Day 37 – Sobrado Dos Monxes to Arzúa

6/16/17 – 29.8km/18.5mi from Sobrado Dos Monxes to Arzúa

Today also promised to be a scorcher so the crew took off early from their hostel at 6:20 to beat the heat. Buuuuut, I slept in the monastery and was so comfortable that I woke up late! I left at 7:17, nearly an hour behind the crew! After a peaceful morning meditation session outside the monastery, I galloped out of the gates to catch up to my Camino family. I decided on option 2. I was positively racing as I listened to some of the most upbeat music my playlists had to offer. I figured I wouldn’t see them for a long time, but after about 1.5 hours I saw a bar up in the distance, and was soon happily reunited with the others.

Our plan today was to wear our matching blue “The North Way” t-shirts, so that later in the day when finally the Camino del Norte met the heavily-traveled Camino Francès, it would be clear that we were those hardcore peregrinos that did the demanding and difficult Norte! A few more hours after we reunited, we were in Arzua, just beating the worst of the afternoon heat. And there immediately we began seeing legions of other peregrinos who have been on the Camino Frances. David and I tried to jog our memory by checking out the place we stayed at in 2014, as well as the rest of the town. After an early-ish but fun dinner with the entire crew, we retired early, dreading a 25-mile day tomorrow in blazing 93-degree, cloudless heat.

One thing we’ve been thinking about is the various kinds of paths we have walked on so far. Each has different characteristics, pros, and cons. Plain asphalt paths have great traction and allow you to keep a good pace, but after thousands of steps just pound you on the feet and knees, and on hot sunny days can really heat up your feet quickly. Gravel paths are softer on the feet and knees, but you have to dig into take every step. So it’s harder to walk quickly on them. It seems like both of those paths tend to be on unsheltered, exposed areas, so you’re at the mercy of whatever rain, sun, or heat comes your way. Dirt forest paths are far softer and the trees give shelter from the elements. But, for days after heavy rain, you run the risk of coming across epic mud piles, as there’s less drainage and evaporation from the sunlight!

And some of those paths have many stones scattered about, which means you have to be careful lest you turn an ankle or two. Dirt and gravel farm paths are exposed but soft on the feet, but also are major mud risks. They are also POOP RISKS – piles and piles of scattered livestock poop. Hill and mountain paths are littered with hard-packed paths and lots of stones, so they’re always hard on the feet both uphill and downhill. And finally, in towns and cities, you have asphalt like I mentioned above, but often in historic town centers, or in smaller villages, you wind up walking on cobblestones which are murder on the feet. Just imagine walking on a mile of cobblestones after already walking 20 miles on all those other paths. Which path is best? Quite possibly, the path to the bar, in your flip-flops, at the end of the day.

Another highlight of the day was yet another fun group photo op that we had been talking about for quite some time. After our “Abbey Road” photo, we thought of other iconic photos to take as a group, and we talked through a lot of options. Back in Vilalba, our hostel was selling custom made “The North Way” t-shirts – a play on the brand “The North Face.” Before the Camino del Norte merges with the Camino Frances, we wanted to make our mark and pay homage to Joe Rosenthal’s iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photo from WWII. The flag is one of the 10 matching “The North Way” shirts (a play on The North Face) that we bought for marching together as a team into Santiago. The flagpole is 3 hastily-taped hiking poles! The original photo was a poignant moment in history, we were having fun while shooting ours – but it was certainly done with respect.