We had been warned of extreme heat and desert-like conditions toward the end of the Camino. We had been told that many people walk in the wee hours of the morning and call it a day by 11:30 AM to avoid the harshness of the Spanish afternoons. We experienced unseasonably cool, overcast, rainy and windy days. While many pilgrims did seem to walk early until noon, the two of us often could be found marching along in awe and appreciation of the little rundown Spanish towns, the immense sky and the menagerie of the Camino (including cats, dogs, donkeys, horses, chickens, roosters, one ostrich, lizards and cows) until 7 or 8 PM. The days are long in May and June at this latitude and even stopping our walk at 8 PM still gave us two and half hours of light in the sky. We had only a day or two of desert red sand, little vegetation and scorching sun and then it was over.
We had 4 or 5 days of walking that we appreciated from start to finish. The cob buildings with their hay, mud and pebbles died out a week and half ago to be replaced by dry stone houses and walls as pictured in the last blog post. Whole villages became uniformly made of stone with red tile roofs. On one particular day we noticed some mountains in the distance. They looked to be about 50 miles away, but amazingly after only about four hours of walking we found ourselves climbing and climbing until we realized that we were not only reaching the foothills, but we would likely sleep near the mountain’s peak that night. That day the red tile roofs disappeared and in their place all roofs became black slate. Some of the slate shingles were uniform half circles, others were uniform hexagons held in place with little metal staples, but the most interesting were random shapes as if they had been pulled straight from the ground and piled onto the stone houses. Some tiles are huge, larger than pizzas, and some are tiny.
A few days after sleeping near the peak of the distant mountains and then reaching the highest point of the Camino the next morning, we found ourselves leaving the autonomous community of Castilla y León and entering the autonomous community of Galicia. There the regional language is called Galician and street signs have been hand-modified from Castellano to Galician, which seems to include more Xs and Os. Galicia is known for its octopus dishes, cooler misty weather, almond pastries, green landscapes and more reserved residents. We entered Galicia to mist and overcastness. The clouds seemed to be passing the trail and encompassing us as we walked and climbed and descended the peaks toward Santiago.
We made up two days of walking in the five days before meeting Thad, 110 kilometers from Santiago. This was part of why we walked until the evening hours. Passing through village after village with the mission of continuing walking is very special. It’s so great to be in these little towns with townspeople going about their days, raising animals, tending little shops, but feeling less like a tourist than just a traveler with a mission. The option to sit and have a coffee before continuing through town is always available and is a neat way to see these little places. We passed many minute villages of 20 to 50 residents, many of them farm villages with the ripe smells from cows who left their pie gifts in the street.