Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 39: Santa Mariña - Cee

Our 5.30am start would previously have made us relative early birds, but the heat last night meant that by the time we were in the road at 6.15am only James and Cahir were yet to set off. It was still dark when we started, but we knew that we'd have to cover about 25km and we wanted to be in the shade by the early afternoon. 

Breakfast was at Olveiroa, which at 12km after we started meant we were rather hungry by the time we arrived! The nice thing about the 3-4 days of walking to Finisterre is that having just lost a whole load of my friends at Santiago there is just enough time to build some new friendships. And so we're now walking with Chris the German army mechanic, who has been repairing Leopard tanks in northern Afghanistan, Ruth and Dagmar, the sisters from Germany, Mireille from France, who I seem to remember bumping into back at the start of the Spanish Camino a month ago, and of course James and Cahir. We all seem to stop at the same cafés, and despite leaving at staggered times we've ended up at the same albergues, where we gently unwind from the madness and intensity of the main Camino to Santiago. 

After the small village at Hospital the route becomes rather more barren, and the shade and cafés of the first half of the day give way to kilometre after kilometre of exposed graft under the sun. We passed the German sisters snoozing in a clump of trees next to one of the old churches in the middle of nowhere, and promptly took the wrong road for a kilometre - having to retrace our steps in the hot weather was very frustrating. I decided that I'd have a short break in the trees with our friends (who were surprised to see us again so soon!) but Rupert said he wanted to press on - I walk faster than he does and knew I'd catch up with him. The shade was lovely, and I set out feeling much better for having had some time out of the sun with my feet up. 

[Dagmar, Chris, Ruth and Jenny]

I caught up with Rupert at a small water and trinket stall a couple of kilometres further on. He was downing a bottle of water with gusto, and we continued, but after half an hour he said 'I don't think I can make it' in a tired voice. Rupert's Camino walking shirt was a black number, which wasn't very smart, so told him he had to swap it for the white policeman's shirt he'd been wearing in the evenings. I gave him my sun hat, and he struggled on until we could find some shade, whereupon he collapsed into the grass in a rather worryingly manner. He was having trouble performing basic tasks like finding his Camelback drinking nozzle, and seemed completely lost. He drained my water bottle (with the last fragments from the spring in the Lourdes grotto), and it was pretty clear that he wouldn't make to Cee. I don't think he actually said 'I'm going to die here' but it wasn't looking good. Jenny, a Canadian girl who we'd been passing every so often since Sarria, told Rupert to slow his breathing as he was beginning to hyperventilate, and then left her pack with us while she went to find the church that was marked on the map less than half a kilometre down the route. Meanwhile none of the people passing us had any spare water, but they were all rather concerned. I rang up a local taxi firm and persuaded them to meet us at the next church on the route - mainly by repeating the words 'San Pedro Mártir', 'Taxi' 'Camino Finisterre' and 'peligrino' - and then told Rupert he had to get up and do the next 400 metres, walking along side him with his and Jenny's packs under each arm. As we approached the church we bumped into Jenny walking back - she'd missed it as it was a rather unassuming building. But when we got there there was a water fountain and concrete bench under a large tree that gave excellent shade - and a taxi waiting for Rupert. Later I found out that Rupert had to persuade the driver not to take him to hospital - a €5 tip did the trick!

After an hour I made it to the albergue in Cee that Rupert had gone to. We had an ice-cream and watched the Wimbledon final, and after the (very basic) supper wandered down to the beach, where white marine fireworks were being let off at regular intervals - apparently to celebrate 'the father of cheeses', which tied in with the procession we'd bumped into where a life-sized statue of 'Cheeses' was being marched through town to a slow drum beat.