing water and the rain coming in at an angle.

The rain must have gotten to Vegemite a bit too because he stopped for second lunch at a full restaurant only 500 meters from our destination. The guys each ordered a Spanish burger and I ordered calamari and fries. I was soaked from the knees down but the 3 Advil kicked in and I wasn’t walking on my pained ankle so I didn’t even care about being drenched.

It stopped raining while we were eating but

of course, as soon as we put our packs on, it started to pour again. We walked about 10 more minutes before finding our lovely Airbnb. It’s a full apartment with several bedrooms, a kitchen, a family room, a washer and drier, a beautiful 3 season patio and TWO bathrooms! We’re cold and tired so I suspect we’ll be hanging out here for a while. 

I will admit that I’m not enamored by this trail, though I can’t tell how much of that has to do with the fact that we just walked through four full days of rain or if the relentless tendinitis is wearing me down. Either way, I’m very happy to be in town. I thoroughly enjoy hiking with Brian and Vegemite and even though sometimes they drive me nuts, I’m so happy we get to do this all together!



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