In some ways its been a strange day. I started out on track and wandered off I don't know where despite my best efforts. Sometimes I am so deep in thought I suddenly come to a realisation that I have not be paying attention. A walk that should have seen me in Ribadeo in about three hours took me an hour longer. However, I was provided with views of some very green, flat farming countryside.

The Spanish love plastic, especially the farmers. They bail their hay in it. In Italy and France I've seen thousands upon thousands of rolls of hay which I've earlier described. In those countries they are bound with a thin mesh. Here in Spain they are sealed completely in back or white heavy duty plastic. I've worked out that this
is the cause of the sweet smell encountered everywhere in country Spain. I think
there is a little fermentation that goes on within the plastic seal that produces this smell.

The Principality of Asturias through which I've been walking these past couple of weeks is divided from Galicia by an imaginary line drawn down the centre of an ocean channel which begins at the Bay of Biscay and flows a few kilometres inland with Ribadeo on one side in Galicia and Castropol on the Asturias side. Linking the two sides of the channel is a motorway bridge. Civilians are forbidden to walk on the
motorway. Not this civilian today. The long way around is a 20km trip. However, I
did not know that there is a pedestrian crossing on each side of the bridge, but once on the motorway I couldn't get access to it because of a security fence.

After an uneventful and safe crossing I made my way into Ribadeo to find the location of the albergue. I keep meeting people just when they are needed. Walking into Ribadeo I stopped at an ATM which a man was using and a woman was waiting to use. The woman first spoke to me in Spanish and then in English. She was from Argentina and holidays each summer in Ribadeo. We spoke a little about my journey
from Rome. She gave me directions to the information office where I got directions to the albergue. The woman insisted that I go before her at the ATM saying that I
had walked so far I should not have to wait.

Ribadeo had a good feel about it. I decided I would stay for the night. When I got to the albergue it was shut. I telephoned about the key but the language barrier precluded me from finding out from where it could be collected. Collecting the key is quite a common practice where there is no hospitalero in attendance. Alteratively, the door is left unlocked an pilgrims go about settling in. The locked albergue was enough to change my mind about staying in Ribadeo. A note on the door advised the
location of another albergue at Vilela, 7km along the road to Santiago. It's an
albergue not mentioned in any of the literature I'm carrying. Before setting off I sat in the shade, prepared a meal, and ate. While eating three different pairs of pilgrims arrived. The last pair had the key, but this was not enough to convince me to stay.

When I got to Vilela I saw no evidence of an albergue. From a high point I scanned the village to see if there was a building that could be it. Nothing. I decided to walk onto Gondan, another 14km. On the way out of the village I went up a hill and then around a bend. As I cleared the bend there before me was a bar, literally in the middle of nowhere. An oasis. Food. I went in and ordered. An enquiry of the
owner resulted in him taking me outside and pointing down the street to a building
50 metres away- the albergue.

What a surprise. It's owned by the municipal council, has 32 beds, is quite modern, and has two very clean toilets and showers. It was 4.00pm. I was the first to arrive.
By 6.00pm I'd showered, my washing was out in the wind drying, and I was headed back to the bar to write up my notes and have a cup of tea. As I walked to the bar a Polish couple, Paul and Dorota, who I keep running into, were just arriving equally bemused about the lack of publicily amongst pilgrims for this particular albergue.
Dinner will be at the bar. It has a a��10 'Menu del Dia'. Dinner doesn't start until 8.30pm. Silly you for suggesting otherwise. There's no shop in this village so the bar is it.

Vilela puts me in touch with Mondoneda, some 30km away, to where I've decided to walk tomorrow. I'll be testing out my new leg. I couldn't believe the change today. I have come to expect a painful walk each day because of the three problem areas, none of which played up today. It was a pain-free day. I have no idea why this came about, but I like it.

My assessment is that Galicia prides itself on carefully leading pilgrims to Santiago. There has been a noticeable change in the frequency and positioning of signs to the number and locations that appeared in Asturias. On the pillars that have the scallop shell attached which point in the direction to be taken, is a band on which is inscribed the distance to the metre of the journey to Santiago. By way of example, the one opposite the bar where I'll eat tonight shows the distance to Santiago as 188km 274m. It doesn't get any more precise than this.

It took three council workers to perform the pilgrim registrations: one to write up the register, one to collect my a��5, and a third to stamp my credential. This is the Australian equivalent of two leaning on shovels while a third digs the hole.

But in the 2000s, they were also responsible for one of the all-time great late-night party kickstarters