I come from a long line of slow people.
My great aunt who never drove, told her sister who she forced to drive her everywhere, “You know Amy, you can’t always be the last car on the road.”
Her nephew, my father, had a truck that never went past second gear unless one of the kids was driving it.
I have a friend who refers to me, his daughter, as Slug. You get the picture.
On the Camino B and I are famous for being the first on the path and the last to the alberge.
But really what is the point of racing down the path. Slow has its advantages.
By the time we arrive, the rush for beds is over. It’s too late to do laundry, there is no more hot water so we don’t have to take a shower and no matter what time you arrive there will always be something to eat and drink.
Slow is the only way to go. There is so much to see and too much to miss.
Yesterday, as is typical in Galicia, we left in the fog. We faced an eighteen mile day on the same path we have walked every day for the past 29 days. At our speed – a rousing 2 1/2 miles an hour- it will take us about eight hours.
What could possibly entertain us for eight hours? Plenty as you will see.
The first thing I notice is that the path is completely different. We are walking over huge soft ripples of grey stone. Imagine your are Gulliver walking over the back of a rhinoceros. Hard and lumpy like rolls of fat on an elephant .
We walk on this stone path for several hours.
Note two things.
B, in her stylish neon jacket makes her easier for me to find and harder for cars to hit.
Note also the nifty stone wall on the left.
Up close every section is different. This amazing wall, in the middle of no where, went on for miles.
And the stones themselves, they were covered with fuzzy black lichen.
Before the day was over we would see other great stone walls .
But I am getting ahead of myself. Back to the grey stones.
Not only were the stones different, the vegetation surrounding us had changed. We were walking through yellow gorse, scotch broom and fading pink heather. The ferns which had been brown were now rusty red.
But as pretty as they were, early morning on the camino is the time for spiders and spider webs.
Remember the snowflakes you used to catch on your mittens. Each one was unique and they didn’t last very long. When the sun shone on them, they were gone.
Spider webs are the snowflakes of the camino.
It is easy to become obsessed with them and I easily obsessed.
They come in every shape and size. They are vertical and horizon. Some are perfect. Beautiful right angles and perfect symmetry.
Others are full of holes and mistakes- like the spider was learning to knit.
And last there are the three dimensional ones that are like cats cradle gone crazy or a fairy house built by Frank Gehry.
Well here’s the deal. A spider lives about twelve months. A spider as young as seventeen days old will spin a perfect symmetrical web.
The older the spider, the worse the web. By eight months old the spider is losing his ability to make a web. His web making ability will decrease until he dies.
Spiders and their web spinning lifespan are very useful in studies on the aging of the human brain. Not sure how that works but that’s what I read so it must be true!!!if not at least it is interesting.
I thought back to the spider sculpture I saw at the Bilbao Guggenheim (see earlier blog) and laughed.
In the woods the spiders make the sculptures. They have been doing it for a hundred and forty million years with no computers.
Our path shifted to the woods again. Galicia has one of the largest oak forests in Spain and we walked through several of them .
It was a nice change to have acorns bopping us on the head instead of chestnuts. First acorns are smaller and second the spiny chestnut pod sticks to my hair!
In addition to the oak and chestnut, there are many impressive trees and forests on the path.
Each tree has a very distinctive trunk. They were very “touchable”. I wondered if I were blind would I be able to distinguish each type by rubbing the bark. Braille on the trail. Bet the answer would be yes.
My time on the trail sped by as did the miles.
As we were approaching Sobrado dos Monxes we encountered two odd things. One I can explain; the other I cannot.
Suddenly we came upon a field of about a dozen whale sized rocks. Just there, sprinkled over the land. Dropped from the sky? Popped up from the earth?? Who knows .
I could find nothing about this so it is a mystery. A cool mystery.
I can explain the large circular body of water we came to a few minutes later.
Between 1500 and 1530 the monks at the local monastery made this lake. It took thirty years of digging and damming but they needed a source of drinking water and water for their crops so they took matters into their own hands. Today it is one of the most successful and important ecosystems in Europe.
And if that doesn’t impress you I’ll leave you with some pictures of the monastery where they slept after they finished digging. They built that too, with help .
The Monastery of Santa Maria started in the 10th century as a Benedictine monastery. It was abandoned and became a Cistercian monastery in the 11th century and was abandoned again in the 17th century. It was sold out of the church and again abandoned.
In 1954 it was re founded as a Trappist Monastery. Today it houses a pilgrim alberge, a hotel, and welcomes tourists who come by bus (and foot).
Just as we were leaving the monastery a large group of tourists walked out with us raving about much they had seen.
As they filed onto their bus I thought of how much they had missed.