Ginny did her wakeup call routine at half to six in the morning, jumping on Eva’s and Inga’s bed until both rolled out, grumbling but obedient. Alyssa was already dressed, as was Ginny, and under the watchful eyes of both we fetched our things, packed our packs, and left.
The ascent to Monte do Gozo was easy, we made it on top before sunrise, but when we crossed over its plateau, visiting the statues of the pilgrims and the Papal Visit memorial, the city below us was bathed in the golden light of morning. It looked magical and, for a while, I could understand how pilgrims were overcome with joy and religious fire upon waking in one of the camps the church had erected up here in olden times to weed out the infected and diseased before letting the rest into town.
Down the hill was equally fast, we arrived in the city just in time for coffee and to stand in line for our Compostella, the certificate of completion of the Camino. Ginny and Alyssa were first, two younger guys, clearly American, behind them, a couple I’d seen a few times on the Camino followed, then the Texans, Rainer, Hu, Eva, Inga, and I.
One of the Americans, eyeing Alyssa for a response, began a loud proclamation about true Pilgrimage. “Jesus didn’t start in Sarria,” he exclaimed, “am I right, eh?”
Ginny’s smile was of the mischievous kind I’d seen a number of times during her alarm clock duties… “You’re right,” she said, stretching every word, “losers, eh? Real pilgrims walk the Camino as it was before all those short-distance Caminos became popular.” “Totally, the lady gets it. Saint Jean Posse, am I right, am I right?” “Actually, no, real pilgrims walk from their home. Munich. St. Jean… pfffft.” He was quiet for the rest of our wait.
We received our Compostelas, reconvened outside to drop our backpacks with the local post office, which offered short-term storage to allow pilgrims to enter the Cathedral, and made it in time for morning mass. Ten minutes into the second or third language announcement chastising everyone not to take photos or talk, Inga and Eva left. Ginny followed, leaving Alyssa and myself for a few more minutes until we too exited.
“I can’t do this,” Eva proclaimed. “It’s cramped, loud, and as Inga said, it’s Disneyland for Catholics. I want to keep walking.” “Me too,” agreed Alyssa, Ginny said nothing but shouldered her backpack. “Mikka? You coming?”
I did. “You can’t let your lady bosses walk without you,” a voice from behind. The Swiss stood, grinning, holding their Compostelas. “No mass for you?” “Nah, we’ll do the evening one, we need beer and a few more hours in our hot tub.” “We’re walking on to Najera.” We exchanged contact info, then we took our leave.
“Well, that was weird.” Eva looked confused. “Which one? The city or the ‘lady bosses’ comment.” I asked. “Well, it is strange that you seem to accumulate hot chicas.” “That’s Inga’s doing, I am just walking behind Inga, and you keep following her around.” Eva bonked me on the head. “I keep following you both around, you doofus.”
“And I just followed, because you guys seem to know what you’re doing,” Ginny added. “And me, because he’s busy with you two and not hitting on me,” Alyssa finished.
“Doesn’t matter, after a day we all stink the same.”
We left Santiago, wound our way into the hills on the opposing side of the Monte do Gozo, laid one last eye on the spires of the cathedral, then walked, trading jokes about each other, mostly me, until someone realized we hadn’t eaten anything, yet.
We stopped at a small bar along the way and ordered massive amounts of patatas bravas, cheese, and lentils, keeping it vegetarian for Ginny. After washing everything down with Estrella, Eva went to pay and came back with the owner. “Sandro here own a hotel a little outside of Negreira, and he’s offered to call his son who will pick us up from the town and drive us back tomorrow, all for the low price of one hundred bucks for all five of us. “Shall we do it?” “Sure thing, let’s.”
We made it to Negreira in the early afternoon, Eva made the call, and after a wait at the town’s more or less famous bridge, we rode by car to a beautiful and quaint hotel in the hills. Our rooms were spacious, Eva, Inga, and I sharing one, Ginny and Alyssa the other, and we had bathtubs and a pool outside. Inga ran a bath, Eva and I showered, then we all congregated inside the bathroom, making fun of Inga farting into the tub, taking turns throwing water at each other, and had an amazing time.
“What are you guys doing in there,” Ginny demanded to know from the door. “We’re all in the bathtub,” Eva lied, “and Inga refuses to let me have the rubber ducky.” “That your nickname for Mikka?”
We agreed on dinner at six, finished our water fight, cuddled for a bit, and then went downstairs to a grinning staff who, apparently, had heard almost everything through thin walls.
Dinner was amazing, Ginny told more stories from her first 2000, and Alyssa produced a pack of cards, leading to calls for strip poker, a game I lost, Ginny and Eva still fully dressed and myself heading back in socks and underwear.
We retreated late and, knowing of the thin walls, decided to sleep.