23 of September, 2019
Hola amigos. The Spiritual Variant continues after we walk through the shadowy Ruta de la Piedra y del Agua with its old water mills along the river, into a park and on past gardens and vineyards in the approach of the Arousa Estuary.
A little background on how I decided to walk the Variant: last year I read “Stone and Water” by Roy Uprichard. (2017). I was entranced by the idea of walking in solitude and quiet, a peaceful Way, one with nature. The Way, translatio: the remains of St. James are said to have followed this route on his journey to Compostela.
The author describes his own journey and connection with Debee and Alfonso, who have a guest house for pilgrims. Roy walks different parts of this route and Alfonso picks him up. Roy stays with them at their home. This part of his Camino intrigued me. Walk all day in solitude, be transported to a comfortable room, with a delicious dinner and breakfast and share meaningful conversation. I thought to myself, I want that kind of walk!
We walked 24 km to reach the beaches and the town of Vilanova del Arousa.
But what is a story without a little surprise?
We stopped for second breakfast, which that day was really our first, at a cafe that met us close to the exit of the park. And finally I had my favorite: tortilla, (like a frittata or a quiche) two slices, and Cafe Manchada, a little coffee and a lot of milk. And walked on.
In the next town, we heard music coming from an open door in a storefront. It was a small chapel that offered pilgrim sellos, but what drew us in was the beautiful voice, a pure and lovely melody. The singer, Debee, chatted with us and asked if we were staying at the pilgrim hostel that night. She told us she had a guest house in town, that her husband could pick us up and that two peregrinas, who we knew, were staying. Dinner and breakfast, transportation, for donativo. Anya had a reservation but I didn’t, so we accepted for dinner and now I had a bed for the night. Then we continued a few more kilometers, met up with Cinzia from Italy, another pilgrim from the Camino family I had just met. And reached the beach. We walked over a long bridge and into the town of Vilanova de Arousa, 24 km for the day. At that time we found pilgrims from the group in a cafe overlooking the water. We left our packs and walked next door to make reservations and buy tickets for the boat that would take us on the last stage, 28 kms on the Espiritual Variant of the Portuguese Trail to Pontecesures and we would walk on to Padrón.
At the cafe, we checked who was being picked up for dinner and staying the night. It would be Laura, Amanda, Charlotte and me. As we walked to the car, Laura said we would meet Alfonso. I stopped. Alfonso? Why did I know that name?
And that’s the story. We met Alfonso and Debee Cherene, our hosts for Hope House and learned about the community work they do, including reconciliation with individuals and groups. And that they had hosted Roy Uprichard and indeed made it possible for him to have his unique Camino. And the beautiful dinner and breakfast, lovely room for the night and of course, meaningful conversation. Now, as a pilgrim, I was almost following Roy on his journey, something I only dreamed.
After a comfortable night, scrumptious breakfast, pictures, sweet goodbyes and with great gratitude we left for the last part of our journey, Stage 3. The Barca del Peregrino carried us across the Arousa Estuary and the river Ulla to Pontecesures, as our guide showed us mussel farming in the Estuary waters, and the 17 cruceros on the Via Crucis. We shared hot tea and cookies on this perfect morning on the Espiritual Variant.
Next a night in Padrón, and the end of the Espiritual Variant.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful walk with me. Buen Camino.