I met a guy named Patrice the other day, the only guy so far I've actually walked a substantial chunk of a Camino stage with. He gave me some cheese and a clementine, and we speak entirely in French. Despite his age, Patrice is fast. Every time we've walked together it ends with me at some point saying, "OK Patrice I think you're much faster than me. I'll let you go ahead. See you soon!" Except I don't think we're going to see each other again.
Anyway, the photos:
He's too fast for me.
Here are some photos from the last few days, a large part of which I was in a dastardly funk. Two nights ago I was trying to work and the hotel's WIFI kept cutting in and out. Rather than accepting my fortune and going downstairs and enjoying a delicious dinner of breaded cutlet, I tried to work through it. I kept getting frustrated and it got to the point where I was desperate, huddled against the door to try to get the best reception, manically refreshing the internet connection in hopes that it would work better, gasping in glee when it successfully connected for three minutes and then wailing and plunging into the depths of despair when it cut out again. To top it off there was a birthday party downstairs, and the singing (CUMPLEAÑOS FELIZ) didn't stop until about three in the morning as I sat wild-eyed and desperate in bed, convinced I was going to have to stop with the Camino and move to Morocco and become an English teacher.
Anyway, the photos:
Here's overview of the Camino del Norte and how far I've walked so far. The red "x" is where I am, in a town called Cudillero. The arrow on the right is where I started, though actually I started in a town on the French side called Hendaye. Santiago de Compostela, of course, is the final destination. Walk, crawl, or crutch.
Here is Patrice as he scampers down the mountain like a nimble billy goat. When I told him I had shin splints he looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Ski poles."
This is a photo I took when I was bummed out and I thought it would be cool to show the "gritty side of the Camino." I am amazed, however, that people live here. It looks totally abandoned/ like a warehouse where they might make something like socks. But it's completely lived-in apartment building. I think this (that it looks abandoned) might owe itself to the fact that A) Spain is in a terrible recession (something everyone brings up in any conversation longer than four seconds) B) It's an industrial part of town, and C) It was siesta.
Spaniards like their ham. These things hanging in the bar that look like mandolins are actually pig legs, and they are not to be joked about. I was just told an anecdote about how the King of Spain and the world-champion ham-cutter were once at some kind of gala in New York and apparently, after the champ ham-cutter had finished cutting a plate full of perfect slices, a guy from Texas wearing a cowboy hat grabbed the plate, doused it ketchup, and started eating. The word "gem" was used at least 14 times (in reference to the ham); the phrase "son of a bitch" at least seven (in reference to the Texan).
Cudillero, or where I currently am. I came here in 2012 after searching Google for "Asturias costa pueblo bonito" (pretty town coast Asturias) and fell in love. My guidebook calls it "maybe the most picturesque fishing village on the Asturian coast", although in November it's a different story. Most of the buildings are shuttered and the place is a bit like a ghost town, albeit a beautiful, costal ghost town.
I'm getting close to the end but this is no time to become complacent. There are still a good 300 plus kilometers left and winter is falling fast. It's rainy and cold, and the days are short. However, I feel like making it through the funk of the last few days was a huge achievement. There were times when I was truly demoralized, walking through mud with shin splints not really wanting to go on and sort of wondering if I even could go on. And I'm sure there are tests still to come but having made it this far I feel I'll be able to take them on. That, and I can always buy some ski poles.