El Camino de Santiago: Day 3 – 31.7km Palas de Rei to Arzua

We decided to make an early start today as we were facing our longest day of the trek with 30km of rural Spain to conquer. The plan was to get a lot of it out of the way before the weather warmed up. Always good in theory, but we had a long day ahead regardless of the weather.

After breakfast, there was a little frivolity amongst the group as we checked out Keira’s new walking shoes… the ugly sandals as she calls them, with socks! They even had little pink ribbon shapes embroidered  on the sides… quite synonymous with the breast cancer cause! Jo decided to give us a demonstration on how to stretch out the muscles with the foam roller on the restaurant floor. I have to say, it’s the best thing to do after long days walking. I have one of them at home and it works beautifully. The hotel staff were rather amused if nothing else…

We left Palas de Rei before the sun came up. A full moon greeted us as we walked  through the deserted town and it was pretty darn cold to boot!  We estimated we had about 7.5km until our first stop at Campanilla.

Here’s a look at the live video as we walk out of town.

Early on, we passed through a 12th century village before coming upon the most beautiful forest. In the early morning fog it was magical  as the sun made  it’s way over the horizon. There weren’t too many pilgrims to contend with at this hour and we relished in the serenity… but it didn’t last long.

We powered through the first half of the day and took in the wonderful sights and smells (some not so good) of the Spanish countryside. After about 2km we came across a gorgeous little church which had an original painting from the 13th century. It was in amazing condition. This being my first visit to Europe, I was constantly amazed  by the age of things. Of course there was an opportunity for a passport stamp as we wandered about and soaked up the moment.

We pressed on for another 4km and arrived at the oldest medieval bridge on the  the French Way. Of course I took the opportunity to take one of my now trademark photos… The Nirvana t-shirt pride of place on the toughest day.

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We passed many a local farmer, walked through beautiful quaint villages (pretty sure I want to retire to one of them one day), more beautiful churches and cafes… it’s a never ending paradise.

So we were getting close to half way for the day and our feet were already feeling it. Where is this town called Melide and what are we having for lunch!? Turns out it’s the place to have traditional Spanish food! Yeeeeeeew!

Our lovely guide Giulia directed us to this fabulous restaurant called Pulperia A Garnacha and boy did they have some awesome food! We devoured a feast of octopus, tortilla, empanadas, pimiento and salads. It was our first real taste of traditional food on the trail as most of the places we have stayed at catered for groups and were serving relatively bland meals. I had been hanging for the local food since Madrid. So very happy we got some today!

After lunch, we ambled through many picturesque villages, visited a few cathedrals; one from the 12th century still standing. Amazing stuff. There were many Australian gum tree plantations, Every place we stopped, we got our passports stamped, so they’re looking pretty colourful by now.

The last 10km today were pretty tough, there were many hills and not a lot of shade. We all felt every step of that 31.7km. We stopped at a cute little cafe not far out from the town of Arzua and some of us collapsed on the grass, shoes off and on our backs looking up at the clear blue sky. Someone suggested an icypole, yes… a very good decision. We lay there for about half an hour while our bodies caught up with our minds and some cheeky people at the cafe decided we need some water. Giulia copped the brunt of the hose, soaking her fairly well. The rest of us escaped most of the deluge, it was a bit funny to watch… 🙂

We got to the edge of town at Arzua and thought we had made it… but little did we know we had at least another 2.5km to go.. it doesn’t sound like much but when you’re at the end of your physical tether and you’ve psychologically switched off.. it’s a freakin’ endless nightmare.

By this stage the group and separated and Jo, myself, Sue, Robbie and Giulia were coming up the rear… the last pilgrims standing on this day. It’s funny, when all you want to do is see the name of your hotel on a sign somewhere, you actually don’t see anything else. This fecking town had such a long road in, we all got a bit grumpy. Some swear words were spoken.

We eventually made it  to our hotel and  found we weren’t that far behind the rest of the group after all. Of course the place had no lift and I was on the second floor. I must have been as sorry sight dragging my ridiculous bag up the stairs.. muttering under my breath. But hey, walking into that room and seeing that fabulous bed and bathroom, all was forgiven… until we had to walk a mile for dinner. But that’s another story and at  the end of the day, we got fed, with wine and good company. What more could anyone want?

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