(From our walk in late February to early March 2020)
With only two walking days left, and dry shoes, the walk to Pedrouzo should be a breeze in spite of the weather. A long section of it is on a nice, quiet forest road, and at the end of it is Salceda, where we had a very special errand: To have a drink in the (hopefully open) bar where I proposed by phone five and a half years ago.
A tiny engagement party broke out in the brown bar in Salceda that evening – the radio was turned up, there was suddenly more wine, and a platter of cheese, and a Latin American couple started dancing passionately to a recent hit single. The then just Scouse, yet to be Spouse, sat at home, slightly bewildered, as I had told him I was never getting married. But the camino works in mysterious ways, and it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. Reader, I married him!
And now we were on our way to perhaps the real highlight of the five year honeymoon anniversary celebration – going to the bar where it happened, together. It’s a local bar, so with luck it would be open, and maybe we would find the same table free so we could sit there and raise a glass to five years and hopefully many more to come.
In hindsight, this day was probably just as wet and damp and grey and windy and cold and miserable as the previous ones, but still we enjoyed ourselves, singing whenever it started raining just so we could say we’d been singing in the rain, and trudging through the mud and puddles hand in hand.
We ended up on another Camino Complementario, and yet again it was to the right. No idea where the ‘official’ one is, we have always walked through the woods. (And who are these people who smash up waymarkers? Do they want to take a piece of tile home? Stop it!)
The Scouse Spouse exhibiting some fine striding through the mud there.
I started taking photos of all the closed bars, to remind myself for next time where they were and in what order. Like this one, a pilgrim favourite:
On our way through the woods, in the rain, we came to the Casa Calzada, just over half way, and there were pilgrims outside!
Turned out the bar wasn’t really open, but the manager was inside waiting to take a delivery as he would officially open in two days. So he’d left the door open for pilgrims to use the toilet (gracias!) and have a rest inside the glassy porch, which we did. The group of young women who were currently there were waiting for a taxi, and when they had left, the manager waved us in and asked if we wanted anything. We told him our errand and he immediately opened three bottles of beer to celebrate!
When the rain subsided, we carried on towards Salceda, singing silly songs like Walking in the Mud (statement of fact), Suspicious Mud (cow pats), the Rain in Spain (which stays mainly in Galicia) and such like. Finally we came out of the woods and followed the road into and through Salceda, with its few albergues and bars. There was only one bar for us though, and as we got closer, we could see people going in and out. It was open!
We started planning our photo session – we’d ask the bar staff to take our picture at that table, posing with a glass of … does this call for champagne? Or would red wine be more appropriate? Maybe some albariño, since we’re in Galicia? A nice large refreshing beer would be nice too though …
And then the phone rang.
His niece, with bad news. His brother had had a heart attack.
Out of the blue. A fit and healthy man, now in critical condition.
I got him into the bar so he could sit down. I got us drinks while he was on the phone to find out what was happening. The barman was the local taxi driver – I explained the situation and he waited while we made calls.
While he drove us to Pedrouzo, I told him about our plan, the proposal, our table. He said that next time, when we come back, he would make sure we could sit there and celebrate. Maybe we will.
It felt like a hundred years since we were singing in the rain.
We kept waiting and hoping for good news. Didn’t eat. Didn’t sleep. Got the bus to Santiago the next day. Wandered aimlessly.
Got the unimaginable news there – he was gone.
Keep your loved ones close. Tell them you love them. Make the most of every day, enjoy every minute. Sing in the rain and live life to the full.
It’s all you’ve got.