October 30, 2015
Vilalba to Baamonde, 12 miles
Hannah needed to return to Germany earlier than planned, so today she decided she would take the bus and skip ahead a stage. We knew that we would be unlikely to see her again, so we stopped by the Parador Vilalba on our way out of town to say auf weidersehen. We found her enjoying a full breakfast in the dining room and wished her a buen Camino.
As we passed through the city center of Vilalba, we noticed something interesting about the town–it felt very awake for 8:00 in the morning. In most of the small Spanish towns that we’ve walked through in the early morning, we’re lucky to find a few open cafés; all of the supermarkets, farmacías, and other businesses are closed until at least 9:00 or 10:00. Most also close for afternoon siesta as well, and many are closed on Sundays. We’ve come to expect limited business hours in Spain, but as Americans accustomed to 24-hour access to everything, it’s been difficult for us to get used to.1
Vilalba was different. There were numerous cafes, markets, and even a hardware store open. As we looked for a place to have our morning our cafe con leche, it was nice to have numerous choices.
Vilalba’s energy might have something to do with its history. Prior to the Spanish Civil War, Vilalba was the home to many free-thinking philosophers and journalists, and a number of newspapers were published here. Few survived the Civil War, and no doubt 30+ years of oppression surely took its toll, but as we walked through Vilalba, the town still felt like a dynamic, vibrant city, and I wondered if it had resumed its place as a magnet for independent thinkers.
The stray German
Perhaps if we had spent more time in Vilalba, we would have gained more insight into its interesting atmosphere, but as usual we were only passing through. As was becoming our routine, Dale and I walked by ourselves in the morning and then caught up with Detlef in the afternoon. I teased him one afternoon, telling him that we had picked up a “stray German.” He gave me a look of mock irritation and started speaking in rapid-fire German, as if I had offended him. It was quite amusing.
We arrived in Baamonde mid-afternoon and found a modern and beautiful albergue with over 90 beds. The town of Baamonde did not have the buzz that Vilalba had, but it did have a well-preserved 14th century chapel, the Church of Santiago.
That night we met a young couple, Brandon and Alia, and their hiking partner Guillermo. Brandon was from Colorado and Alia from Scotland, and Guillermo was a native of the Canary Islands2. All three were in their 20s, and all three had traveled extensively and seen much more of the world than either Dale or I. It made us feel like we were starting our dream of traveling late in life! Like us, Brandon and Alia were trying to figure out what to do next once the Camino was over. They are both dive instructors and had considered heading to Thailand to teach diving, and it was exciting that they had a skill set that gave them enough flexibility to go almost anywhere in the world. We both felt inspired by their enthusiasm for travel and living on their own terms, which is something that we are trying to embrace as well.
1 The inconsistency of business hours has been a frequent source of anxiety for me, as I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to resupply my stash of corn nuts, M&M’s, and Chupa Chups, critical staples for surviving the Camino. My primal fear of deprivation (not finding shelter, not finding food) has been a surprising quirk and a source of frustration for Dale, and we still puzzle over why I’m afraid that I’m going to starve or perish in the middle of a civilized, first-world country.
2We heard wonderful things from our fellow peregrinos about the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco. The Canaries are an autonomous community of Spain and therefore part of the EU, and it’s a very popular tourist destination for Europeans.