DAY FORTY TWO: 19 November 2012 Santiago de Compestela to Negreira and strictly speaking Day One of the Camino Fisterra
I have been embedded in the womb of normality, material comforts and pleasures in Santiago. The busy distraction of the mortal coil. In two short days I had been lured back into the gnawing seduction of the derma of life. In preparation for the plunge back into this new camino I moved into the far more ascetic Mundoalbergue a far remove from the clawing comfort of the Hotel La Campanas de San Juan. Still my plastic coated double mattress managed to soothe me into a lie in and my departure was delayed by a Monday morning dash to the post office, the search for the comfort of a chocolate bar and the inessential necessity to purchase a copy of John Brierleys Camino Finisterre guide. I choose to deny my guide book co-dependency.
It is nearly half past one and I have still to stride beyond urban graffiti. I am surprised how quickly the city of Santiago dissolves into the robust prolificacy of green Galacia. One minute a busy intersection and the next the oaken parkland of Carballeira de San Lorenzo. This is the least strenuous stage of the Camino Finisterra but leaving Santiago is excruciating; I am pushing against the heavy tide of low vibrational life as I resist its covetous tide of ripping and sucking. It feels so real but around me just the gentle earthy breathe of an unassuming autumn afternoon.
I am the last pilgrim, the only pilgrim. There is a nothingness to this walking today. I am leaving the fun and camaraderie behind. I am now truly walking my own camino. You would think I was walking into the desert; 40 days and 40 nights of solitude ahead of me. Lost in my imaginative musings and dramas I hardly notice the flash of a late leaving Kevin stride past me. Then I am back in the rhythm of the past 3 weeks of walking when I was never quite the last to leave town. Now I know for sure there is at least one other pilgrim out there. Despite knowing there is company on the road the afternoon is leaden, clouded and darkened by the early shuttering of the day. There is an urgency to afternoon walking in late November and this way does not have the same feel for pilgrims. The rush into Santiago is but a trickle coming out the other side. In 2012 I was one of 134,979 pilgrims who walked the Camino Francais, the Camino Finisterra doesnt even get a mention in the Pilgrim Office statistics, just 873 for Otros Caminos. Less than a mere 1.5% of the mob that I had spent the previous 6 weeks with. No wonder the feeling of aloneness.
Myself and Kevin agreed to meet at Albergue “San Jose” in Negreira – a grey splat of a town with little sense of any pilgrim affinity. The address is a modern apartment block on the newly expanding edge of town; closed but not out of business. All we had to do was call a local mobile number. Kevin was lounging at the door depending on me to have a phone that was charged. On the last lingering of its juices we managed to contact the Swiss owner. Our pristine chalet style expectations are quickly modified as we are brought up two floors to a business like urban apartment with three or four bedrooms untidied by the remnants of previous tenants. Nonetheless we are the only two booked in for the night and we have a room and a bathroom each. For first time on my camino I get to indulge in a steaming hot read in the bath. All I was missing was a glass of wine.
Buoyed by my bath I headed out to town to choose from the selection of pilgrim menus but a corkscrew wander through the town reveals there is only one place that holds the pilgrim torch and that is Bar Imperial. Kevin is already there. Victuals are ample and authentically pilgrim. The name of the bar and incongruity of the west country dialect of our hostess the only hint that this is an establishment conceived by an Englishman. Our hostesss is his local Galacian wife, they met working in a hotel in Devon. We settle in, the wine flows freely and our conversation rambles beyond sensible pilgrim bedtime. For better or worse we are the guardian of the keys this night.