the gift that keeps giving


on the way to orio 2015



the walk into lugo is long, and tiring. when we arrive i am absolutely knackered. however, the night spent in lugo turns out to be very interesting and a lot of fun. after a much needed rest in the afternoon, i put on the same clothes i have been wearing in the evenings now non-stop for god knows how long and head out into the centre. these fellows that i am now walking with are the types to not be overly shy when it comes to a glass of wine, or a beer, or a gin and tonic. this is usually accompanied by good food.

the ringleader of this troupe of semi-hedonists is a bloke called “javier”, but i call him “lalin”. he is a man from a galician town called lalin, and after spending a week walking with him, i rapidly learn that he adores his home town, which quickly becomes the running joke. is there a better choice for a nickname?

i fall in love with lalin very quickly. he is a gruff bear of a man. a cigar smoking, aviator sunglass-wearing barca radical who, by day, runs a real estate agency called “d’lalin”. when he gets walking he is unstoppable, especially when the going gets tough. many times i watched him walking from behind, visualising him as a bull, very wilful, lots of force. but so soft as well. there is a beautiful moment (for me) that happens between us. we are wandering through a forest with fairly brutal slopes that have to be walked. battling up these slopes, there are fairly long periods where we walk together, and i can feel his determination infusing the space between us. feeding off this energy helps me to put one foot in front of the other and breathe…………….just keep going. i really enjoy sharing this experience with him, even if he did not experience it in exactly the same way. the wonderful thing is that during this walk, i learn something fundamental about his character, without exchanging any words. such a big heart. funny. so strong.

with lalin headlining, the night in lugo evolves into a little bit of bar hopping and then a stroll down some practically empty night time streets, into a gorgeous quirky bar. during this time, i am keeping an eye out for other pilgrims, specifically a canadian ukulele playing pilgrim called jack, but he is nowhere to be found in the old, winding streets of lugo. i run into another pilgrim, jose luis (more about him at another point), we have a brief conversation and farewell each other, certain that it will be the last time……….. after a couple of drinks, i call it a night, i am knackered after the day…..i wish i was not so tired though. i would like to continue on into the night, just not tonight.

the following morning emerges and lugo is grey and wet, and as it turns out, i have had a rather sleepless night, tossing and turning, washing machine mind on spin cycle. you would think this might dampen my day. but the truth is, as stirred up and as tired as i am -i also feel deeply happy. the clouds try to do their best to suffocate me as i walk, but their attempts are foiled by a lovely fresh breeze that is starting to blow, bringing interesting words, moments, and of course, feelings to the surface.

we walk to san roman de retorta, on the way stopping for a break in the first bar we come across. “having a break” means eating something and drinking something followed by a carajillo (coffee with aguardiente-under directions from lalin). this is done by burning the aguardiente to get rid of some of the alcohol and then pouring this substance into the coffee. leaving the bar, i am a little drunk from the carajillo, but i just put my sunglasses on (i think) and get into the walk. lunch happens at a meson. delicious food is born from a gorgeous kitchen with a massive wood stove in the middle ~all sorts of goodies atop…. bubbling, stewing, roasting……….cocido gallego and a flan (i think) yum yum yum yum!!!!! i then walk the last couple of kilometres with a full belly before arriving at the albergue, where finally, i can have a bit of a rest. the albergue is situated outside of a one-horse town, and this is the place we go for something to drink and eat later. it is bloody cold!!!!!!!! all i have clean is a pair of shorts. argh.

hanging out at the bar is great, despite my frozen brain-dead state. it is full of locals, all standing around, drinking, talking. i listen in on the conversations, trying to follow what they are talking about, but it is quite a challenge. the lighthouse does his best to translate and keep me abreast of what is happening, which is nice……….oh my god……….i am so tirrrreeeeedddd, have i said this already?

it has crept into my legs, this tiredness. at night, i am kept awake by legs that want to move, want to keep walking. it is as if my legs and feet now have their own voice, and they are demanding to be heard. WE WAAAANNNT TO WAAAAALLLLK!!!!!………PLEEEEEEEAAAAAASSSSEEEE…….. although i seem to be doing my best to just ignore them by staying in bed, the mind dutifully ignores my requests for silence and obeys their instructions, accompanying this night time nerve walking with some hefty spin cycles. but it is all good. i understand why this is happening.

walking to melide is the last section of the camino primitivo- after this point, we join the camino frances, and then what? i expect a lot more people, a lot more commercialisation of the camino “concept”……………but there is still the walk to melide that is absolutely divine.

the morning walk allows us to sneak unseen through forests where trees are too busy dancing in the wind to notice the presence of humans. i love watching them sway and bend, listening to their song. soft, and gentle. the sounds of the branches moving reminds me of sebastian and bea and the way they use sound to clean people and spaces. this place where we are walking feels so clean, no wonder. wandering through small towns, silence pervades. i am in seventh heaven. i am relishing this last bit of silence before it all changes.

it is a brilliant day of walking. the presence of the lighthouse is a major factor. strong and bright. when i lag behind… eyes simply have to look up and my eyes see him. there he is, guiding the way. what touches me most about walking with him is that he also has his eyes open, watching, considering what is going on around him. checking, making sure everything is ok. protective. gorgeous.

by no means the only cool thing to happen in melide, i would like to recount a short anecdote about lalin, seeing that he is the main feature here. that afternoon, eating the most delicious pulpo (octopus) i think i have ever eaten in my life and drinking some quite delicious white wine (albarino or ribeiro? can’t remember), i am witness to lalin almost setting himself and the table we are at on fire during his attempt to make carajillo after lunch. i am, for the first time in weeks, probably since the last time i saw gerry, invaded by an attack of no-holds-barred, tears rolling out of the eyes, belly-aching laughter. in fact, in ensuing days, every time i remember this scene, i burst out laughing. even now, i am smiling as i briefly relive this slightly monty pythonesque scene. such a delicious sensation! complete abandon for a precious couple of minutes……the abandon stays with me for quite some time, opening up a more intimate space between myself and my walking companions……this is lalin’s gift, the one that keeps on giving………

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