The Way of St James, Sarria to Portomarin

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May 25th 2016
Published: May 25th 2016
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Camino muralCamino muralCamino mural

Down beside the stream running through Sarria, and depicting the trials and tribulations of centuries of pilgrims.
Walked from Alex and Jill's place to the bus stop. Something of a rush because the bus driver decided to leave 5 mins early. A beautiful sunny day in London. We took freeways across town to Stansted airport for our Ryan Air flight. Catherine had a minor hassle getting through security because they were concerned she had something more than 100 mls of liquid. Debate come down to whether stick deodorant could be counted as liquid or solid. Sheesh! Onto the flight which was pretty full. Coming into Santiago de Compostela airport we could see the rolling green hills of Galicia and while cumulus clouds. Great walking weather.

During the flight an English woman was sitting next to us. She was also planning to travel to Sarria, and had organised a taxi. We asked if we could tag along. The alternative was three buses because it was a Sunday evening. She agreed and we shared the ride in a very recent model car all the way through to Sarria. Mind you given that it took us about 2 hours to get to Sarria, we were pretty clear on just how far this walk is to be. We were taken directly
Cobble stones in SarriaCobble stones in SarriaCobble stones in Sarria

...and in the other villages of Galicia
to the street of our little hotel, which is directly beside the Camino. Sarria is a quaint little town where the little cottages have slate slab roofs. After settling in, we walked down beside the stream to where there was a line of bars. Our new found friend Jane was there with husband Paul and friends from the Way. Paul and his mate Hugh have been walking for several months as an early retirement treat. Over a few beers they told us about the camaraderie of the Camino and the many ways that people spontaneously help out others on the trip. Paul a nurse, and Hugh a priest have been helping out with a range of physical and mental therapies for fellow travellers. We ended up having dinner with the group including folks from France and Denmark. The little Cafes provide set menus for pilgrims which are normally enormous, simple and set at about the E10 mark. Nice evening and then the sack, fueled by jet lag and Rioja.

Lovely quiet night despite being in the centre of town. Camino pilgrims starting coming past in the early hours just before dawn, and continued all day long. We took a rest day to prepare for the trek and to enjoy the ambiance of the place. Started with a walk up the stairs through the village and up to the plateau where there was a ruined medieval castle and a monastery. After being chased out of the courtyard of the monastery by an officious fellow, we circled back down into town. We wanted to see the place, but also secure the official Camino certificate. This gets stamped by various businesses in the town and allows one to claim the credential and memento at the end of the trip. The weather started out cold and overcast but the sun burned all that off by 10. We discovered we needed to return to the Monastery in order to get this credential, so we completed another lap of the city including a stair climb. Catherine sat beside the Monastery for an hour or so reading while Greg enjoyed some sketching time. Lunch was at a little cafe where the local ham was magnificent and the Galician beer memorable. We spent some time back in the hotel before setting off for dinner, higher up in the town, along the Camino. The hotelier was very friendly and helpful: She should be because her prices are well out of line with the market price set by the albergues: theirs E10 versus hers at E50. Still a premium can be extracted through a private bathroom and only two people in the room! Dinner was a passable paella up near the main church and touristic area, and then gelato down near the stream. All very pleasant. The sun finally went down at about 2000 and the twilight persisted until after 2100.

We woke with the first of the pilgrims exiting at about 0430. Somehow this seemed a bit extreme, but we were up only one hour later. Quick breakfast and we were out and onto the Way by 0630. The sun was not yet up, and the roosters were still crowing. It must have been below 10C but it was dry. None of the cafes were open yet but there were plenty of pilgrims walking. We climbed out of the town and up onto the trail. The path through the town was really well lit. Catherine had just bought two new walking sticks and so was experimenting a bit. Greg was on the look out for deer or
Joys of beerJoys of beerJoys of beer

A nice little Galician lager in Sarria before the start of the Camino
some other wildlife. The first creek was crossed by a low stone bridge and this set the scene for the rest of the walk.

Up and down through pine forests, eucalyptus plantations and lush fern gardens. The weather remained dry though clouds were gathering. The interesting thing was to walk on ancient trails beside modern rail lines and under highly suspended autobahns. Still it is possible to escape the accoutrements of modern living and still appreciate the simpler things. The trees lining the path were heavily stunted, it appeared due to repeated tough pruning over many years. We climbed steadily through most of the morning. There were lots of pilgrims on the trail and we were not the slowest, though we are also far from the fastest on the trail. In places the rivulets would run directly down the path and we would rock hop. In other places the path had been paved with stones and these we pretty slippery. The new walking poles came in handy. The path was also lined with massive displays of wild flowers in blue, yellow and white. The paddocks themselves were often bathed in purple - not sure if this is Patterson's Curse?
Medieval streetsMedieval streetsMedieval streets

Sarria, Galicia
The trail reached a peak somewhere near Ferreiros where we were still 98 km out from Santiago De Compostela.

The village buildings were everything from modern, cantelevered, minimalist styles to traditional stone farm houses with slab slate roofs. The Camino winds its way through dozens of little village, past dairies and piggeries, ploughed fields and medieval chapels. The "Horreos" are a distinctive feature of Galicia and are store grain stores. Most houses have a least one, and some seem more like religious buildings than functional agricultural buildings.

The trail itself is very well marked with yellow arrows and formal trail markets with distances from Santiago de Compostela measured down to the metre! We are yet to discover whether this measurement is directly to the centre of the cathedral or some other place. Still it gives us a great sense of progress and unresolved challenge. Going down was pretty easy though some passing showers had refilled all the rivulets and we were rock hopping down the hill. Portomarin was visible from the peak of the trail but the path took more or less a straight line to get there.

A day or so earlier, our friends had told us about the website, which allows one to book ahead from the available albergues. Friends had explained that the convergence of many pilgrimage trails means that there are lots of people competing for the first-come-first-serve bed space. We had booked a place just over the lake and on the outskirts of Portomarin. Feeling a bit worse for wear, we climbed the steps into the town and turned only a lovely little terrace overlooking the lake. The Albergue Ferramenteiro was clear and efficiently run - and has 130 beds. We were interested to see how the night would go. Hopefully better than our night at the range station in Costa Rica, where people were departing from their tents at 0230!

Additional photos below
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Casanova Casanova

A little village on the Camino

25th May 2016

A great route march eh!. If you were a centipede you would have 100 feet to ache. Ha ha.
26th May 2016

What a challenge this walk is!
Hi Cath and Greg. What an amazing thing to do - but then again you two do amazing things together. Looking forward to pictures and the continuing saga. Take care Ed xx
26th May 2016

What a coincidence...
I'll be walking the Way in September. Buen Camino!
27th May 2016

It is as described...
EVen though there are lots of people walking beside us, the camaraderie is as described and we are really enjoying the walks. The Albergues are a treat: taking some bad against a lot of good.
27th May 2016

Who so beset him round with dismal stories Do but themselves confound - his strength the more is. No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight, He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.
31st May 2016

...To be a pilgrim.
Yes Dad that particular hymn has a great deal more meaning for us now that we have completed the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. We spent yesterday in the cathedral that was built over many centuries to celebrate and venerate the remains of Saint James, but also to accomodate the spiritual needs of millions of Christian pilgrims. We have been to Rome, but this place demonstrates the significance of shared faith more clearly. One day soon we will go to Jerusalem to complete the three major pilgrimages. More soon...

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