Day 35- October 17, 2017
Sarria to Portomarin, Spain
Leaving Sarria just before 8am I did not need to follow someone with a flashlight. The mountains are behind me now so the sun rises just after 8:30 in the morning. Dawn provides me with enough to see sufficiently, especially while I am still in the city. As I 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.
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 kilometer. (With the distance to Santiago indicated)
The scenery is magnificent. It has the same feel as back home in central Virginia. 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.
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 I 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…..
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 me, but for now no rain.
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.
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……
I came across one of the concrete trail markers with 100 written on it. As this was a significant mile marker, a display for something as meaningful as 100 kilometers to go….put a smile on my face.
With a picture taken, I start down the path again with Portomarin as my destination tonight.
I arrive in Portomarin just before three. The entry to the town is over a bridge spanning a river valley. This valley is perhaps 2000 feet wide at the bridge. An old Roman bridge is still seen very, very far below. If you suffer any form of height issues don’t look down. My pack raises my center 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 check into a Albergue, decide wash can wait, and head up for a small bite.
A typical camino entrance to a village
Day 38-October18, 2017
Portomarin To Ligonde, Spain
The road out of Portomarin is a typical “lung buster”. A rather comfortable decent for 10 minutes on roadway immediately followed by 45 minutes of a dirt and rock steep ascent. First thing in the morning….really? This is no way to meet the new day in my mind. When I started out the door of the albergue the temperature was brisk. My plan was to wear 3 layers, and gradually remove layers as needed. (shirt, jacket, rain jaclet) I was quite comfortable as I began. Climbing up this hill I immediately stripping down to my shirt, I’m already sweating buckets. My progress is slow.
The trail levels out and I am starting to feel better. The rain is just starting now and forecast for rain all day.
Yesterday I arrived in town just as the rain started. Great timing had saved me a lot of discomfort. The sky today doesn’t look much better but there are some dark thundering looking clouds in the area. I’m sure we all hope this holds off.
Within 20 minutes I am shuffling to get my rain gear on. This requires me to take my pack off, pull out my rain jacket, put the pack back on, then a rain cover over my backpack. Thankfully I had worn my rain pants as a thermal layer on my legs. After about 15 minutes of drizzle the real rain began. I have 6.5 km to go before any services are available. ( bar, restaurant, toilet….) There noticeably more people on the trail since Sarria and the “New Kids” look so fresh compared to the “Old Timers.”
The last time I had used my rain jacket, was on day 2, going across the Pyrenees.
I was walking through a downpour. The trail was now a gradual and consistent uphill slope. This was easy to appreciate because of the stream of water flowing toward me under foot.
It was a couple of hours before I came to a roadside rest stop. The proprietor was all business. Don’t ask questions, just tell me what you want. The rain was getting heavier and very few pilgrims were passing this opportunity by. Soon the small shop and tarpaulin covered annex were jammed with people. Oddly I don’t remember anyone complaining.
Hot chocolate, bananas, yogurt,….I was ordering it all, watching the rain all the time. After almost an hour it was apparent, the rain was here to stay. Everything back on, and I was again into it.
I have less than 75km to Santiago. The way is predictable at this point….or so it appears. The common wisdom is to arrive in Santiago City before 11 am and go straight to the cathedral for the morning mass. This is the mass where the monks swing the big incense burner. (The word is this is only performed on special occasions. I am thinking the pot won’t be swinging)
In this deluge of rain it seems an excellent reason to hold up in Ligonde.
No internet and only one place to eat. The Albergue on the other hand, although cramped, was modern and very clean.