Zen top-up: Arzúa to O Pedrouzo

When I woke up after a good night’s sleep, I was surprised to hear Scandinavian sulking. Turns out the two ladies in the opposite bunk bed to mine were from Sweden, and the one on the top was not amused by the height of her bed and the ladder based obstacle course first thing in the morning. I made a comment to let them know I understood what they sad – Scandi and Flemish speakers always think they are safe with their secret languages – and we had a good giggle as we were getting ready for our second to last day of walking. I joined them for breakfast at the café right on the corner, where they gradually got back to their caffeinated normal selves. I never saw them again but I hope – in fact I can guarantee – that they had a good time!

We were heading through the lush green tree tunnels and into tall and airy eucalyptus woods; lots of people everywhere, so I soon met up with all my sola sisters again. We all drifted along catching up, having a chat, moving on, each at their own pace, alone or together. That silent serenity was hard to find post-Sarria, but there’s a lot to be said for the company of good people on the way too.

I was planning to stop at La Esquipa in Salceda, as I always do. This unassuming brown Spanish roadside bar is where I proposed to my Scouse Spouse by phone and where an impromptu engagement celebration broke out – with free cheese and salsa dancing! It is also where we got the news that his brother had had a fatal stroke, so I am determined to stop there every time to add layers of good memories to soften the bad. Last time the fireplace caught fire and someone tried to blow it out with a leaf blower …

Some of the ladies wanted to come with me on this hard task of visiting a bar around second breakfast time, and though we were walking at different speeds and sometimes lost sight of each other, we were now armed with contact details and managed to coordinate our arrival in Salceda. And when the camino turned right at the end of the Esquipa’s beer garden, we carried on into the bar itself. Mandatory photos were taken of me enjoying a celebratory glass of Estrella Galicia at the Happy Table, a phone call home was made, claras were had in the sunshine, there was food and general merriment. A fine new memory to add to my collection, thanks ladies!

Again I had booked a bed in the big albergue Mirador in O Pedrouzo. My only gripe with the place was the risk of getting locked out of the dorm at night because the door locks automatically and you need to bring the key card when you nip out to the loo. I had learned from last time to sleep in my skirt with the key card in my pocket, so I was good. As I checked in, I asked the hospitalera nicely if she had any bottom bunks left, and she very kindly – and purposefully – took me from one room to the next until we found one. When I tried to thank her profusely in my best half-baked peregrina Spanglish, one of the young Spanish ladies in my room took over and translated for me – but then they kept on talking, and suddenly the lovely hospitalera was in tears! I was mortified, thinking I had said or done something wrong, but it turned out that she was upset because some previous guest had left a really bad review online, claiming this very lady had been very unhelpful and unkind – ?? – by not allowing this person to basically take more than her fair share of the communal space and facilities, inconveniencing other pilgrims to pander to her particular wishes. The young Spanish ladies again translated this back to me, and we all tried to reassure the hospitalera that we had no complaints, that some people are just selfish and demanding, and we promised we would all leave positive reviews; not because she asked us to but because we were happy there! This place is pretty much pilgrim heaven.

Moral of the story: Be kind, be considerate, be grateful, give praise where it is due and leave good reviews where you can. Oh and if you see some other pilgrim being an a****** to staff or volunteers anywhere on the camino, call them out on it! They might just be having a bad day. Or maybe they’re just entitled morons. Remind them of Jesus: Do to others as you would like them to do to you and don’t be an a******! Or words to that effect.

Shortly after the hospitalera left us, hopefully feeling a bit better, she came back again with a gentleman who had been on the road for a long time and had mixed up his dates. Now he had run out of time and would need a taxi early the next morning to go straight to the airport, missing out on Santiago all together. We suggested he could also get a local bus into town in an hour, spend the night in Santiago and go to the airport from there, but he just smiled sadly and said that if he couldn’t walk in, he’d rather leave it for the next time. We all felt so sorry for him. The kind hospitalera called and booked a very early taxi, and just to complete the contrast to the guest that made the hospitalera cry, he apologised profusely to me and the young Spanish ladies and promised he wouldn’t wake us as he left. He kept his word. Buen almost-there camino, peregrino.

Oh, did I mention the pool? My room is the one with the balcony overlooking it. All for €15!

After the usual post-walk routine I met the Ladies and Swiss Iz for an anker beer and went for a meal. I can’t remember much about it; compared to yesterday’s good food it was a non-event and I have taken no photos, undoubtedly busy enjoying myself rather than creating memory aids for later. Pedrouzo always has this odd buzz about it, that mix of joy and sadness, elation and trepidation, of being almost there and not wanting to stop. And now there was only one walking day left to Santiago.

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