Thursday, 20 October 2016

Camino Day 9 - misty forests to Barbadelo

After an excellent sleep at our municipal hostel in Triacastela, we made it through the town and up a steep climb in the early light of morning. We chose to do the route via San Xil, which has more 'natural pathways' and less tar than the Samos route.

For much of today we walked through forests veiled in mist. Peregrinos ahead of us would be gobbled up ahead while those behind would suddenly emerge. Add huge trees and you get quite a magical experience.

The first section passed really quickly as we worked our way through quiet and sleepy hamlets. There weren't many early locations for a coffee stop so it was only when we got to the village of Pintín that we stopped.

This is cattle farming area - dairy definitely and probably beef. There are lots of bright green fields and stone walls as well as a very cattle scent in the air.

Much of the next section offered more downhill, which mom is really not enjoying.

By early afternoon we had reached the big town of Sarria (13,800 population). We first walked through a newer part of the town first and then into an older section. Mom stayed at a café for a drink while I hit the town to find a farmacia to get mom a compression thing for her thigh muscle. I walked the town flat and found four pharmacies. Only one had an adjustable knee support, which I got for her. It helps a great deal.

30 minutes later I got back to her and we headed the rest of the way through the old town, heading for the next village - Barbadelos. Actually, it barely is a village. No shops but there are three albergues and a big church. 

Every little settlement, even if it has two houses, one barn and a fuente (water fountain) has a church of some sorts. It really is quite incredible.

My foraging of chestnuts today was limited. I couldn't resist picking up a couple of big ol' delicious looking ones but as I have a bag of them stashed, I really don't need any more. Again, the place we're in has a decent kitchen - with not a single pot nor utensil. Tomorrow, perhaps.

I found a delicious red apple and we ate some honey-sweet figs this morning. I found a few blackberries here and there.

We're staying in the municipal albergue, which we wouldn't recommend. We have stayed in many of them and have had some excellent places, like last night in Triacastela. This one... no personality and one too many bunks (5 and there really shoukd only be 4) in this room.

Just up the road is a private albergue, Casa Carmen, which is a better option. For 10 € more it has more personality. Our friend, Ashala, got through here later than us but met us for dinner at Casa Carmen. We were also joined by our South Korean companion from the other night, Jun. He is absolutely charming and very funny. We had an excellent meal together.

Over these past few days we've made a number of friends - familiar and friendly faces who we see regularly throughout the day and share a word or two. We're all.on a similar schedule

Yesterday I made a new friend, James from San Diego.

We were on a downhill and I was walking with mom. James and another fellow (Italian) came past us and both guys were walking gingerly down and both had knee guards on their left knees. I watched how James was walking (the other guy had subsequently passed him) so I caught up to him and gave him some postural tips to relieve the pressure and impact of the descent on his knee. He tried it and off he went.

I saw him later again in the day and he gave me a big wave.

Today I was taking a photo of a cow and had just walked away. I turned to talk to mom and this guy had just arrived. He looks at me and says, "Lisa!". He smiled and as he approached he opened his arms wide to give me a hug.

"You saved me! Now I am walking just fine downhill how you showed me. I can walk anywhere!"

So sweet. Sometimes I waver, unsure whether to 'interfere' and say anything. If the person is someone like James, who tries it and it works, then my 'interference' is well worth it - 100 times over. It could be the difference between walking into Santiago after a month on the road or taking the bus.

Looking back through photos from today to choose some to post, I can hardly believe that some photos taken were only this morning. It feels like days ago, not just 12 hours ago. Time moves strangely here and the villages are very much a blur.

I make a point of photographing each village name so that I have a point of reference in my photo order.

Graffiti... There is a lot of graffiti around and there has been the whole way. I'm talking about graffiti written by peregrinos. It is usually on rocks and signs - usually a person's name and the year written in permanent marker.

Who goes on a pilgrimage with a permanent marker - premeditated graffiti? And why write on distance markers and rocks for hundreds of kilometres?

Yesterday (or the day before) we saw a name 'Julius' and '16 with a curly symbol written on a sign. I've now seen it dozens of times and sometimes just the curly symbol. Julius, if you ever read this, you're an idiot.

While the route has mostly been litter-free (with the exception of post-urination wipe-off toilet paper all over - disgusting!!!), this graffiti definitely counts as visual litter.

Tomorrow we have a short day - around 15km as we did an extra 4km today. Also? We'll be stopping about 2.5km before Portomarín to stay at an albergue run by a South African guy. My mom met him by chance in 2011 just as he was setting up his albergue (it wasn't open yet). It is listed in the new edition of the guidebook and I've left a message on his phone to say we'll be coming.

Tomorrow morning we'll hit the '100km to Santiago' mark (currently at 107.5km). I said to mom today that I'll need to return to do the section from St Jaume to León to be able to properly have 'done the Camino'.

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