To Betanzos 80km
To Santiago de Compostela 54km
The good news is, as I cycle out of Betanzos, I spot a sign after about a kilometer, that tells me it's only 57km to Santiago, not the 74km we had calculated. The bad news is the "drizzle", predicted, is already torrential rain, and I'm already slogging uphill. And both the uphill and downpour continue for the next twenty kms. After that, the wind hits me. I've been wet on this adventure before. I've also been cold before, but this is the first time I've been both wet, to the skin, and cold, freezing. I duck into a bus shelter and put on more clothes, not that it offers much shelter, and then as I take off again, it hails. Damn. I thought it was meant to be getting warmer. It's Spring for goodness sake. There's nowhere to stop for shelter, everything is closed because it's Sunday. My body takes over, setting a mechanical rhythm, and my mind turns off, focusing only on staying safe on the road, rather than thinking about how frigging cold it is, and how much I'm hurting. And then a sign tells me 10km to go. Woohoo. I can do this.........
Last night I had stayed in a 60 bed hostel, with one other guy, a Canadian writer, living in Spain. Normally he writes about food and wine, but right now he's researching two books on the Camino de Santiago. He walked here 15 years ago, and this season he is walking all the routes, about nine different trails, some of them twice. He reckons he will have walked 2400km by the end of summer. That's some feat.
We got talking about the "empty" hostels. He told me the summer is really busy. They are expecting over 250,000 Pilgrims in 2016. Then he explained the Maths. A private hostel might have 30 beds. Every bed earns €15 a night for five months. Then if they choose to feed those pilgrims that's another €10, and laundry, €5. A family make a substantial living over the busy five months..... and the routes are so popular, the season is extending.
He told me that between May and August, there are not enough beds on the routes. So some pilgrims will get up at 4am, waking everyone else with their rustling and head torches, and then virtually run to the next accommodation, so as to grab a bed. The Government is offering all sorts of in incentives to locals to renovate old buildings into hostels.
Another business that is doing very well is transporting of luggage along the route, so the hikers don't have to carry full packs. However, this is really annoying those who choose to carry full loads, as when they arrive at hostels, the "light loaders" have nabbed all the beds. Riots are predicted.
When you start your pilgrimage, you buy, for €1.50, a passport. Everywhere you stop, you get a stamp, hostels, pubs, resturants, info centre's. When you present this passport to the Pilgrims Office in Santiago, you get a certificate, showing how far you walked. I got the passport, and the stamps, but haven't bother with the certificate. I got the passport, because with it you also can get discounts, for food and bed nights.
So it's big business, and alot of people are walking a long way, between 200km and 800km. I've been watching them arrive. Some heavily laden, others with day packs. What they have in common is that many are hurting by the time they get here, injuries, sore feet, aching backs, and they all seem to be in a hurry. My Canadian mate reckons almost all don't give themselves enough time to complete the Camino at leisure. They book a flight before they leave, and then have to push hard to get here in time to catch the flight. The other thing I observed as the Pilgrims arrive is they walk into the main square loaded with their pack. They stand and stare at the cathedral. They turn 360° and look around the square, then they look at each other as if to say...."Well we've done it. What now?" I'm told that the month of walking is life changing, and many come back and do another route. I guess some of them actually do the walk for the "religious" significance of it all
. I pushed on through the rain, because I wanted to have a rest day on my birthday. Today I'm 62. I've celebrated by visiting a barber, eating cake, and sleeping. I'm pretty sure I might even have a second rest day tomorrow. It's still persisting.......