DAY 30: Mirma and the Cathedrals of the Sea
The scarlet red weals on my brother’s feet that had manifested overnight from the ice bath his feet had taken, made our course of action clear enough. There was no way we would be able to continue on today, tackling a whole 30 kilometres (18 Miles). Our Camino de Santiago del Norte journey would have to wait. We sank down onto the wooden chairs inside the fly infested Albergue’s lounge and thought about what we would do. Our options were limited due to our Camino budget and so we began searching for a place that would fit all our needs at the most cost-effective price. Finding ourselves in peak tourist season, we were at quite a loss, when like an angel descending down from the heavens, Mirma appeared. An exceptionally kind woman, originally from Brazil, she visited the Albergue every day to help out any pilgrims who missed out on getting a bed and offering alternatives at the Pension she worked at.
We faced the reality that it might take more than a week for Lalika’s leg to heal. We were also facing an insurmountable expenditure of close to €900 that would drain our budget dry, for a stay at the local campgrounds in what was essentially no more than a little nook of a holiday cabin itself, 10 kms outside of Ribadeo. Mirma immediately understood the dire need of our situation and pulled out all stops to help us. She knew that a small family room at her Pension wouldn’t be much better so, Mirma spoke with her boss and convinced him to offer us his other property, on the outskirts of town, a charming 3 bedroom duplex house in close vicinity to the supermarkets. Here we would have access to a washing machine and kitchen, luxuries that were almost unreachable on the Camino and for an incredibly affordable price, all because of Mirma’s strength and kindness.
Half an hour later, we were settling into a delightful rustic country home and most importantly, Lalika was resting with his feet up. Out the back, the neighbour’s endearing German Shepard, the size of a mini cooper, was barking away joyfully, ecstatic at the fact that he would have some new neighbours to play with.
With Lalika recuperating and Dad using this precious time to work, Mum and I ventured back out into the city to explore. We wondered down the medieval cobblestone streets, following our feet’s fancies. If we saw a street we liked, we turned down it, discovering a tiny treasure at each corner. With cups of Dulce de Leche ice-cream and Raspberry Sorbet in our hands, we headed out to the open sea, passing through a guardian-like cluster of trees. Looking down, we marvelled at the stunning view that stretched out before us from the top of the city fort, the charcoal coloured concrete cannons poised to defend. We then journeyed down to a secluded pebble beach, where we dipped our feet into the icy cold ocean and watched as the glowing sun was swallowed by a swarm of dark clouds.
Over the next few days we got to speak more with Mirma, who was not only managing the Pension and drumming up new business every day but in what spare time she did have left, she was giving care to the elderly mother of her boss, the owner of the Pension, who lived in the apartment next door to us. Almost every moment of her time was spent working, but it gave us the opportunity to really get to know her and what a blessing this was. Mirma was working very hard to support and provide for her family back in Brazil. It was also the perfect situation for us to improve our Spanish, as Mirma spoke no English at all, yet somehow, we were still able to have the most deep and mutually inspiring conversations about our experiences on this journey of life we travel together. We shared meals and the days passed rapidly, Lalika’s foot improving with each day.
In the very small spare time that Mirma had, she wanted to show us around the surrounding area and she packed us into her teal green-mobile as we sped off down the highway to see the natural beauty of the Galician coast. We visited a sanctuary of cliffs, giving way onto a hidden cove of aquamarine waters. The jagged lead coloured edges of the shoreline would certainly smash you to oblivion if you fell. Mirma also took us to the distinct strip of sandy beach that was home to Asturia’s ‘As Catedrais’, the mesmerising Cathedrals of the Sea.
She also took us on a drive where we were able to refill our drinking water supply bottles at a natural spring at the base of the Galician mountains and whenever we needed, she drove us to the Homeopathic/Naturopathy shop for supplies to aid Lalika’s healing. Over the numerous meals and excursions we shared, we came to feel the strong bond and connection with Mirma as if she was a friend we had known forever.
We had only planned for a ten-day stay, but Mirma organised it with the owner of the Pension so that we could stay another four days without having to pay anything extra. She was our angel of light at our time of need, but we too were able to give her the confidence she needed to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract with her boss. She was generating over 80% of the business’ clients by actively going out and seeking pilgrims and getting paid very little for her efforts. She was also spending much time and energy looking after the owner’s frail and debilitated mother. With her newly found confidence, obtained from a few negotiation tactics Dad empowered her with, she was able to gain a fair and reasonable commission for her excellent efforts that would more than double her income. This would enable her to adequately provide for her family and pursue her vision of starting her very own radio program to inspire people to seek connection with one another. In the end, I can see that we were both exactly what each other needed in that moment and it brings to the forefront of my mind just how much we need each other as people. The supposed random nature of things doesn’t exist and we need to see each other. We need to recognise the people around us who come into our lives for precisely the richness of the mutual experiences, knowledge, comfort, assistance and love we can offer each other. It costs us nothing more than to let go of our fears, be aware of our surroundings, be present in the moment and acknowledge that the best possible outcome for you is always waiting there for you to see it!
Finally, after two weeks of creams and ointments, a new pair of shoes for Lalika and a whole lot of sitting in one spot, Lalika’s foot had healed to a degree where he could walk and we were ready to continue our journey.
So just before we disappeared back down the Camino trail, we had one last opportunity to connect with Mirma, as she extended a kind invitation to us for a special Saturday day service and luncheon at her church. Always eager to meet new people and relishing the chance to spend some more time with Mirma, we gratefully accepted. We took part in a charming service that was filled with joyful hymns that rang through the building melodiously and out onto the streets. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious lunch (that we helped cook) with more new friends and celebrated the 2nd anniversary of this church community. The afternoon drifted by as we sat out on the sunny park benches and chatted away in Spanish.
Mirma honked her car horn in a merry tune, our goodbye waves and cries amplifying in sound as we drove away. Driving down the road with the sun low in the sky, we came to the town of Lourenzá where we checked into a private Albergue for the night. Then came the hard part, having to say goodbye. Mirma had become such a close friend, more than this, part of our extended global family and the tug of the heart strings was somewhat painful in our farewells. We told her that we had made plans to return to share a meal together once more when we finished the Camino. With tight hugs and a few tears, we watched as Mirma got into her teal mobile and drove away from us calling back just before she turned the corner. “Ciao y Buen Camino!”