“Free Willy” (San Xusto, Spain)

The night before, at the Founder’s Day Celebration, we stared out “safe” by ordering original mojitos. Aria begged me to “live dangerously” with the next mojito, but I’m not sure how dangerous it is to order a flavored mojito. I knew it was a bad idea, but I wasn’t about to let my little sister be more “dangerous” than me, so I went against my better judgement and ordered banana flavoring. The drinks were horrible, but you can’t waste a €4 mojito. The half pound of sugar plus the added flavoring syrup kept me up all night. By the time my sugar buzz subsided and I was able to go to sleep, the early risers were already getting ready for their day. It was 4am and they kept going in and out of the sleeping porch and banging the door behind them. A man was blew his nose an unnecessary amount of times and when I finally got up to use the restroom, there was no toilet paper. Bad morning.

We saluted the sunrise over the ocean one last time and then hiked with heavy heads away from the coast. The northern route was over and we’d soon be joining up with the more popular, “French Way.” From here on out, the kilometer count-down was supposed to be marked on every sign. At a small bakery, we picked up some apple strudel in hopes that it would remind us of our childhoods that were spent on the Atlantic Ocean, also eating strudel. The strudel was not the same as we had remembered it in Rockport, and we reminisced about the good-ole-days we spent in that beautiful small fishing village.

We were so sad about leaving the sea that we forgot to read about the days trek in our guidebooks. After walking 15 kilometers, we took a small break to figure out where we were going. It was then that we realized there was no food from Ribadeo to the town we were sleeping in. The guidebook literally warned us to, “stock up on food in Ribadeo,” but read the warning far too late. We were overjoyed when we came upon a store with a table and umbrella set up outside. However, as we approached, we realized it was not a store at all. It was an entire building that was devoted to a 24/7 vending machine. We bought chips, a coke and cookies and came to terms with the fact that we would have to “starve” for the night.

We also didn’t really pay attention to the fact that the guidebook also warned us that the hostel where we planned on staying was not always open. When we arrived in Gondan at the weathered yellow albergue, we discovered the place was locked for the year. We were tired of walking and the next albergue was in a town that was 3 kilometers away. There were massive granite-slab picnic tables around the closed albergue, so we decided we’d pitch camp there for the night. We didn’t bring tents on this trip, so we’d be sleeping atop the picnic tables outside under the stars.

We built our nest in the shade of a willow tree and took a nice long nap in the cool summer breeze. We awoke to the sound of a puttering tractor and loud moo-ing nearby. When we looked to see where the noise was coming from, we witnessed one of the strangest sights we’ve seen thus far on the trip. Two farmers wrapped ropes under all four legs of a large milk-cow and attached the ropes to the plow of a backhoe. When the driver lifted the plow, the very alive cow went completely limp, like when you pick up a cat by the scruff of it’s neck. It was a hysterical sight and we cackled in our beds as the farmers drove around with the floating cow. In the end, they dropped her off in a nearby pasture with all the other cows. Now that’s what I call making an entrance! We were really unsure why they went through the hassle of rigging the large bovine in order to transport her less than 100 feet, but it brought back memories of the movie “Free Willy.”

Noticing dark storm-clouds rolling in over the hills above us, we feared that our plan to sleep outside under the stars was flawed because we had no rain gear other than our hooded ponchos. Simultaneously, we both chickened out of sleeping outside and quickly packed our bags to walk to the town of San Xusto. Though the idea of sleeping outside sounded cool at first, there was something inside me that knew we’d never stick it out for the night. We walked down the paved road with sad faces in hopes that anyone driving by would offer us a ride, food, or a place to stay. Apparently, we need to work on or manipulation tactics because no one seemed to feel bad for us.

While we walked, we prayed that there would be spots left in the small albergue. The chances were very slim since it was so late in the evening. If there weren’t any beds left, we planned on begging the hostel owner to let us sleep on the floor out of the rain. If they didn’t allow us to crash on the floor, we’d have to walk to the next town, however by the time we’d get into the next town, the albergue would have been locked for the night. Basically, we were screwed if there weren’t leftover beds in the San Xusto albergue, so you can’t imagine the joy we felt when it was practically empty. In fact, there were so few people that we got our own room! There was also a small restaurant in this village, so we didn’t go hungry OR without beds for the night.

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