Day 38 – Arzúa to Monte de Gozo

6/17/17 – 40(!!)km/24.8mi from Arzúa to Monte de Gozo

We’re nearing the end. And so many thoughts are racing through my mind. On this Camino, we’ve had bitter cold and blazing heat. Absolute still air and gusting winds. Sheets of rain and heavy, still humidity. It’s hard to pack light for those kinds of variations. Today was supposed to be brutally hot (96F/36C) with not a cloud in the sky, and we were in for our longest day in a while. So we grudgingly woke up at 5 AM, ready for a 5:30 AM departure to take advantage of the early morning coolness as much as possible. I don’t recall extremes on our first Camino like we’ve had on this one. Back then, even on hot days we often left our albergues at about 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning, and yet even when the Spanish sun hit its peak in mid-afternoon, we were generally OK. This time that just wasn’t the case. For nearly 4.5 hours today we positively baked in a Galician rotisserie, but we didn’t exactly smell like roasting chicken.

Leaving Arzúa was surreal. It was the first time on this trip that we’ve woken up not in a “new” place (to us) on the Camino del Norte but in a “familiar place” that we saw on the last one. The plan today was to go to Monte de Gozo, just about 5km from Santiago – also a place that we hit last time. The idea is that you put in a long day today, and then your day into Santiago is short. This way, you can just enjoy the ambience in the city for the rest of the day instead getting into Santiago in the evening when the pilgrim office is full and streets are crowded.

Today’s walk truly featured hordes of people, as compared to the sparse crowds that we saw on our trip through the north. And yet, I liked it. I remember getting close to Santiago last time, and seeing how happy people’s faces looked. Some of them had come 800 km, and some of them just 100, but it’s still a great accomplishment. I enjoyed chatting with a bunch of new faces as we walked across the day. David and I tried to have a little fun by matching each and every bar stop that we had last time, and I think we were more or less successful! The “bar density” on this stretch here was unreal compared to the sometimes barren stretches that we experienced on the beautiful but more sparse Norte.

Other than that, we recalled that last time we picked up an idiotically big and heavy curved stick somewhere near Lavacolla and then carried it a solid 2 miles to Monte de Gozo, taking a bunch of idiot photos on the way, and leaving it right at the entrance to the Xunta albergue there. As if it were our destiny, we found another one, almost in the same place we found the last one, and I carried it all the way – David has the photo evidence. And there were a lot of climbs, but we handled them easily. As David said, “these aren’t Camino del Norte climbs… they end.”

Many of us were wiped out when we arrived at our destination. It was particularly impressive that Giovanni, who had planned to go only 20 km today, made it double that far and made it all the way with us! Cold showers felt great after a blazing hot day. After ravenously eating dinner, however, came the real fun: David, Keith, and I have been growing facial hair for about 3 to 4 weeks, and we thought that we would shave it in three different ways for a funny entrance to Santiago. Instead we thought, let’s all shave the Hulk Hogan mustache, and cut a ridiculous pose for yet more photo fun! One of my favorite things about this trip is that in addition to having fun with typical things like conversation, food, and drink, our entire group has been open to fun and creative photography ideas, impromptu singalongs, board and card games, and just much more than the basics! It’s really enriched the journey.

Tomorrow, onto Santiago!