Walking along the Camino de Santiago trail, near Melide. Photo by Madelyn Given.

El Camino: Melide

Sometimes the closer you come to a goal, the more difficult it becomes, and that’s where it is mind over matter. The tiredness is noticeable with all the pilgrims of all ages. Today my back ached coming in later in the afternoon. I had been hiking every day on the el Camino for almost a month in fall 2014. Two younger women caught up with me as I neared Melide and asked if I was alright. “You are leaning,” one said. I felt a bit bad but I didn’t know I looked that distressed. That is the degree of tiredness after so many days of straight hiking.

This day my goal was Melinde and it was 29 kilometers. It was a cool day, which I enjoyed while walking at a good clip. The scenery took me over many types of paths (see one in my photo above), over a new highway overpass, along paved roads, and though hamlets and villages, which I checked off in my head as I looked at my scrap of paper with mileage notes.

I passed remains of Celtic settlements as I went up dirt paths and down cobblestone streets. I passed several beautiful stone Cruceiros, each set on top of a hill. I passed more windmills before coming down to Portos, one more ancient village, and nearby was the Monasterio de San Salvador, the official burial place of the Knights of Santiago. The trail took me through a eucalyptus plantation, and later, up to Alto Rosario, where I soon saw my first glimpse of Monte Pico Sacro near Santiago de Compostela. Imagine my feelings after so many days of hiking. My first glimpse of the finish!

I walked downhill to Palas de Rei, mentioned in Aymerie Picaud’s guide written centuries ago. It is nothing now like it would have been in Roman times, a lively vibrant city. I crossed Río Ruxián, and now I am about halfway to Melide. I scanned the water for ducks or signs of nature, and continued walking, awaiting each new scene to unfold. I trudged up the steep path to Carballal, then on to San Julián, and through another lovely oak forest. I crossed rivers, went though several hamlets, and passed fountains in several villages. After leaving Corixa, I could see Melide in the distance. I moved on with pure determination though Leboreiro, then Disecabo, over the medieval four-arched Ponte Velha, to Furelos, then to the connecting city of Melide. Melide is a small city, dating back to a former megalithic habitat 4000 years ago.

I walked into the city, looking for a place to stay. The el Camino leads to the city center, and as I was walking down the main street, I saw a man waving to me from across the busy street. It was Jack, from Quebec. He had passed me several times today. He had found a place to stay in a private albergue. Thankfully he took me there, since otherwise I would have passed right by without noticing it, as it was unmarked. It was a clean, safe, quiet place several stories above the city center.

Melide is famous for its pulperia. On the main street is Pulpería Ezequiel, and the only thing on the menu is pulpo (octopus). Customers sit on long wooden benches and share a wooden platter of pulpo by eating it with toothpicks. The boiled pulpo is sprinkled with paprika, dressed with olive oil, and served with pieces of bread, accompanied by Ribeiro wine. I was looking forward to this experience, but a group of pilgrims riding as a biking group had formed a long line in front of the place. Jack was more interested in pizza, so we found a place nearby that offered quick service and had room for us to sit after a long day of walking.

Jack was a walking friend who I met after a long, cold wet day of hiking in the Cordilleras. He had lost his guide book; since then, he had lost his hat, and was hoping to find one now. Everyone has a mission when they come back to civilization. Mine was to charge my cell phone and call home. After Jack found a hat to his liking, we went to a Mercado and bought groceries to make dinner this evening, back at the albergue. We walked the streets of the city center and stopped to watch a gentleman training his beautiful stallion in the intersection of a side street. It was beautiful to watch them: the Spaniard so much in charge, yet so gentle, and the majestic stallion, so proud as it pranced to command. Every day on this pilgrimage brings something new and different and exciting.

(posted June 9, 2015)