Day 29 — New walking partner
We woke up early ready for our march. We said good bye to the friendly Sarria in the dark and strolled on. The day rest was fantastic for my leg, I was able to walk without limping, albeit trying to be careful. I had my walking stick with me and was learning how to use it. On the path outside of Sarria I saw a little bird greeting the new day singing cheerfully. I took it as a good sign. After that I heard the ominous sound of crows as if from a horror movie. Oh no, bad omen! I shared my thoughts with Martin, who said: “today all creatures dead or alive are good omens!”. Great, relax Dorota. No bad omens today!
The walk in the red hew of the rising sun was delicious. Words cannot describe the beauty of a springtime dawn. I took some photos to remind myself how spectacular it looked, but the camera’s pixels can’t capture the full emotion of the moment. It may not have been as spectacular as the northern lights but is still up there in the natural miracles league table and is available every day without travelling hundreds of miles.
Soon we were joined by other pilgrims taking photos and enjoying their early walk. We stopped for the first coffee on the approach to Barbadelo. I went to order coffee and croissant and was second in queue behind a friendly looking lady in pink t-shirt and small hiking skirt. “I will have this one” — she said with her Australian accent pointing at a pastry — “whatever it is, but it looks nice” — she gave me a friendly smile and that’s when we clicked. “Whatever it is” is my phrase, I use it a lot. We started talking. She also had problems with her shins, so we exchanged some practical solutions to our problem. She sat at the next table and we chatted. Her name was Yvonne and we immediately felt like we knew each other for ages and it was only natural that from then on we walked together. Later on we discovered that she was also Pisces and was born a day after our birthday! (Martin and I are twins being born on the same day :) So we were all March babies, gentle, friendly creatures. Must be the reason why we got on so well!
We encountered an interesting place on our way. A donativo lunch bar set up on a farm, where you chose your food and drink and pay for it as much as you think it was worth. The home made pastries and flans were delicious, the place soon filled up with hungry pilgrims.
It was a lovely walk, I was so relieved that my shins didn’t give me too much hassle. Soon we passed the 100 km to Santiago mark! We’ve almost made it. Funny that some people start from here, it is their first day. For them it’s an achievement to walk for 100 km. I guess in normal circumstances that would be my thing too, but now, after walking for 700 K, the last 100 was just a walk in the park!
I must say that this stage from Sarria is different. You walk constantly (apart from the early morning hike) in company of other pilgrims. They are behind you, in front of you, overtaking you sometimes not even saying hello, or “buen camino”! Many of them walk in big organised groups, with their little day packs. I could sense the different feel to this walk. Much more commercialised. Also due to such a huge number of walkers there are much more albergues and cafes, even in this crowd you will find a space to sleep even without pre-booking. I don’t know how it is in summer, we walked in early spring, in summer the amount of pilgrim must double! I just cannot imagine what this must be like. I guess you constantly walk in a crowd, being pushed and shoved by others and struggling to free yourself from this sea of walkers when you want to have a breather. Like a human motorway with traffic jam.
We were looking at this freshly booted, clean clothed tourists with some disdain. There was a bit of Camino snobbery going on.
We reached Portomarin, where we wanted to stay for the night. Found a nice, not very crowded albergue and after a quick shower went to get some food. Portomarin is a nice town you approach from the bridge over the Rio Mino. The original town was flooded due to the construction of the dam and many buildings were relocated to their current place stone by stone. This includes the historic iglesia de San Juan, which now stands in the middle of the main square, some distance above the river. If I was moving it I would’ve placed it closer to the picturesque blue river with green hills in the background. Apparently you can usually see the sunken city sticking out of the river, but I guess the water level was high, as I wasn’t able to see anything.
We spent a pleasant evening eating our ensalada mixta and chatting with Yvonne. She told us about her lovely family whom she missed, but she took this time off , for the first time in her life, to do something totally for herself, be by herself, cope by herself. And she was doing a good job!