Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not just another day on the trail

Hello, everyone.

When we left off with the Camino, we had stopped for the night at Paloma Y Lerma, a wonderful albergue some 6 km. short of Sarria.

Sarria is a decent-sized town. According to the Brierly map book, it has more residents than Astorga. Sarria is livelier, though. It's also a key point on the Camino route: it is just outside of the 100 kilometer distance circle from Santiago.
Cool shells in the railing along the river

It was around 8 in the morning. Not a lot of folks were in the old town area at that time.

Mosaic pavement at entrance to the Mercedarian (or Trinitarian?) monastery in Sarria


Why does that matter? Because a walking pilgrim must walk the last 100 km into Santiago to get a certificate from the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago. (Obviously, many people walk farther than that!)

People start walking the Camino Frances in different places. We started in St. Jean, in the French Pyrenees. Some people start from Roncesvalles, the monastery just on the Spanish side of the border along the trail. Others start in Leon, or Pamplona. And a great collection of folks with not very much time to invest in the pilgrimage start out in Sarria.

This produces a change in the atmosphere along the trail, as student groups on their school break and older ladies' caffeeklatsches join up, full of energy and talk, and enjoy their healthful walk in the countryside. Sometimes they leave their luggage on a bus and walk for an hour or so, to experience the path, then after their meal break they get back on the bus and go on. The pilgrim who has been walking for weeks finds himself tempted to resent this--he begins to think that these other folks aren't really pilgrims, because they're not quiet, they're not working as hard, and basically they aren't approaching it the same way he does.

We don't own the Camino. (I refuse to speculate about the inverse.)

We are where we are on the Camino because it's where we, personally, need to be. Presumably the noisy kids who are calling back and forth and blocking the path and spreading out all over the road (when the path is on the road) are where they personally need to be also. But I confess that I found it very tiring to be enveloped by the teenagers--we started calling them the Children's Brigade--who acted like teenagers on school break always do.

 After we passed through Sarria, we passed through many villages, and along many, many cow paths, and eventually reached the town of Portomarin. (27 km for the day) This town is on a hill, overlooking a wide river and a bridge. We stopped in Portomarin at our usual time--about 2:30 pm--and were glad to call it a day. We did see other folks, later in the day, who hadn't stopped until almost 6 in the afternoon, and they were having a lot of trouble finding a place to sleep. The influx of new pilgrims at the final part of the Camino means that there is a lot more competition for the available beds.
The church in Portomarin. If I remember correctly, it was moved uphill to keep it from being flooded when they built a dam on the river, and reassembled in its new site.
During our walk that day, we had gone up and down many hills, and through many woodlots, and over many rocky spots on the trails. The slopes didn't bother us nearly as much any more. And since we'd passed Sarria that day, we knew we were close to the end.
Crossing the bridge to Portomarin.