Friday, October 28, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 27--Aguiada to Portomarin

Day 27 of the Camino--and it felt like we were getting close! I loved this day on the Camino.

I woke up, slathered on Icyhot, mummified myself in athletic tape, and said goodbye to the lovely hostel in Aguiada. It was only 5 kilometers to Saria, so I figured I'd have breakfast there.

The five early morning kilometers into Saria were beautiful and even the giant staircase I had to climb to make it into town couldn't get me down.

{As an aside: I absolutely loved these flowers, which were everywhere for weeks.}

{Buenos dias, Saria!}

Saria is the main starting point for pilgrims who only walk the last 100 kilometers of the Camino (which is the official amount you must walk to receive your Compostela in Santiago). On one hand I was a bit apprehensive of Saria and these new pilgrims--I'd heard that the hostels can get really full, and that the fresh and often noisy new pilgrims can drive the long range pilgrims crazy. On the other hand I was really excited to make it to Saria. That meant I was getting close to Santiago!

{Camino mural}

When I made it to the town's church I put down my walking stick and bag to have a peak inside. The bells were ringing for mass to begin, so I pulled out my pilgrim's passport and gave myself a stamp from the church and decided to be on my way. Standing outside the church doors putting my bag back on an older woman asked me if I was a pilgrim. I told her Pamplona when she asked me where I started and she was visibly amazed. Que valiente!, she told me. Then she stopped another woman coming in to tell her that I had walked all the way here from Pamplona. Before I knew it they were both oohing and awing over me and my pilgrimage. I was amazed at how amazed they were, but I have to admit--It made me feel really good.

I kind of wondered if the people closer to Santiago would be more hardened to the pilgrims. I imagined that the more pilgrims you saw each day, the less you would care about them. I was wrong though. Maica had told me that the people in Galicia were special--that they spoke with a lot of cariño (care/sweetness)--and (like usual) she was right.

As soon as I made it down the stairs of the church I ran into an old man who was eager to talk to me and wish me a buen Camino as well. Saria was turning out to be even more lovely than I imagined!

In a great mood I climbed up the hill where I saw two other pilgrims clack, clack, clacking their walking sticks ahead of me. Wait a minute...

I left my walking stick in the door of the church! While this meant that I had to double back and climb the hill again, I took it as a good sign--I had been in a lot of pain the day before and that morning, so if I climbed a hill without even missing my walking stick, I must've been feeling better. Or it least in a great mood. : ) I saw Grandpa still standing outside the church, and we chatted again a bit before I climbed back up the hill and stopped at an old cafe along the mainstreet to have a cafe con leche and piece of tortilla de patatas for breakfast. More lovely people--the water was a young Peruvian girl who called me amiga and cut me the largest slice of tortilla I've ever seen. As I finished my breakfast I noticed a familiar backpack at the cafe across the road--It was my friends from Sevilla!

After breakfast I made my way up the hill that is the city, stopping every few steps to take a picture. As I stopped and went I kept passing and being passed by a street sweeper. As I stopped to take a picture of a little church he asked me if I'd like my picture taken. How nice!

So much cariño!
I love nice people. 
And street sweepers.

{An old prison}

111 Kilometers to go!

There was a monastery on the outskirts of town. A biker I'd been passing tipped me off that there was a nice stamp inside. In a good mood, and not in any particular hurry, I stopped. They were doing some sort of construction/renovation work, but I smiled and asked nicely and they let me poke around.  

The nice cloister 

One of the guys in charge told me that I could go in the church if I wanted to: 

So, in light of the wonderful morning, I sat for a while and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and for the rest of my journey, and for all the lovely people I'd met along the way. 

Just outside the monastery, as I crossed an old stone bridge, I met a man on a horse. He greeted me and asked if I would mind taking his picture. Afterward he took off his hat, bowed his head and disappeared again. If it hadn't been for the camera I might have doubted whether or not he was real. 

It was all countryside for a while after that. As I approached a church I caught a whiff of perfume. There was a small group of older ladies walking in front of me. I had been trying to decide if they were walking the Camino or not, but they smelled too good to be pilgrims. Perfume was not a luxury anyone carried with them on the Camino, and well, pilgrims are kind of stinky. It struck me so that I couldn't help mentioning to the women how good they smelled (I'm so awkward, I know!). Turns out they are driving the Camino as their husbands walk it. Every once in a while they stop and take in the sights. Also, they all happened to be from Santander--the city in northern Spain I lived in! We went in the church together, then they were off. 

My faithful companions waiting outside the church

From there it was more beautiful countryside dotted with Romanesque chapels

A WOLF! Except it turned out to be just a dog. A scary looking dog. Which turned out to be friendly. (But don't think I wasn't ready to throw rocks)

Taking a rest. 

I carried that reusable shopping bag with me the entire time. It's purposes were endless. Mostly I used it as a weightless purse in the evenings for carrying valuables around town. It was also great for sitting on when the ground was damp or muddy. Despite it's merits my friend Maica cringed every time she saw it or heard it crinkling as I walked through cathedrals. 

These old fashioned corn cribs are ALL OVER the Galician small towns

KILOMETER 100!!!!!
Oh yes, I had my own little private dance party when I got there! : )

Crossing the bridge into Portomarin. It was scary. It was a big and sturdy bridge, but my-oh-my was it high. 

And of course. At the end of the day there was always a giant staircase. 

The main church in Portomarin

Same church from a distance--it's kind of a unique looking church for Spain

A small Romanesque church in town

After having a look at the churches around town I accepted Juanma and Maica's offer of an afternoon coffee. We sat in a cafe where I unwittingly won the affection of our Moroccan waiter (ha, those middle aged Arab guys love me!). He tested my French, Arabic and English, and ran down the street after us (to Juanma's delight!) to get my contact information. Sigh. 

We stopped at the grocery store to stock up on snacks and to get a few things to cook dinner. We got back to the municipal hostel and started to cook. I went to get a pan out of the cabinets to find: 

That's right. Not a single pot, pan, knife--nothing. Inconvenient. 
But also hilarious.

It took some ingenuity to get dinner cooked, but we met a lot of nice people (even Puerto Ricans!) and had a great evening of conversation. 

Oh, and you know what else the hostel was missing? Shower curtains. Because the restrooms were separated between men and women it wasn't such a big deal, but it became apparent that, paradoxically, the closer you got to Santiago...the more things that were missing from the albergues!

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