Camino Provides

Portuguese Coastal Camino
Stage 11: Corujo to Vigo
Stage 12: Vigo to Redondela

(In lieu of Friday’s photo and poem feature.)

Vigo, with its oyster and mussel flats in the Ria de Vigo

“There are no wrong turnings.
Only paths we had not known
we were meant to walk.”

Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana

And so describes the next stage. After a night of thunder, lightning, and rain pelting down on the balcony, morning dawned with heavy cloud cover, puddles, and mud. It would be a wet walk. From my journal, Sunday, May 22, 2022: “Lo and behold, if Carlos, our driver yesterday, didn’t come back to take us to Corujo, our starting point for and a suburb of Vigo, missed when we’d walked along the coast and never did merge back onto the ‘official’ route. Walked thru the quiet village, mostly along the small murky creek, on muddy paths busy with Sunday saunterers, cyclists, dog walkers…thru the Parque de Castrelos, into and up residential streets. We overshot and had to back track, asking for help to find our way to the hotel, but en route, on the pedestrian main street, stopped in a pastry store selling empanadas – octopus and scallop – and ate them in the rain – checking off another culinary ‘musttry’…Bueno!!!”

Vigo. Spain’s largest Atlantic seaport, and Galicia’s most populated city, with an ancient history of Celtic and Roman settlements. When I’d returned home, our Camino friends from lunch a week ago in Viana do Castelo sent their photo slideshow of their walk. In response I wrote: “As one photographer to another, how similar and then how different what catches our eye, and makes for a wonderful photo. You saw a Vigo that I missed completely – one rich in history, texture, colour. Perhaps it was that we had walked in the rain, got a bit misdirected finding our hotel, but it felt so urban, cold and industrial…your photos gave me a fresh and more balanced perspective.”

But then again, we did taste those famous empanadas. And right outside our urban hotel, I spotted the first and only Illy coffee sign of my trip, and opted for a quick Americano before dinner – the best coffee since leaving home – which became a belated birthday celebration with chocolate cake, my companion’s treat. “Eat dessert first!” so I’m told and did, with gusto!

Another Monday. Another day of walking in the rain, to Redondela – where the central and coastal Portuguese Caminos converge. From my journal, Monday, May 23, 2020: “Straight forward walking up and out of Vigo into fog, mountain mist and steady rain. Thankful for having invested in that pack raincoat. Kept dry but damp. Finally learned that those dark containers we’d seen heading out to the Cies Islands were mussel and oyster flats. Saw hundreds of them along the Ria de Vigo.

Walked along forest paths, thru residential areas so no cafés. Finally I said out loud ‘I wish someone would invite us in for a hot cup of coffee.’ Not a minute later I see painted on the tarmac, ‘Coffee Bar’ with an arrow pointing up to a sweet little home café – warm – serving hot, homemade chicken soup! We had the place to ourselves, but a half hour later, every pilgrim walking to Redondela was lined up and out the door, stopping to dry off, warm up, and get their stamp.”

By the time we’d finally walked into Redondela, seeing many more pilgrims on the streets, the sun broke through to reveal its 19th c viaducts, 15th c church dedicated to St. James, and Alameda Park and gardens.

There’s an oft spoken saying among those walking that the Camino provides. In the rain, in need of something hot to drink, seeing that yellow painted sign on the tarmac seconds after asking was an unequivocal example. Too, the numerous strangers who pointed us on the way, or gave us directions when off route, weary, and wanting to find our accommodations. The server who saw a woman in need of the care an extra large glass of wine would ensure. The pharmacists in every town, knowledgeable about and prepared for the range of walking ailments – from heat rash and the ubiquitous blister treatments, to sunburn, colds, bruises, inflammation, and infections. Or in a later stage, the “peregrinos” soon present when my companion tripped and fell, their support and skills a much appreciated balm to her limited, and thankfully superficial injuries, and to my recovery from those initial moments of feeling terror as she lay facedown, motionless on the ground.

One of my travel strengths is asking for help from strangers. A lesson from my father, that if I don’t ask for what I need, how would anyone know what to offer? I’ve learned that asking for help gives another the opportunity to be of service. An encounter which, despite language differences, creates connection through a gesture made, a smile shared, a vulnerability acknowledged, an open heart in need. It joins us in our shared humanity, making for memories and stories that uplift and amplify kindness, generosity, and gratitude…reminding us, this is the way.

“As you start
to walk on
the way, the
way appears.”

Rumi

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

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