Shhh, night swimming and the pilgrim whisperer


Night swimming
The water is still and shallow, and warm compared to the surrounding air. No one to share this tranquil, silent meditation under the black Galician sky with. Just me, a full moon and a couple of birds talking to each other from one tree to another, two blackbirds in private conversation. I’ve heard the song of the male blackbird that wants to impress the opposite sex before, but this is quite different. No lyrical outbursts or extravagant melodic variations, if there is passion between these two I am sure it has already been acknowledged from both sides.  More Satie than Mozart, they deliver the perfect soundtrack to this night. I am in the outside pool of the Palacio del Agua in Mondariz.

Mondariz is not on my route. I am here because Javier found out about my journey through Twitter. He follows Anna on Twitter, who works for the Galician tourist office and who hosted me three nights before in Bertamirans. She tweeted extensively about my project and Javier picked up on it and invited me to his parents’ rural hotel in Ponteareas, called Casa da Ursula. When they pick me up in O Porriño, one of the first things Javier’s father asks me is if I would like to go to the Palacio del Agua that evening. Untill the first decade of the 20th century Mondariz was a very popular spa for the rich and the late 19th century hotels and the ‘water palace’ still testify to its past grandeur. But I am not thinking about that as I lie in my private outside pool, recovering from the sauna. I think of how this trip is full of surprises; of how I couldn’t find anyone to host me in the north-east of Galicia and how I am now, south of Santiago de Compostela pampered and warmly welcomed by every person I meet. 

The Pilgrim Whisperer
Yesterday I was floating also, but in a completely different manner. In Pontesampaio I was hosted by Vanessa,. She works part-time with neglected and abandoned animals, but has a craniosacral massage studio at home. I had no idea what that was, but apparently it is meant to be a neurological massage therapy to ease restrictions in nerve passages and to restore misaligned bones to their proper position. As it turns out it can also be very relaxing, even if you have no physical need for it at all. Anyone that has ever successfully done a body scan (meditation for beginners, i.e. me) will know how I felt after 45 minutes of complete relaxation: levitating as if there was never a table that supported me. It was mid-day and I still had some seven kilometres to walk to my next host when she gave me the massage, but Vanessa sent me flying.

The Pilgrim Whisperer; I see a new Robert Redford movie in the making… Next to the craniosacral massage Vanessa had welcomed me the night before with friends, family and a big barbecue. Four days after I left Pontesampaio I was still eating from the leftovers. Reinvigorated by the food, by the spiritual and physical comfort and by the great people I met in this last week in Spain, I feel ready to conquer Portugal. I’ve been told that the Spanish look down upon the Portuguese, but personally I have only met Spaniards that love Portugal and speak warmly of its people. I suspect it is something like the Belgians and the Dutch, the French and the English and the Canadians and the Americans; a lot of talk and some belittling jokes, but deep down we know that we wouldn’t be half as outspoken if we weren’t so similar or didn’t care so much for each other. I expect the Portuguese to be much like the Spaniards: hospitable and social, only with a nasal sound and a lot of 'shhh' at the end. Lost in translation, here we go again...

Wijnand Boon