last stop before Santiago. day thirty-three. our soggiest day by far, with a steady drizzle through the first half of the morning. it was an uneventful hike, though there was the now-common influx of shorter-trek peregrinos. all the cafes we passed were packed with the weary and foot-sore; more Spaniards than earlier on the Camino though just as many Germans. met up with a young American college graduate who’d just concluded a year of teaching and working in Galicia. she was hiking the Galician leg of the Camino to wrap up her experience before (she hoped) moving on to teach in Andalusia. she was quite chatty and I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps it was refreshing to speak with native English-speakers or Americans. maybe I’m projecting; even with a compatible companion there comes a point when alternative conversational partners are a treat.
the path crossed the busy N-547 numerous times, more frequently and more dangerously than on any other day. it’s one of the major highways leading into Santiago — not unlike walking across US 14 when it shifts back into two lanes when driving south from Madison. the peregrino paths were well maintained but not always cordoned off from vehicular traffic. though at one point there was a pretty nifty pedestrian tunnel with large stones planted mortared into the walls that went under a hidden bend in the road and down into a cluster of farming houses and outbuildings.
Arca was an interesting place; the path spilled us out next to a sport complex and had us double back towards the highway. the whole town, it seems, is devoted entirely to the service of peregrinos to even greater extent than any of our previous stops. the first two places we sought lodging were filled for the evening — despite our early arrival. our third stop proved more successful, even if it sat on the busy highway in the middle of town. the guy working the desk seemed somewhat chagrined that the only remaining room didn’t have an en suite but for the price and the time of day we were thrilled. once we got up to the room and plopped down for our standard afternoon naps, we were even more pleased — memory foam bed and extra, fluffy pillows! once I finally got to sleep, it was a glorious sleep.
after the standard shower/catnap we headed out for an underwhelming lunch … and the first real ice cream since leaving Wisconsin! we’d had plenty of tasty ice cream bars and sandwiches along the Camino, particularly after the hot, sweaty days trekking across Castilla and León but this … this was real ice cream sundaes with whipped cream, a combination of tasty flavors, and (most intriguingly) hot chocolate to top them off. as a died-in-the-wool Wisconsinite, I’ve had my share of fantastic ice cream but what we had in Arca stands high on the list.
a mere 21 kilometers to go — a now laughably-paltry distance. that change in perspective was one of the more remarkable things about the last days of the Camino; what had only a few weeks earlier seemed like a insane challenge now seemed not only feasible but downright leisurely (which it wasn’t, but more about that shortly)!