Portomarin to Melida

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May 27th 2016
Published: May 31st 2016
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We enjoyed the evening and night in the large Albergue in Portomarin, although we had had a few doubts. The Albergue had an extensive communal kitchen and dining area and a pleasant ambiance. The pilgrims were of all ages and languages, though to be fair there was no one who appeared to be a Muslim on this primarily Christian or Heathen pilgrimage. Plenty of boy meets girl for lone travelers and laughter and skylarking within large walking groups. The Albergue itself overlooked one of the arms of the man-made lake and onto the Camino heading west. The dam was a relatively recent addition to the landscape. The earlier town had been flooded in the 60s and the historical buildings moved brick by brick to the new location. Greg sat and sketched outside the church which seemed like a cross between a battlement and a gothic cathedral.

Generally the night was good because pilgrims tended to be considerate. Nonetheless we were in a position to determine that neither of us can claim the world record for snoring volume: some contenders may have been in that Albergue. Earplugs were definitely necessary. Despite it being clearly forbidden by signage to move before 0700, lots of pilgrims risked everything and started departing before 0615. We were out and walking by 0630. The morning was cool and damp, but there was a lovely serenade of song birds in the pine and gum forests we wandered through. The moody mist was in the valley and the forests. We passed a very old, small church, which was still in use. The day started as it would finish with some people around us, mostly in singles or couples. Several stretches included what seemed to be a battalion of Spanish soldiers, walking briskly past us with standard issue blue tracksuit a and camo-coloured backpacks. Everyone was friendly and helpful if needs be. When the mist lifted the sun shone with the soft northern light. We walked with a cool breeze generally. Occasionally we had to suit up for light drizzle - nothing serious.

After a long steady climb for most of the morning, we came upon Castro de castromajor. This was a Roman settlement supported by a battlement and it dated back to between 4BC and about 40 AD. Situated at a high point, it gave the occupants visibility for 360 degrees, at a time when that was important. The village itself was less that one hectare in size but there was space we imagined to be market gardens or equivalent. The houses had been small, single roomed dwellings separated by primitive drainage systems. The only reason we were seeing them was because the original inhabitants took advantage of the abundant local slate and shale to construct the houses and lanes and to reinforce the terracing of the battlement. Amazingly not many of the pilgrims stopped to enjoy this. Wave after wave of them (us) continued trundling along the path which wound in an out of small villages, crossing roads and highways occasionally. After this point the Camino trail tended to be mostly down. We had planned for about 18 km this day which is fairly easy, and had booked ahead to a Albergue at Portos. It was great to turn around a non-descript corner and see it there. Much welcomed. This one was located at least 500 metres from any other Albergue or other building, so it was beautifully quiet. It consisted of bar, kitchen, two or three communal rooms and the laundry. Outside they fed the passing pilgrims, the flow of which dwindled after about 1800. Only the Lycra clad bicycling pilgrims blasting past after that time, and some pilgrims on horseback. We ended up sharing the eight bed room with one other couple.

After a quiet afternoon of pilates, drawing and onwards Albergue-booking, we were invited for communal dinner. The bar man served us three courses of lentil soup, pork steaks and salad, and commercial ice cream tubs. Hot drink if anyone wanted them. The house red wine went down well. Our dinner partners included: two brothers from the US (each with historical challenges) and near the end of a full Camino journey; a woman from Christmas Island who was travelling with the brothers after meeting at the Pyrenees, and a lady from Cape Town South Africa who was enjoying the freedom of being able to travel alone as a woman. Justifications for doing the Camino were for the brothers digging himself out of the funk of retirement and being so stressed out that the doctors thought he had a stroke or MS. The lady from Christmas Island had one and a half years to go until her boy finishes at Christmas Island secondary school. She was looking for what next? Along the path during the day, Catherine talked to a woman about her hope for her daughter to get pregnant, even though that daughter had serious health problems. Based on a photo presented on a backpack, someone else was walking for a lost son.

During the day we also saw little side tracks which were parts of the earlier Camino paths - called Camino "primative'. In modern times this means a path that is not quite so close to a road, but might also show the walker a particularly pretty babbling brooks and an old building of significance.

The night was very pleasant and punctuated by the occasional barking of the crazy dogs next door to the Albergue. All in our room started moving around at about 0615. The area was blanketed under thick fog. We opted for breakfast in-house which consisted of espresso coffee and a ham and cheese empanada for Greg, and cafe con leche and a croissant for Catherine. On the road by 0730 and walking through the fog, wearing wet weather gear to combat the dampness. Of course as the sun rose, the fog lifted. In the meantime we were able to capture some atmospheric photographs of arches of trees over the Camino or of old churchyards. Ultimately we were treated to a few hours of very few walkers. This came about because we had not chosen one of the larger centres to stay at, and hence the major bulk of walkers were either ahead of us, or behind us. For Greg this was a great time to spot wildlife like deer or rabbits, but none showed themselves. One of the joys of the Australian bush is spotting wallabies or kangaroos, and they are not that rare. We did see a stork foraging in a field which was pleasant.

Actually this next day turned out to be quite challenging. Only 18 kms but we were glad when it ended. Our final destination was to be Melida, a relatively large town. The trail leading into the town goes through an industrial estate and then down a forest trail with horses and a multitude of walkers. Each of us had joints that were feeling the strain of backpack and consistent walking. The trail crossed a lovely arched stone bridge and then up into Melida proper where octopus and chorizo seemed to be the order of the day. It took a bit of effort to find our Albergue which was well hidden on the opposite extreme of Melida. The room was already occupied by three rather surly German women by the time we arrived, and Catherine apparently committed the sin of queue jumping for the bathroom which increased the surliness. Greg enjoyed a snooze after the hard day's walking - no doubt further provoking surliness. Anyway we are lucky to be able to respond quickly after the physical exertion has stopped, so it wasn't long before we were out and about Melida. Soon we ran into Jane and Paul (from Sarria) again and subsequently enjoyed beers, pulpo (octopus) and later a Galicia mixed dinner with Serrano ham, local cheese (Ullao) salad, grilled small pimientos. Greg had decided his knee needed more that simple ignorance and so with Jane and Paul's help, both nurses it turned out, a new knee support was added to the kit. That and ibuprofen did wonders the next day.

It ended up being a long night as one of the surly German women snored like a trouper, and a group of cyclists decided that 2230 was a reasonable time to arrive and proceed to unpack, ablute, discuss all sorts of important things, and to rehearse "Riverdance" on the metal staircase. Oh the joys of Albergue travel!

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Castro de castromaiorCastro de castromaior
Castro de castromaior

Dating back to Roman times

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