Beautiful, Eerie Galicia

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Since I last wrote you, I’ve been on the road for four days in the manure-pungent hobbit-land of Galicia. In spite of the thousand years of Camino passing through, it is still remote, with stone houses topped with grey slate roofs, a lot of mossy rock. The photo above is of tombs, many decorated with the twin towers of Santiago: the tomb as a cathedral, which Santiago is. Created around the dubious bones of a discovered saint, and on the site of old Roman cemeteries, there is more than a bit of death built in to the pilgrimage. But nature redeems the melancholy at times. It is spectacular here.

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I am mostly walking through green tunnels. I discovered yesterday that I could make it rain on me, even when it wasn’t raining. As I passed under certain trees, a pattering would start, as if the tree was raining only for me. It was strange and delightful. Often no drops would fall on me, but water was clearly dropping in a delightful way. I experimented and found out that my footsteps and two walking sticks were enough to send an imperceptible signal through the roots up into the branches. I could feel myself enclosed in a delicate, quivering bubble of green world, where I felt the reality that a flap of a butterfly’s wing can start a chain reaction… viscerally felt it. This tree language felt communicative and magical, as if the trees were greeting me.

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On the other hand, some trees really scared me. They seemed positively threatening, especially this one with the pentangle hung in the branches and piles of salt at the roots. Witches are common here in Galicia, and with due respect to nature worship, I am not sure all of them are benificent. The Galicians would agree, even though they have shrunk their local witches into little cute souvenir dolls. This is the kind of tree that might grab you in these old-growth forests.

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Misty mornings, cold– in the 50s– and often rain. I was walking through the forest and came on a little old lady selling raspberries and a beautiful fuschia colored raspberry liquor in a little bottle. She took me for five euros for a basket of strawberries and a small bottle of whatever that drink was. I don’t know if she was a good or bad witch… I suspect just mischievous. That was a hard day, over 15 kilometers and late in the day. I had to do some business for a morning in Sarria, the biggest city around. Travelers, do you remember how much time and energy it takes just to get into a new town and find an ATM and a store? I was buying a new pancho for the rain, one with sleeves and zipper, like a raincoat that can cover a backpack.

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You know you’re doing real travel when the locals don’t really care that much about you. Though not pleasant, you can be sure that you are in the midst of true travel. There is a good tourist structure here and there in the woods though… adequate albergues. But some parts of the day I was just grateful to hear traffic somewhere, anywhere, or see another hiker. I am still hiking mostly by myself…wonderful for contemplation, but sometimes eerie in the green, stony world of Galicia.

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10 comments

  1. That tree is extremely creepy — definitely not something under which one would rest or stop to nap (one could image the emergence of trolls) — but — it does have an interesting interchange of shapes. Maybe the salt is there to purify the haunting presence of the tree (is it an oak…) as a counter-action to the weirdness of twisted atmosphere.

    I must saw, I am so interested to see the passage of the landscape — I guess I thought you would be walking primarily through heat beside scorched, dry fields and low scrub brushes. The greens are beautifying to the eye — as I m sure they are to your soul….

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  2. Wonderful wonderful wonderful, Suzanne!!! I greet each of your blogs with such avid interest, as if I were really traveling with you. and indeed I am. These days are contemplative for me as well, inspired by your words and pictures. Thank you so much.

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  3. Yes, when the camino gets eerie and you are feeling especially alone, remember that you have people like us walking along by your side. Wonderful journey, wonderful pictures and commentary! I can feel you toughening up, turtle.

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  4. I’m enjoying every word, every picture. Actually the word pictures are even more powerful. I can even smell the green and feel the shivering in my bones as you trek through green tunnels of trees communing with you and witches stirring their brew in hollow trunks!

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