It was Sunday. Breakfast started at 9 AM. Our walk was short. We started off at 10:30 and walked at a leisurely pace experiencing what was clearly roads and paths that were used during earlier Caminos. In a village outside of Arcade, we were directed to go right by a modern Camino sign but also an older one below it. Like the 88 temple walk, most of the signs are new but occasionally I came across signs from previous eras. One senses a bond with pilgrims of old.
We also met many more pilgrims. From Porto to Vigo, we saw a handful. Now, we met that many by the hour. We surmised that many start from Vigo which is just outside the required 100km walking distance to qualify for a Compestella. Also, we were on the path after which different branches of the Portuguese Camino meet. Above VIgo, someone had drawn a stylized line showing the merger of the green and yellow paths. We think that wavy line represents the sea.
We met our first Americans in Arcade at our hotel in Arcade. They had started from Vigo.
I need to digress for a moment because upon reflection, I may have given an incomplete review of Vigo. Indeed, our first encounter was the harbor and cars oftentimes ignoring pedestrians waiting to cross streets. But Vigo Centro reminded me of the boulevards of several main cities in the Spanish world such as Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid with their 8-10 story apartment buildings and stores on the street level. Before dawn, cleaning machines were up and down Centro Vigo’s streets and trash cans were emptied. Drivers almost always stopped for pedestrians as they do throughout the city and country roads that we have walked in Portugal and Spain. Drivers in Bethlehem need to be re-trained to better the ambiance of a walking environment.
That said, back to the trail. We met a trio who had stopped at a crossroad – Numo, Carlo, and Christine. Numo and Carlo are boyhood best friends from Madeira, a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco. Numo had walked Camino in early 2020. He described how difficult it was because of the lockdown. Lodgings and restaurants were closed. When he asked locals for water, they told him to place his bottle on a window sill to be filled. No close contact. Was that how people experienced Camino during periods of the plague? Numo said that he has returned to the Camino to achieve balance in his life. ”I run at 12,000 rpm; Camino calms me to 1,000.” Although an aviation mechanic, Numo’s passions are rally car driving and mountain biking especially on Madeira’s slopes.
Carlo, his best friend, married and moved to Lisbon. He is an electrical engineer but changed to a software designer who heads two teams consulting with large size companies. He and Numo seldom see one another. Camino is their opportunity to be together as they used to be going to school in Madeira.
Krista is from Vancouver, Canada, lived in Chicago, and now, the Netherlands. She is a practicing Catholic. The Camino was on her bucket list. I did not have the opportunity to talk with her thus her story is short. She had met Numo and Carlo only that morning.
We walked by crosses formed by twigs, old grape vines (probably Albarino), and Galician stone granaries. We were shocked when we encountered construction of a new highway that was being cut into the hills. The pastoral beauty of the countryside was being cut by one of the inventions of the 20th Century. Pilgrims in the future will be walking across a steel bridge to continue their journey.
It was time for the Invisible Hand to show its work. The Camino path divides into two near Pontevedre – the main path along a busy country road and a branch along a stream. Taking Yogi Berra’s advice, ”When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” we did. (Yogi Berra was a Baseball Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees. Look up his other sayings.)
Just across a bridge, we saw our old friends, Jennifer and John, for the fifth time. They had taken an unmarked trail and were on a snack break. Who would have thought. They sent us reciprocal photos of us with our poles.
Our touch with the future happened again when we checked into our hotel in Pontevedre. We came to the front door and were confronted with metal and glass – written on the glass was welcome in several languages. Welcome? In front of me was an intercom. I pressed the button with a bell symbol. A recorded voice came back in Spanish. What does a non-Spanish speaker do? Written on the wall, in Spanish and English, were instructions to call a phone number in case of problems. I did and a fellow responded in Spanish then English. I was told to press in a code number. Alacazam! The door opened.
No one was at the reception desk. To check in, I went to a console, pressed a button, and a woman with a headset appeared. She took our vitals. Left of the screen were our keys with our room cards and instructions on how to enter the hotel if we left. Our bags were in our rooms.
In the morning, we wondered if someone would appear for laying out the breakfast buffet and for checking us out. Lorena was there – all smiles with instructions on where to put our baggage for pick-up. We were also impressed how ecologically minded the hotel was. We also haven’t seen a straw in either Portugal or Spain. The future?
The Wheel of Time keeps turning. We are in the present but have walked where many have before us. Those in the future will do so as well but will see and experience a different Camino.