Walking with your heart in your hand is serious business. It felt like that this morning, on my solo hike from the seacoast town of Finisterre up the incline to one of the most spectacular lighthouses that I’ve seen along either coast of the Atlantic.
Marcia was going to join me for the walk this morning but when it started to rain she decided to hold back and enjoy the private room and maybe read or shop a bit. I appreciated being alone for a couple of hours, being with my feelings about my journey on this last day of walking before we bus back to Santiago, Porto, and then home.
It was good for me to cut back today. I am now in the habit of monitoring my recovery from exercise by taking a four minute sampling of my heart rate variability as soon as I wake up in the morning. It has been fine until yesterday, when I cut back a bit and today I planned to walk for just a couple of hours rather than most of the day, as we have been doing. Today, I was in need of even more rest and recovery. Unfortunately , I was unaware that it would be a tougher 6 miles than I expected. Here’s the elevation profile from Strava.
I ended up doing a loop, first climbing up the asphalt road along the shore to the lighthouse.
There were just a few people on top when I arrived. The usual top-of-the/mountain grot shops were just ramping up and a few tourists that drove up were grumbling about the fact that the bathrooms were still locked up.
I walked past everyone and explored the path less traveled, as usual. Down below the lighthouse on the side facing the West were personal monuments that peregrinos had left behind, in their own frames of importance.
Some shrines reflected losses of others.
It is a tradition here to burn one’s worn and fetid clothing after a pilgrimage of hundreds of miles. Roasted underpants, however, are a bit much.
There are charred maps as well, which I took to be acts of personal liberation, and intentions to walk a more genuine path through our futures.
I decided to walk back through the woods.
Despite my best intentions, with my Brierley map and my MAPS.ME app to guide me, I encountered an untrimmed , overgrown, and rain laden gorse of unkempt trails. At one time, well-intentioned individuals had erected signs that were now broken off at their bases, and tossed into the sea, no doubt. Brierley didn’t convey that this off-road path to spirituality was this hard to navigate.
All the bare, rocky outcroppings looked the same. The neatly delineated and numbered religious sites in Brierley’s guidebook were now merging into an amorphous wildness.
At one point, I looked back and saw a single figure walking behind me, looking as bewildered as I was. I stopped and waited to speak with him, not even knowing if that would be possible, given the disparate languages one encounters here along the path. It became easy, once the gentleman began to speak in English. He was one of a group of a dozen or so folks from the Cleveland (Ohio) Hiking Club, several of which Marcia and I encountered a few days ago on the Camino between Santiago and here. Then I spotted his cap, who in was adorned with the new Appalachian Trail logo, which bears quite a resemblance to the scallop-rayed Camino symbol.
If turns out that this was a hiker who completed 1100 miles on the AT, including half of the 270 or so miles in my home state of Maine. We shared our trail names, as well as the fact that both Tick Magnet (his trail name) and I also share the experience of Lyme disease.
We also shared the challenge of finding our way back to our respective hotel and albergue, with Tick Magnet thanking me for eventually guiding him back to safety. With the thick fog, indistinct trail, lack of signage, and him without any compass or gps, Tick Magnet ascertained that he would have in all likelihood been walking for hours in the direction of Cee, and not Finisterre.
It’s so different here. Take the options for rehydrating, for example. It has been my practice to carry little or no water on the Camino, due to the frequent ancient sources like this one, half way up today’s big hill.
A little further up I hydrated with wine that I found left at a picnic table.
When I got back to the Cabo de Vila, our most excellent private alberge, I popped a Euro coin into the vending machine and relaxed with a cold beer.
I visited the Church de Santa María das Areas twice today, however it remained locked all day. I had even been assured by the owner of our albergue that it would definitely open at noon.
This church was initially built in the 12th century, with new elements being later added, particularly during the 14th and 16th centuries, to make up its present day structure, a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles.
My particular hope to me was to kneel before the 18th-century altarpiece, containing the image of the Sacred Christ of Barba Dourada (Golden Beard), a Gothic sculpture alleged to have been carved by Nicodemus in the 14th century and a central element in a number of legends. One such legend tells that, after stealing the figure, the robbers were forced to throw it overboard as they fled, in order to calm the storm that had resulted from their crime. The figure of Christ was later recovered by a fisherman. Here is a photo of that image:
My experience of Finisterre us that is is a bit oversold, at least by Brierley, who was the only guide I had.
Finisterre reminds me of another seacoast port way over on the other side of the Atlantic named New Bedford in Massachusetts. It is nowhere near as old, but was settled by Portugese who came there first from the trade routes from Europe, and then the whaling epoch. It is a seafaring town, with a strong Catholic history, a bit battered and worn but a city with very hard working people who have also been through hell to get and to stay there.