high tide




the following day, the penultimate day, is tough, emotional, and a tiny bit arduous. day after day, less and less attention has been given to my guidebook, so much so that when i start this day of walking, i have no real idea how long it is going to be.  my walking companions talk about numbers of kilometres. but when they talk about numbers, all i really hear are the echoes of something that does not really matter. something that i am not really interested in.

my mind is elsewhere………………………………………………………




the camino shifts between melide and pedrouzo, finally bringing us into contact with the camino frances.i am walking with the lighthouse, the others are up ahead. today we are using our voices, given form by words. we are bouncing around different ideas. he tells me about a fellow that he met when he went repelling once. a fellow with no fear. we talk about mind control……..i listen intently, taking the anecdote in, extracting its’ essence. it is all in the mind. whatever “it” is. the japanese man with no legs appears once again……………

it is not just us and a couple of other pilgrims, now there are many more of us, producing a steady energy that hums its’ way along the camino. this new dimension of sound feels unsettling and i find myself craving the simple sounds of trees dancing. accompanying the hum come the nameless faces attached to legs attached to feet, marching, shuffling, walking fast, walking slow……………..at the beginning of the day, walking with my companion, i observe all of this in a rather detached way. i am infused with a sensation of inevitability. i am a shell on the beach watching the high tide coming in.

something that really strikes me is the radical way the physical face of the camino transforms during this last part. my friends, the yellow arrows, that army of sentries that have guided me all the way to this point, are now being directed by large stone markers ~grey, hard, army sergeants~ that are barking out marching orders, loudly informing the pilgrim of the number of kilometres remaining to santiago. counting down. pushing you along. over time, these markers have also become vehicles for a plethora of names, messages, shoes, symbols. traces of previous pilgrims brought into the physical world that whisper to you as you walk past. graffiti sprayed on walls transform into neon pink cheerleaders screaming out encouragement like “go jeanne” and “keda poco” (not long to go). i ask myself if people really get to this point and give up………to me, it is inconceivable. this has not been suffering, not at all. 

we stop for a break and then keep going. the usual shenanigans- a massive bocadillo followed by a carajillo that leaves me slightly out of my head, which is probably a good thing. as if to interrogate the idea that walking this camino has never been a pain in the arse, my right foot begins to give me a bit of grief. there has been a blister bubbling away on the side of my big toe for a couple of days now. i can feel it there, pulsing, gently aching, beginning to feel a certain sharp rawness that sets alarm bells ringing. ufffffffffffffffff. today i really cannot be bothered walking. in the end, it is the lighthouse that keeps me going, marking the rhythm, always tranquil, always light. just keep going.

the next break happens at a place that is playing celtic music and serves comida gallega. delicious………………..pimientos de padron, empanada de zamburina……yummmmmmmmmmm. a beer, and a very generous carajillo mean that once again i have to situate myself in the shade behind my sunglasses and just concentrate. lalin has worked his magic on a fellow we affectionately call “manolo”- who appears to be one of the owners of the restaurant. after a requisite amount of blustering about preparing the carajillo, manolo comes out with cups almost full to the brim with alcohol. where is the coffee going to fit? lalin’s re-enactment of the towering inferno the previous day is still fresh in my memory as we light them up. unfortunately, some fellows at a table nearby have tried to leave without drinking manolo’s generous servings of alcohol. he comes tearing out of the restaurant with a rather large stick in his hand, threatening to beat them if…………they don’t finish their drinks. we are all laughing our heads off at the spectacle. but needless to say, as soon as manolo moves away i toss most of my carajillo into the bushes……….

at one point, i find myself walking behind a woman. she is short, blonde. she is walking along slowly, leaning on her walking sticks as if her life depended on it. tears jump into my eyes. what is this? i think in that moment i see a slow, cold, steely resolve personified in this woman’s body. she is just putting one foot in front of the other. trudging like a soldier through high water. that is how you move when you are pretty fucking tired. why do the tears come swimming up to the surface? they are not tears of sadness. just a symptom of a simple physical resonance, i think. the foot, the foot. my rebellious big toe pipes up in the background, its’ voice now becoming unavoidable. how far are we walking today? suddenly, i am interested in numbers………

onwards we trudge and the blonde woman and my big toe have taken me by the hand and led me down into a foggy, dense mental landscape. by the time we arrive in pedrouzo, i realise that we have walked a lot more than thirty kilometres. my foot is feeling really wretched and i am having waking dreams about the moment when we stop walking and i am able to immerse it in a bucket of warm, salty water.

pedrouzo is what i expected it to be. a long narrow network of streets all geared towards the camino and the many thousands of pilgrims that walk through here every year. the majority of businesses that we walk past on the way to the hotel are all somehow related to the camino. this relationship manifests through colour (blue and yellow), shapes (shells, arrows, crosses), words in shop signs, and then more obvious examples of the commercialisation of this pilgrimage, in the form of souvenirs that crowd shop windows……jewellry, t-shirts, walking sticks, shells, you name it…………….in pedrouzo, you can eat like a pilgrim from pilgrim menus, you can get a pilgrims massage, you can stay in an albergue, you can buy a special pilgrim’s robe along with a special pilgrim’s stick and a special pilgrim’s shell, and continue on your merry way ~a modern day gandalf, kitted out perfectly for the road to self-discovery.

that evening, after taking care of my foot and having a rest, we go out for our last dinner together. i really wish i had higher levels of energy, but there is so much going on in my head…this time tomorrow night, i will be in santiago, with gerry. it is curious that even though this is done by walking, one of the slowest forms of travelling, the ending still feels sudden, violent. in some ways unexpected. i am sure that my walking partners are not having the same experience. they are at the tail end of a week long getaway. the camino will end in santiago and they will simply sidestep through a doorway and back into their lives. to me, it feels like the length of time that i have spent walking is now behind me, a very heavy mass, shoving me forward. i am resisting as it tries to push me through a doorway, telling me to just get on with it. i can do nothing else but listen and obey. i go to bed and allow myself to be swept away by a tide that is now going out, taking me deeper into unexpected feelings and questions.

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