Day 17 – Ribadiso to Santa Irene (19.1 km)
I met Vladimir from Budapest close to Santa Irene and we searched for the albergue which we found about a kilometre past the village. Having walked only twenty kilometres on this day, we were early and had to wait for 1½ hours before the doors opened at two in the afternoon. This gave me time to add to my diary while sitting in the nearby forest.
The albergue in Santa Irene was once an old school building next to the busy road between Arzúa and, further West, Arca do Pino, which is already a satellite city of Santiago, a sign that we were close to our destination. The walls of the albergue were unusually thick and granite lintels and sills spanned doors and windows and, very special, there was a washbasin chiselled into a windowsill with the water outlet pointing to the outside of the building – likely used by many schoolchildren in bygone days.
Later in the afternoon, after scrubbing body and clothes, resting and more diarising, Vladimir and I met again in a restaurant. He ordered a pizza and I had the standard menu del dia. The first course of my dish consisted of at least ten slices of jamon and asparagus, more than enough for both of us. The second plate was laden with chips, salad and two enormous pork chops. Dessert was ice cream and the lot was topped by a bottle of vino tinto.
The cost of this menu was again €8.00. In comparison Vladimir’s pizza, which had no special toppings to talk of, cost the same price and he had to pay extra for his beer. I could not see the logic but did not complain. Maybe there is still a sense of charity lingering on from days gone by.
Vladimir is in his late thirties and had recently walked out on his wife and three children. The couple was unable to overcome their differences, and he could not find a way to handle the complexities that had arisen between them. The only option left, he thought, was to leave and start a new life. We had a long discussion, at the end of which he was more positive, eager to reach Santiago and fly home to give his marriage a second chance.
We know it is not uncommon that partners who were, and in many cases still are, deeply in love and inseparable to end up totally confused and in pain over their inability to find common ground without losing individual space. They may feel trapped in a seemingly hopeless situation. The only way of coping with the pain in these instances must surely be through growing in awareness.
Mindfulness does not make difficulties and disagreements any less painful, just more understandable and manageable. We are then in a better position to handle complicated and complex emotions in human interactions. By being more aware of our behaviour, we acquire a more balanced opinion of ourselves and have better coping mechanisms; we might then avoid blaming either the partner or ourselves unnecessarily.
Being separated and having to live alone again after many years of togetherness can be as problematic, traumatic and bruising for one’s self-image and confidence. If children are involved this turns into an unbearable nightmare. Appreciating the causes of discontent and applying change can prevent this to an extent.
Only about twenty four kilometres were left from Santa Irene to Santiago and I could manage this quite easily in one day, but I decided to stay in the huge albergue on Monte del Gozo – Mon Xoi (Mount Joy) in Galician. This albergue has eight hundred beds in twenty blockhouses and I thought to sleep there so that Uta and I would arrive together at the Cathedral of Santiago on the following day, more or less at the same time – I assumed this would be around lunchtime. I thought it would be nice for Uta to meet me on arrival, although I was quite aware that one of us might get a sore backside from sitting and waiting. This would very likely be me as I would have only seven kilometres to go. Nevertheless, Uta would then see me at the end of my pilgrimage (frog in throat).
Having been away from home for about three weeks and having experienced a vastly different life and environment, it was time to connect to reality again. Life is not lived on the Camino; it is lived at home, in and with the family, partners and friends. My Camino was significant at the time of walking, and I hoped that it would have lasting benefits.