Saturday, 7 June 2014

Day eight. Pontevedra to Caldas De Reis. 14.5 miles .

I like Pontevedra, not simply because it's a busy regional capital with a great shopping centre, or the fact it has a stubby interior to its  remarkably grandiose church, and an old quarter where you can laze about in the square and people watch, no, I like it because it's where I finally  discarded my old canvas evening walk about shoes and bought some new ones. I would be the first to admit that my canvas shoes stank. I am a tall man and I can smell them while standing up straight in a gale. It's simply that I never seemed to have the time to buy new ones! But they do make my feet sweat. So yesterday afternoon I squelched into town to buy new ones. I found a pair of open toed leather sandals that were just the job. But I had to try them on and I knew it was justly unfair to subject the shop assistant to the smell of my shoes and the sight of my feet with the three day old Compeed plaster on the left heel, one on the third toe of my right foot, and a toe nail on my right foot that was as black as night and about to fall off, as it always does when I go trekking.

Not only that, if I had my shoes off for any length of time anything under three foot from the ground would be likely to pass out. I bought them and left the shop. On the way back I stopped off for meal and halfway through the spaghetti bolognese realised I had left my hat in the shop. I had consumed more than half the meal and two glasses of beer, now you try telling someone to whom you owe money to put your meal in the microwave while you go find your hat. I'm really not sure if she believed me and I half expected the police to be there when I got back. 

I went back to my hotel emptied the  mini reservoir out of my canvas shoes, washed my feet thoroughly and gently let the virgin leather caress the souls of my feet. I could go on but there might be children reading this.  It would have been unkind to expect the hotel cleaner to throw my old shoes away so I donned my new ones, skipped down the street and found a large bin to put them in. If there was something living inside that bin they had about thirty seconds to get out. 

Whenever, in the future, I have a spaghetti bolognese  my heart, and my feet will remember a fondness for this town no one else could understand.

The following day I woke to rain, lots of it, which delayed the start by an hour. On leaving the hotel the porter tried to get me to use the rear exit where the yellow arrows were to be found. But I only ever leave the back of anywhere if I'm trying to get out of paying the bill. I told him I was going out the front knowing full well that both roads led to the same junction. It actually set me thinking a bit in that for centuries everyone has been arguing with each other over which religion to take to the end of life, and killing each other in the process while doing so. I remember an Irish comedian called Dave Allen who at the end of each show would say, "Thank you for watching, and may your God go with you". Which seemed to sum it up nicely for me.

Walking down the road I came across a machine that promised that if I put in 2 euro it would cook and deliver to me a beef burger with bacon and cheese. I put my money in and after much whirring and whining I slid back a grey cover to reveal a swollen plastic bag containing something that looked like a breast implant. Walking down the street throwing this thing from hand to hand as it cooled down I eventually managed to get it open to reveal not a plastic bag full of silicon but a rather tasty hot breakfast.

I had intended to visit the church on my way out and was surprised to find it closed at 0745 on a Sunday. Passing under the colonnaded granite columns of the old town I soon reached the suburbs where I found gaggles of pilgrims plodding through the puddles. On the outskirts of the town the little man inside my leg woke up, got his grade two sandpaper out and would spend the day using it on my repaired ruptured tendon. I knew from experience it would reach a level of discomfort that was tolerable, and stay there. As the town's industrial area petered out I came across a sign inviting me to detour along the spiritual route. It was pointing to a wooded hill. The graphic on the sign resembled the spike one might see on a heart monitor on a very fit man. If I had gone up there I would have needed the heart monitor.

Two men in front of me dressed in matching  green ponchos and battered hats were discussing the world and how to put it right.  'My philosophy,' one said, 'Is that the world is insane and you have to be insane to live in it so therefore perhaps it is the insane who are sane.'   Trying to un-convolute that almost brought my breakfast back up.  The other chap stepped into a puddle and pretended not to have heard.

It was now easy walking. Wooded tracks, the occasional asphalt road and a plethora of mountain bikers. At one point an express train, hooting for all it was worth, approached and crossed an unmanned level crossing deep in the heart of the wood. Then, once again, the  heavens opened and the  rain came down like stair rods. My £1 yellow poncho had split, although I was keeping it to take back to complain that I had only 99p of use out of it. I donned a nice blue number and set off for my destination. Having seriously underspent I could now afford to stay in an hotel, the Acuna, where the price included bed and breakfast. I didn't want breakfast, not wishing to wait until 0800 for it, so I tried to negotiate a reduction in the price. Impossible I was told. So we compromised and agreed that I could take a selection of food and fruit from the breakfast bar to eat later as picnic. All I had left to do was to find a huge plastic bag. 

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