As we were leaving Melide, we saw people setting up farmers markets, one part of town for potatoes and another for green vegetables. It was a lot of activity for a Sunday morning, we thought.
On we walked, leaving it and Melide behind. Before too long we found ourselves hiking through gentle woodland punctuated time after time by brooks and streams. I never tire of the soothing, hypnotic sight and sound of flowing water, and these streams were clear and sparkling; one could sense them as the circulatory system of the forests and fields we traversed, giving them their health and fertility.
Each one we forded differently, either by walking on stones, crossing wood bridges, or crossing stone bridges dating their origins to the Middle Ages or to the Roman Empire.
More and more we began to see eucalyptus trees in the woods, sometimes in random clusters but more often in neat rows planted for wood harvesting. The smell of the eucalyptus was wonderful.
Their contrast to the pines and oaks was very noticeable, though the scattered acorn caps on the trail made it impossible to forget the presence of the oaks.
There were a few places where the trail forked, and it reminded me of one of Yogi Berra’s famous sayings, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.” We took it, but usually we had the friendly yellow arrows to tell us which branch of the fork to take.
At one point when we started to feel hunger and thirst, there appeared beside the trail an unmanned food stand offering free water for pilgrims and a variety of fruits and cakes for just 1-2 Euros each. It operated on an honor system whereby one dropped the money in a coin box next to the food.
I bought a piece of homemade pound cake that had a fruity flavor to it, and it was one of the best pieces of cake I’ve ever had, moist and flavorful, as if it had just come out of the oven. It was just what I needed. I was struck by the generosity and sensitivity of the people who created and supplied this food stand, and it seemed like a hint at a better world that is truly possible if we do something as simple as giving of ourselves to others and trusting them. I remembered some houses from childhood that left Halloween candy out with a sign saying, “Take one or two and leave the rest for others.” At the time, no one really thought twice about doing just as the sign said, even though there was no one to stop someone from grabbing huge handfuls. This stand in the woods on the Camino was the same opportunity to spread generosity and honesty, a great and simple prescription for a better world. It gave me an emotional lift that made the next few kilometers a bit easier. And I wasn’t hungry anymore.
Soon we approached the village of Ribadiso, and it might have been the most beautiful approach to a village yet. It sits just beside a stream crossed by a medieval bridge, and the buildings are made of stone in rich earth tones sometimes contrasted with recently painted blue window frames.
The stream, the bridge, and the farmhouse inn made a perfectly composed, colored, and lit picture. We stopped to eat lunch at the inn and proclaimed it another Camino success for us Three Amigos.
Wandering through farmland rather than forests, we drew closer to Arzua.
As had happened before, occasionally we came upon a palm tree. We ran into a few different varieties here and there, and it was always a surprise.
In a couple of hours, Arzua’s suburbs came into view with their more contemporary buildings, and though tired we pushed on to the center of town and our accommodations. Arzua has a population of 7,000, but to pilgrims like us it seemed much larger. After hours of walking in peace and quiet among the forests, fields, and tiny villages, any town inhabited by more than a hundred people seemed like a huge, noisy metropolis. The older part of Arzua was hard to find. Moreover, rain was moving in. We settled in at the hostel and relaxed before walking in the rain to dinner and then returning for a good night’s sleep.