28: Tui – Redondela

When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4v8

And so to Spain and almost immediately we crossed the Rio Minho, we felt the change. Spain feels more modern, more European, more urban, more Catholic. The albergue in Tui was just behind the cathedral and the old town was crammed higgledy piggledy into one small space, crammed full of churches and little alleyways and stone steps.

We were delighted to discover on our arrival that we would only be accompanied by the two Belgian brothers, Ronald and Roland, and an older Spanish man, Julio Ferrer, that had been walking with us from Ponte de Lima. ‘Our little peregrino family’ we called them and they laughed at our enthusiasm.

We went out to find food and ate tortilla and drank vino tinto.

When we returned we discovered a dormitory full of pilgrims, who had all appeared as if from nowhere. The shock of seeing so many people when we were so used to being quite solitary made us a little grumpy.

But it wasn’t our fellow pilgrims who kept us awake that night – it was the Spanish fiesta going on outside. The doors of the hostel closed at 10pm, exactly when Spain came alive and people headed out to the streets. The next morning when we set out at 7am, the streets were still full of people who were still out from the night before, and still in high spirits. After a disturbed night and the prospect of a long day’s walk I envied them their energy.

As we hit the hotter part of the morning the camino changed from a rural pathway to a long straight mettled road through the middle of a large industrial estate. Factories, warehouses, chimneys and fire stations stretched alongside us endlessly and there was no shade, just black, rippling tarmac. The landscape around us seemed redundant and empty of beauty – all that changed was the length and direction of our shadows.

We stopped to eat lunch at a fountain that didn’t work, the last inhabitants of the tiny hamlet we were in had shuttered themselves inside and no one would refill our water bottle. We pulled on our bags and carried on.

Few words passed between us; few thoughts filled my head – only the determination to put one step in front of another, to keep moving forward, to climb the hill in front of me, to ignore the ache in my shoulders, to press on like a mad dog or an Englishman in the punishing heat.

FF commented: ‘This is where we become the pilgrimage.’

And but for the hope of a destination, there would have been no point in persevering in the face of such natural opposition. But when we finally reached Redondela, before we even reached the albergue, we saw the Belgian brothers, Ronald and Roland, and we knew we’d made it. The joy of arriving was in who we found when we got there, not just in the promise of rest.

And more than ever today, I realised that the camino is like life – sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, sometimes, easy, sometimes hard. But every day has its own rewards.

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