Madrid Camino Day 28 – Sarria to Portomarin

Fri, Jun 2, 2017

It took seven hours to walk 24 kms today amidst a sea of people. I had a very hard time adjusting to the crowds – so many people begin their Camino in Sarria every day. Tour groups, school trips, day trippers, and bus tours – and all smelling so good!

Plenty of Canadians, Americans, Italians and Spaniards all starting their Camino today. There is excitement in the air. Many folks are carrying tiny day packs with little more than a camera and bottle of water, having shipped their regular backpacks ahead to meet them at their destination at day’s end. At the beginning of the day, people were walking fast and talking animatedly, dozens of them overtaking me in the first two hours. Then came the hills. And valleys.  And cow dung. And sun. Soon, I was calmly strolling past many of those same people who were now sitting trail-side with blank stares, or tending to bad blisters, or stopping to call rural taxis. It’s easy to spot the ‘road hardened’ pilgrims with their faded clothing, backpacks adorned with drying laundry, worn boots, and keeping a steady pace. And sometimes by their aroma!

Of course, everyone along the road today was very nice and cheerful.

Old signs often half-hidden

The scenery was beautiful as always – farms, cows, flowers and old decrepit buildings. Remnants of the ancient Camino linger if you keep a sharp eye. I managed to walk alone as the day progressed by eventually finding a gap in the crowds – the trough between the waves – and much of the walk was quite lovely.

As usual, astounding scenery

I’m in Portomarin – a town they literally moved stone by stone to higher ground when a dam was built and the valley flooded. There is a new bridge over where the town used to be and on a clear day, when the water is low, you can still see some structures underwater that were left behind. As the day drew to a close, there were people taking a refreshing swim at the end of their walk. Too cold for me! I stopped to ask directions at a small bakery and was given a bag of baked goodies as a gift along with a heartfelt wish for a Buen Camino. I love the generosity one encounters in so many little corners of the world – it restores one’s faith in people everywhere.

The famous bridge into Portomarin

Plenty of loud young pilgrims in my hostel tonight with, sadly, little sense of etiquette – obviously their first night on the trail. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old pilgrim, I sure hope they stay sober and get to bed at a civilized hour!