CF21 Day 24 – Arzua to Salceda and Pedrouzo

When I woke up, there was only me and two other pilgrims left in the room, one of them was fast asleep. The other one and I got ready as quietly as we could in semi darkness until he woke up and we could put the light on. Turns out my fellow awake pilgrim had a pack absolutely full of sewn-on camino patches with routes and distances! I had no idea what nationality he was or what language(s) he spoke, so I just pointed at the pack with a smile and said: “You have been walking far.” He replied with a thumbs up and a wide, happy smile and quickly tied his laces before he hurried out to walk some more. It reminded me of José, the Spanish pilgrim I met in Melide and Arzúa in 2019, who made his own gear, walked all the caminos he could and sneakily paid for my breakfast in the café on the plaza. I had breakfast there again and imagined he is still out there somewhere, sauntering along.

I have noticed a few more benches popping up here and there, though sadly often heavily tagged. Not sure whose initiative this is – the benches, not the tagging – but it is great to see, as it can sometimes be far between places to rest ones weary bones for a while.

The crowds were getting ridiculous. I know it’s a Holy Year, and apparently there was a Spanish holiday that last week with lots of people wanting to hit Santiago on the Saturday, like me. I did briefly consider A) getting the bus straight into town to beat them to it, and B) slacking a day to leave them to it, but quickly decided against both. A well known pearl of wisdom says that if you can’t beat them, join them, so that’s what I did. Off I went into the misty morning in a loud and cheerful crowd of mostly party pilgrims. After all, any day on the camino beats a day at home working! And a lovely autumn day it was.

And I had a mission: The first time I visited the Brown Bar of Salceda, I proposed on the phone and ended up with free cheese and wine as an engagement celebration. A few years later I returned with my now husband and had a drink there. And for our five year honeymoon revisited tour, we were within 100 metres of it when we got the message that my husband’s brother had had a fatal heart attack. The Brown – now aka Proposal – Bar of Salceda is a very special place for us, with so many memories. So of course I wanted to make a new one, to take the sting out of the last time we were there. In I went, found Our Table free and ordered a drink. Then I sat down and went I to call home to have his company, if only over the phone.

But from the seat I saw a man in the dining room, running, with a fire extinguisher …! I quickly jumped up again to see what was going on, and behind the bar the large fireplace where they barbecue the meat was on fire! I kid you not – I hadn’t had my drink yet – the *fireplace* was actually *on fire*! As I went back to the table to get my pack I heard the fire extinguisher get to work, and shortly after there was another sound, like a deep, loud hum, which was neither fire nor extinguisher. The barmaid came running, opened up all the windows, and the smoke came billowing into the room. I couldn’t resist another little peek into the room behind the bar, where the man who had been running with the fire extinguisher was now wielding … A leaf blower! Of course. What better way to blow the smoke out of the bar! By this time I and the only other person in the bar were leaving and finding seats outside instead. It seems I really can’t visit his bar without some form of drama. I really enjoyed that drink though, as it was burning hot outside as well as inside.

After all this action I was glad I had booked a nice relaxing albergue in Pedrouzo, the Mirador. It had a great swimming pool with sun loungers and lots of scantily clad young pilgrims enjoying a cooling dip in the heat. It cost a few euros more for the privilege so I decided to forego it and headed for the showers instead. The room was nice – five bunkbeds and a wall in the middle so it felt less crowded and more private – but someone in it hadn’t done any laundry for a while, just hung the sweaty clothes on her bed to dry(!), so the whole place stank to high heaven. I opened all the windows and hoped she had just run out to get a meal before shower and laundry … Sadly not. This really is not the norm. Everybody gets sweaty, but everybody also cleans up when they get to their accommodation. Eww.

One great thing about this albergue was the keycard to get in and out of the room, but I did wonder how many forgot to take it with them when they nipped to the loo in the night and got themselves locked out. I slept in my skirt with the card in the safe pocket to make sure it came with me.

After making sure I wasn’t smelling like a rancid sock myself, I went off to find food. The steak on a stone place was full, most other places were too. After wandering up the main drag and down again I saw my Irish friend and his millionaire at a table and joined them for an anchor beer, as you do. Then a lady I’d shared a room with in Vega went past and was added to the mix. At one point I asked if we could move the table a foot or two so I would be covered by the shade from the awning, which we did, and ten minutes later the rain came bucketing down with a vengeance, completely out of the blue! I would have been drenched! And just as quickly as it started, it stopped again, so we had another beer to celebrate our lucky escape.

In the end we had our meal there before the others went on their way one by one, and as the skies rumbled with another sudden and fierce downpour, I went inside and had a dessert in honour of my friend who had her birthday. Then I went to my cosy little room and read the internet and tried to not notice the smell from the next bunk or think about the fact that I would be in Santiago the next day.

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