Leaving Sarria just before 8am we did not need our flashlights. The mountains are behind us now so the sun rises just after 8:30 in the morning. Dawn provides us with enough to see sufficiently, especially while we are still in the city. As we walk through the fringe of the residential section young kids are just arriving at school. They mill about talking to each other looking exactly like kids in North America. Most have earphones, or are texting away on their cell phones while talking to their friends at the same time.
UPDATE: We heard from Eddie! He made his flight and is now in Berlin. Of course we are so happy he made it home safely and genuinely can’t wait to see him again. I have taken a picture of Eddie on my iPhone. When we have our picture taken in Santiago look for me holding this!
The path out of Sarria is abruptly upward, reasonably short duration on the top and then just abruptly, down. At the bottom of the hill you are out of town and walking on a natural crushed limestone path.
Today’s section of the path feels like “The Camino for Dummies”. On previous sections of the Camino I have mentioned the lack of yellow arrows, or indications marking the Way. Now yellow arrows are everywhere, and concrete marker posts are found every 1/2 kilometre. (With the distance to Santiago indicated)
The scenery is magnificent. This portion of Galicia province is a lush green blanket laid over undulating hills. Small towns of 4 to 10 buildings appear every 30 minutes or so. Bars are in most of these little villages and sometimes an Albergue to tempt weary travelers. If our timeline was not so strict the temptation would be easy to succumb to.
There are noticeably more Pilgrims on the road today. Many people not walking long distances begin their Camino in Sarria. If you only have a one week holiday starting at this city makes a great deal of sense. It is also the minimum starting point to obtain a Compostella when you arrive in Santiago. The Compostella is the certificate awarded to you when you provide your stamped pilgrim credential. (This point is not exactly clear, but we think if you start in Sarria you must obtain two stamps each day. If you started before Sarria only one stamp per day is required….. we have decided to get two stamps per day covering all bases)
Today the sky is partly cloudy. This results in temperature swings. When in the sun you feel quite warm, a short sleeve shirt is sufficient. As the sun slips behind the clouds or you walk under shade the temperature dips dramatically. I feel the need for a light sweater. Dark clouds are trying to organize around us, but for now no rain.
In the morning I develop cramps in the toes of my right foot. There’s no rhyme or reason for this, but it is quite a distraction. I decide it is best to put music on, and walk through the discomfort. Peter Gabriel, Frank Zappa, Wings,…… a really enjoyable way to walk were it not for my foot.
Much of the day is spent walking a trail between stacked stone walls. These short walls are made from rock cleared from the fields. Sometimes the fields have cows, horses, or sheep and some other fenced in areas are obviously for crops. Chickens are often sharing the same streets when you come across a lone farm house. The smell of animal manure has always been close at hand during the Camino. As much of the Way is though farmland the manure piles are never far. This is also coming into the autumn harvest time. After the crops have been taken from the fields the manure is spread on the fields as fertilizer for next years crops. The piles of “country perfume” are spread out over large fields…mmm, mmm, good!
I have also noticed we are starting to see some familiar faces again. My Canadian flag sewn to my backpack tips my nationality off to all. Today I met Harold and Lisa from Gaspé, and Mary and Cathy from Waterloo. It is customary to exchange stories from the trail….who was sick when, who suffered from what, what Albergue was the worst….. I notice people seldom ask “so why are you doing this?” at this point in the walk. Perhaps it is a matter of overload. Why are you walking is really not important, this is poignant and significant once you have walked 700 or so kilometres. Mary said Sean and Maria from South Africa say “hello”. It’s so nice to hear from our extended family. These are some of the wonderful postcards you can receive on the Camino.
Just when you think you have seen it all…..you haven’t. Today while passing a small farm area an ostrich was pruning itself beside the trail behind a fence. Quite odd, quite unexpected……
We came across one of the concrete trail markers with 100 written on it. As this was a significant mile marker we took photos of each other. Susan felt this wasn’t much of a display for something as meaningful as 100 kilometres to go….and she was right. About 100 metres further down the trail we came across the real 100 km post. This marker was covered with “pilgrim debris”. Nick knacks, flags, stones, and ribbons. Picture time all over again.
I met up with Susan and Bene again at a small bar for lunch. We had never been too far apart all morning. Steve and Ann, my roomates from Orisson joined us. Ann has been suffering a painful issue but was continuing on. Our arrival dates in Santiago should coincide…nice.
Our credentials stamped, we start down the path again with Portomarin as our destination tonight.
Music up, feet get me movin’.
I arrive in Portomarin just before three. The entry to the town is over a bridge spanning a river valley. This valley is perhaps 700 metres wide at the bridge. An old Roman bridge is still seen very, very far below. If you suffer any form of vertigo don’t look down. My pack raises my centre of gravity well above the short railing, and the strong wind is pushing me toward the edge. I wonder if anyone has gone over…… what a nasty thought.
The valley is covered by a rich green mosaic of grasses, shrubs, and trees. The lazy wide river is a reminder of why this valley exists. It is easy to imagine how this river cut the valley out of the rock.
I decide to wait for Susan and Bene as neither of these two had their phone on. Before long I can see them turn the corner and start down the bridge. I am fascinated how I am able to spot them at such a distance. Maybe it’s the colours of the clothes, the way they walk….. but there they are, plain as day. Those two little spots, way far away.
We check into a private Albergue, decide wash can wait, and head up for a small bite. We are joined by Harold and Lisa. Shortly after Sean and Maria walk in and we spend an hour or so chatting over beer, wine, cheese and sliced meats.