Big Butch Battles Bravely
Like two pom-pom girls we stood ready to welcome our Butch at Vigo airport. We caught a glimpse of him way down the passage coming through customs long before he spotted us. He looked exhausted, thin and quite pasty (and not at all like a Cornish pasty, rather, grey and pale) around the gills. Lise, had to stand right there, at the very front of the throng. When he saw her his whole face lit up! He’d made it.
A harrowing flight he’d had, with four airports and long distances to cover at each terminus, he had no time to dilly-dally. At Johannesburg International his woes started when a seemingly helpful official asked to guide him to his boarding gate miles away. Turns out she wanted a fee for her kindness or else “he was never going to make his flight”. The cheek she had.
After a good pint, or two, of the local Brew he recovered his wit and we could see the old raconteur come back to life, but, we couldn’t spoil his fun by suggesting we walk the 28km back to Redondela. It was so good to see him we all agreed we’d make good use of the excellent transport system and took the shuttle into Vigo before taking the train back to our self catering apartment in Redondela.
Redondela welcomed us with a festival. The streets were carpeted in pine needles and spring blossoms. Young men were doing traditional dances. There was a brass band in the park, a sidewalk café served scoops of Gelato, we had to get out and get there, but first some freshening up was what we all needed. Some laundry had to be done, we had the luxury of a washing machine, so no dipping and wringing in a small basin this time, such luxury.
In our street a festive karaoke was calling anyone with musical talents to perform. In true Latin tradition, families and friends gathered at the cafes to enjoy the festivities and to sing, dance and celebrate spring. We couldn’t resist the carnival air and sat down to our first traditional Peregrino meal. Three courses for 7EU. Not bad at all. We enjoyed watching everyone having fun but we would have an early night.
With his Braai Master T-shirt on Butch set off on his first day as a proud Peregrino at 6h00, when the city slept, or so we thought! We hadn’t gone 100m when we stumbled onto an open bar serving the freshest croissants and coffee. The aromas were intoxicating. A good opportunity to baptise Butch into our rituals. Coffee. Croissants. Or Pain Chocolat. Butch loved the way night-shift workers and the remnants of the festival revellers would drift in, gather at the little cocktail tables and order bottles of wine and aperitivo or beer. At 6h00 in the morning! He still had to discover that in Spain the towns came alive at night and the party only stopped at dawn.
We were on our way to Pontevedra. At last! We had a spring in our step, we were really going to do this in our stride. As Lise strode off with a new confidence I could see her legs taking shape. Lean, toned and tanned. Her calves were muscled and her ankles sinewy. She was looking good. Our trusty flip flops were going like Boeings, they were slippers!
Few walkers passed us as we made our way through lush indigenous forests, carpeted in ferns, mosses and lichen. This was mostly an uphill climb. I had to remind Butch to stay hydrated and we’d stop at the fountains to rest regularly.
For some reason as soon as I thought I was on a roll something would happen to stop me in my tracks. And as luck would have it both Lise and I pulled our Achilles tendons. There I was back to hobbling. I just shook my head, I could not believe it. Quite bizarre. We were determined not to be discouraged. Fortunately a good dose of anti-inflammatory tablets and a generous dollop of Voltaren gel massaged into the affected area soon relieved the discomfort.
Now, I must tell you about the cyclists. A Camino can be done in three ways 1. Walk. 2. on horseback 3. Bicycle.
Cycling is the only sport that I know of where the participant immediately looks like a professional once he dons that moulded Lycra suit with all the advertising emblazoned on his back and chest, wears funny clippety-clop shoes and squeezes his head into a conical helmet. When he swings his legs over his trumped up bicycle he becomes a bloody danger to hikers because he thinks he owns the path. Cyclists, have you noticed, are herd animals, stay in slipstreams and always want to win, even a pilgrimage.
Well after the sun had risen and the poor Peregrinoes had put in a few kilometres and were exhausted these pelotons would silently sneak up on us at one helluva pace, without any warning or bell. They’d expect everyone on foot to leap into the hedgerows or up an embankment so that they could come flying past. They never greeted nor thanked us. When we discussed this Butch said he had encountered one guy with a bell who said “Hi” he must be very unpopular with the rest of the herd. I was petrified of them and had to have my wits about me, concentrating on staying alert at all times.
Butch couldn’t keep up, and I couldn’t blame him. We parted company, he to set his own pace. I would wait for him at the next fountain. He was severely discouraged by the inaccurate distances (according to guidebook 20.2km according to Google 19.7km, for a man who knows well beforehand exactly where he’s going, how far it would be and probably how long it would take him, this was simply unacceptable!. He was hot, dehydrated, and grouchy and needed to get to the end of the day's hike.
Lise took off like a bird in flight and made it to our hotel well before us enjoying the meandering river through the forest. We had decided that it would be best if each one had the address of our daily accommodations so as not to be hindered once we got into our strides. It worked well, we could catch up every now and again as we were able to hook up to Wifi and read WhatsApp messages.
My thoughts while walking was that yes, we are made up of three parts and we were connected Body, Mind and Spirit. On that day Lise was my body, we were so similar and she came from my body, more like me she couldn’t be. My heart was Butch, I was constantly concerned about him and sympathised with him, but, there was nothing I could do to help him except be there for him. My spirit was what kept me going, the inner voice in my head egging me on, encouraging me when I was at my wits’ end waiting for Butch not knowing whether I should turn back and look for him or not. My better judgement told me to just go ahead as I didn’t have the reserves to go back and forth, we’d both conk in then.
Men have this inability to ask for directions and asking for help of any kind is unthinkable and so I learned that Butch would struggle along severely dehydrated, because he couldn’t reach his water bottle! The thought hadn’t crossed his mind to ask for help. This really puzzled me. I had to sit him down and read the riot act as he gulped down litres of water and rehydration tabs. My son’s words echoed in my mind “Mom, we’re only as strong as our weakest link!” The Braai Master was buggered. He'd had his chips!
Once again I didn’t have an accurate reading. My Garmin only finds its location once there’s daylight or a strong light, the searching also depletes my battery life so on this day it packed up after 3h19 min and 13.10km we must’ve done at least 27km that day. A helluva lot more than he thought. Turned out to be nothing like his hikes in Worcester or Onrus. Welcome to the real world Buddy.
It was a Friday and as you know we had something to celebrate, my beloved had done it to Pontevedra, we were in Spain and we’d promised ourselves an authentic Paella in a restaurant frequented by locals. We didn’t have to look far, all the recommended restaurants, even a Michelin rated establishment was situated right on our doorstep in the piazza... We were going to outdo ourselves, there would be no holding back, and the Kitty had had a healthy boost when Butch cashed in.
We let the good times roll all right! Into the night we ate, a delicious Paella, with huge langoustines, the nicest, juiciest boiled octopus, a traditional local dish. Sangria and wine flowed and later the waiter brought out two bottles of homemade liqueur, we laughed and had another for the road. The Braai Master and his wingman were full of the joys of spring. For dessert we went in search of an ice cream, which had become our custom by then and crawled into bed exhausted but in high spirits! The BM was out for the count!
We were to pay a dear price and would suffer the consequences for a week.
We spent two nights in wonderful Pontevedra. Vibrant, colourful and arty. A cosmopolitan city, steeped in history yet modern, it certainly caters for tourists who would like to do a bit of browsing in the fashionable shops, galleries and boutiques.
Restaurants are plentiful and the food is excellent. On Saturdays there’s a lively market with bargains galore and water sport is practised on the river by locals. Lise and I loved it. Butch on the other hand spent the day in bed recuperating having forgotten his prawn allergy. He was miserable all our molly coddling couldn’t cheer him up! He did succumb to our invitation to dine with us at the 1 Michelin starred restaurant (so we were told) in our courtyard Restaurante Eirado Da Lena. We opted for the taster menu and we weren’t disappointed. Service was excellent and each course beautifully prepared and perfectly plated. Although he wasn’t the man he was the night before we can still say our meal was “fuera de este mundo” fantástico!
VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:
Every time I write a blog and recall how conveniently all our accommodations were located right on our routes I think of my wonderful, organised, dearest friend Megan, who sat me down and gave me my whole itinerary all worked out. Thank you Megs, you are a star and a friend worth your weight in gold. Without all your hard work I’d probably still be wandering around Porto in a daze, completely lost to the world!
Pai Crespo, 30,
Hotel Restaurante Rúas Sarmiento, 20,
Restaurante Eirado Da Lena
Praza Lena 3,