Day 36 on the Via de la Plata
11km (+ 13km by taxi) to A Gudiña
After a long, long sleep, I woke up feeling a bit better - I didn’t feel great but I wasn’t nauseous which was a huge relief. However, I felt physically drained. I don’t think I’d ever felt so low in energy before but I was not surprised. I basically hadn’t eaten a single thing since the day before yesterday.
I was a bit worried about the day’s walk - there was another steep climb, the steepest part so far. Typical. I'd also be crossing the border into Galicia though and I really didn't want to miss it, crossing over into my family’s homeland. I told myself I’d at least try to make it to the border and there was a village not far afterwards where I could easily call a taxi if I needed. It would be fine.
So I got ready for the day and headed out to breakfast. I found that I still couldn't really eat so decided to just start walking and take it very slowly. The fresh air helped and the sun was shining beautifully, strong enough to warm my nose while the air was brisk enough to create the perfect combination for walking. I felt optimistic as I set off.
That feeling quickly disappeared as the trail deep-dived into undulating terrain almost immediately and was replaced by a terrible suspicion that this day would be unforgiving.
I didn’t know how right I’d be. Had I been at my best, it would’ve been one of the most challenging days of the whole trail. Now, at my worst, it was almost impossible.
As soon as I made my way out of the village, the trail changed and I seemed to be walking through a literal stream. Not only that, it was all uphill. I kept thinking ‘is this the right way or have I got lost?’ but I saw pilgrims ahead of me heading the same way, and the ever-present yellow arrow that signified the way. Unfortunately, I was not lost.
The water was so heavy in some areas and I eventually realised that it must have been all coming from snow melting in the peaks above. I knew it would be slow-going but I didn’t expect this madness, and what likely would've taken me two hours took me four.
I wasn’t interested in rushing though; I’d learnt my lesson from yesterday. I had to stop for a frustrating amount of breaks but I stopped and sat for as long as I felt I needed. It became a true lesson in the walk not being a race, since if I pushed myself too far then it wouldn’t end happily.
Finally, eventually, I reached the top. Here was the border into Galicia, and into the motherland I went.
It suddenly hit me that I only had ten days until I would reach Santiago, the end of the walk. I know I keep saying it but time has suddenly disappeared.
After the crossing, there was still some way to go to the village where I meant to stop for lunch. It was all a gentle downhill now but I felt like I was operating on negative energy. Considering I hadn’t genuinely eaten since dinner two nights ago, I was pretty much operating on air. I could barely lift my feet to walk. I was completely done by the time I arrived at the small village - only halfway through the day.
I was hoping I'd be able to eat but, even though I'd felt hungry earlier, I now had no appetite. I sat for a while and for a second thought about carrying on. Then I thought, hell no girl, don’t be stupid. I hopped into a taxi and found a private room for the night, to sleep peacefully in a proper bed and a quiet room.
I arrived at a hostel I’d found online and went straight in for a long siesta. I woke up in time for dinner and went for a wander, where I stumbled across Annett and the Frenchman having a drink in the sun. Before dinner, I went back with them to the municipal albergue where they were staying while they waited for someone to come give them their stamp (each night you must collect a stamp in your credencial - your pilgrim’s passport). It looked like a new purpose-built albergue and was absolutely beautiful.
We went off for dinner together for the third night in a row, and I found myself finally devouring an entire meal. I came back to my wonderful private room early, feeling much better and hopeful that tomorrow will be better.
Until next time,
Hey! Ameena here - I’m a freelance portraiture and documentary photographer based in London. I enjoy telling stories about adventure, the outdoors, and our relationship with the natural world.
In this newsletter, I’m digitally retracing my steps on the Camino de Santiago. From March to May 2019, over 45 days, I walked over 900km along the Via de la Plata (the Silver Way) route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.
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