Our usual routine after dinner is to plan the next day’s walk and accommodation. But last night we gave up and slept. We had reached a point where the GR route takes a long and winding road for 5 days while an alternative route goes straight ahead needing just two days. The problem was accommodation, as usual. The straight route was 73km but there are no hotels, B&Bs etc. It was too much to solve so late at night.
Everything was clear this morning: we would walk the street called straight. I scanned my various accommodation listings and found a solution. A hospital for mentally handicapped people had kindly agreed to accommodate pilgrims. We called and they accepted us.
It might be tempting to play the suffering of these people and the generosity of the staff for cheap humour. We joked that we might be locked away with other pilgrims who were mad enough to walk to Rome. But mental health issues are no laughing matter and this pilgrimage reminds us of our fortunate position, that we have the time, health, money and desire to walk to Rome.
Back in the early 1970s, when I was treading my own challenging journey into adulthood, I read the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the works of RD Laing who was very popular but has since been discredited by today’s practitioners. Staying here this evening brings those memories tumbling back.
We arrived at 6.30pm totally exhausted after 42km. I could hardly stand in the office to register. After that, we were shown to our rooms. There was just 12 minutes to shower and get downstairs for dinner in the canteen. We queued with the patients who were delighted to have a few words with us. Dinner was good, a salad bar and herring with potato salad, Swedish style. Cheese and dessert. Plus a glass of water to wash it down.
Today’s walk was very good in places. We started by walking through the city park and then out along the river. We turned a bend and who should we see sitting on the grass but Walking Pilgrim No 1, Ruedi from Switzerland who has already made some comments on these pages. He had been 3 days ahead of us but he is travelling at a far more sensible pace and today we had the pleasure of his company until we reached a village called Coole where he had arranged a bed with a family. Having exchanged comments with him it was great to finally meet him and talk & walk together.
A heat wave is coming our way. Today we had 26 degrees but we will soon be in the 30s. So far on this trip we have been lucky: cool temperatures and no rain. All that is about to change.
The way to Compostela
Our hilly riverside walk this morning
We meet Ruedi
My solar umbrella makes its debut