Friday, June 25, 2010


Ellen and I took a day off in Finisterre, our first in 35 days. We slept in, and ate breakfast downstairs in the hotel just catching the last part of the 8:30-10:30a window. We snuck a couple small towels from the hotel and walked to the beach. The sand was crawling with what I thought were little gray insects but turned out to be tiny sand crabs frantically looking for the water after hatching. The sun was hot as we laid on our little white towels. The beach was fairly quiet with only 20 or 30 people spread out over the quarter-mile stretch. Our neighbors were mostly overweight spanish men and women, which seems to be the norm after age 40.

That night we ate dinner with Cathy and Courtney at a nice restaurant on the harbor. We all went for the pre-fix menu of 50 euro for two people. We were after a full on seafood feast. For appetizers: pink scallops, razor clams, and pulpo (octopus). The main dish was a giant skillet of galacian-style fish stew. For desert, we had flan, which was the best we've eaten in Spain. It was thick and rich, and didn't slide out of a pre-packaged container like we usually get.

The next morning Ellen and I packed up our bags and re-entered pilgrim life. We checked out of the hotel and headed into the city hoping to figure out how to get to Muxia. Our guidebook ends at Finisterre. The municipal albergue was closed, and when we asked a bartender he just pointed up the road and unloaded some spanish we couldn't understand. Our internet searches weren't coming up with any specific details, like how to get out of Finisterre. That was all we needed, once we were on the path we would be fine. I stopped a pilgrim I saw with a backpack, "Excuse me, do you speak any english?"
"Yahh." the german replied.
"Do you know how to get to Muxia?"
"Ahhh, let me see eeef eeet's eeen my guidevook." The german fished out a tattered book and found a few pages in the back explaining the route. "I don't need sthem" and he ripped out the pages and handed them to us. "Thank you! Buen Camino!" We were off.

The path to Muxia remained inland mostly, taking us up and down hills and through farms. At one point the trail crossed a small, shallow river. There were large, rectangular slabs of granite, spaced every 20 inches to allow the water to flow around. The first few slabs poked above the surface of the river and the remaining path was submerged about six inches below the surface. We knew this was coming, and it was talked up to be a treacherous crossing but it wasn't bad. We took off our boots and put on our flip flops and stepped through. The water was chilly but refreshing. The last stone had been washed a few feet away so we had to step off the rock fully into the water, which was only about knee-high at that point. The water was clear and flowed calmly.

As we came close to Muxia, the path picked up the main road into the city on the water's edge. We saw a bunch of spanish teenagers carrying scraps of wood and furniture to a grassy bluff on the beach. One kid had a small trailer hooked up to his bicycle that was loaded with cabinet doors. The shirtless teens had a huge pile. It was June 23rd. This must be it, but they didn't look like the happy hippies we hoped for. It looked like something we would have done in high school. We continued into Muxia and found the municipal hostel, which had just been built in 2007. It was the first real albergue-architecture we saw on the trip. It was a stark, rectangular building of cast concrete and large windows. Inside there were many interior courtyards where people could hang there clothes to dry. Some of these spaces were open to the air above, others were sheltered from the rain. A large stair case punctured a three-story high common room. The hostel slept 28 and the bunks were on the second floor. The space felt airy and clean. On the third floor was a roof-terrace with views of the ocean. Ellen and I watched the sunset again with a bottle wine, and this time in the company of an Australian lady, a young German, and a 40-something Belgian. It was a good way to end our last day of walking.

Muxia is a small town, probably half the size of Finisterre, which only has 3000 people. There isn't much going on in Muxia. The food options are limited to typical spanish bar / cafes several of which line the tiny harbor that serves as the main drag downtown. These are the places where spanish men can be found taking small shots of liquor at 7a along with there cafe con leche.

Ellen and I slept in and were the last ones to get out of bed. It was a quiet night with only 12 people in the hostel. We did our usual breakfast routine at one of the funny cafes in town: cafe con leche, pastry, and orange juice. We walked out to the tip of Muxia where a church was built on the rocks overlooking the ocean. I walked out on the sloping chunks of granite that were rounded and smoothed from the ocean. They looked like big, brown lumps. I edged down to the water where a few tide pools had formed and looked for creatures. I only saw a couple small fish and a crab.

We climbed up to the hill of the peninsula where a stone cross stood marking the virgin mary sighting. While we were up there a dense cloud of fog rolled in, we could literally see it blow across the hill like a race car in a wind tunnel. After fifteen minutes the tip of Muxia was engulfed in fog. "This is crazy!" I said to Ellen. She looked at the all the haze blowing in "No wonder someone had a vision. It was probably some drunk farmer that thought he saw the virgin mary appear from one of these clouds."

We decided to head back to Finisterre instead of spending the day in Muxia. It was a very peaceful town, but too quiet if you're a tourist. We walked to a taxi stand where two normal looking cars were parked. "How much do you think it will be?"
"What's our limit?"
"Are you going to ask?"
One of the men stepped out of his car as he saw us approach. I approached him and said "Ahhh Muxia a Finisterre" gesturing with my hand like I could touch the two places with my finger. "Quanto?" The taxi man replied slowly as he realized my deficiency of the spanish language "Vente cinqo". I turned to Ellen "That's twenty five?" We nodded, and got in the cab, making our first ride in a vehicle in over a month. It felt fast, especially when looking straight ahead. The cab driver took us to Finisterre, and did what took us 8 hours in 25 minutes.

He dropped us off in the central part of the city. We walked along the harbor, and up the hill to a private albergue and checked in for 10 euro each. They put us in a room with only 2 bunks. A german lady had taken the bottom of one bunk, and Ellen and I took the free bunk. This seemed good, even if a forth person showed up there was a decent chance we would have a snore-less night.

The haze had rolled into Finisterre too, making for a cooler day and nixing beach activities or another sunset. We went to dinner at the same restaurant from the night before, but scaled back. I had the menu del dia for 10.50 euro, which was a creamy soup, hake, flan for desert, and two glasses of red wine. The world cup was on television, Japan against Denmark, which was an amazing game. Across from us were five older spanish ladies who would occasionally break into quiet song as if they were in church. They were uninterested in the game. These ladies embodied the quintessential spanish-woman physique: short, broad shouldered with a thick torso that makes the arms and legs go stubby. Their necks blend into their chins and sink into their hunched shoulders. They walk without taking full steps forward, hobbling at a steady pace with a side-to-side motion like a big lizard, and one arm held to their side with a purse hanging from the forearm. It's all just a weight problem, but takes years to cultivate and seems more structural than external like a flabbiness. These ladies are hedgehogs.

Ellen and I walked back to the hostel and entered our dark room only to find a forth bunk mate who was happily snoring. Shit! We got ready for bed, and I crawled into my sleeping bag with my foamy earplugs wedged in.

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