When we left Sarria this morning, it was a somewhat cloudy day and nice and cool. That was soon to change, and that wasn’t the only thing. As we left our Albergue, following the arrows to the trail, we realized we weren’t the only people out here. Loads of people were on the trail as well. Some church groups, some school groups, but the main thing was, just a lot more people. Sarria is just beyond 100 kilometers from Santiago, and that is the minimum distance to receive a compostela – the certificate of completion of your pilgrimage from the Catholic church. So lots of people who want that paper come here for it. It’s isn’t wrong – everybody walks their own Camino and some people can only afford so much time off – but the people who have been on the trail for a long time don’t love the change. Bars are crowded. Beds are hard to come by. People stay out very late; it’s a bit more of a party atmosphere. The solitude and strong emotional connections walkers have made over the last month don’t happen as much at this stage. It’s nearly unanimous for the walkers from St. Jean; this is their least favorite portion of the Camino.
Personally, I think it is different. I didn’t love the crowds in the morning. But they spread out by late AM and it wasn’t a huge issue. But that might be the luck of the draw, there is clearly a larger amount of people on the trail by a factor of at least eight.
We did have a beautiful walk today, even though it got hot. we walked by a couple of family cemeteries, and the below church with its New Orleans-style crypts. It did get rough in the last couple kilometers, when the shade went away.
But Portomarin itself is gorgeous. We walked across a lengthy bridge and climbed some brutally steep steps before we got to our albergue.
A large church that looks like a castle is outside our room. There is a nice open plaza where we had some ice cream and ran into Brantley, a Bucknell religious studies professor, and old friends Margherite and Alessandro from Italy. We put names to faves for Herb from Pittsburgh and Adrian and Ingrid from Holland. The Bucknell group is a kick in the pants; they’re a lively bunch and ask many questions. And what a great place to study religion and Spanish. And I met Nanette from Holland. We had a couple beers ($2.40 each!!!) while Paula was resting in our room. She’s a real-life marionette operator who has a theater in Amsterdam and she’s also a drama therapist. A drama therapist uses puppets to speak to children who are in therapy and have usually suffered great emotional trauma. Her Camino includes several more days of walking; conversely, Paula and I are at four.
Also, we ran into Maria from Germany several times today. She’s kind of an enigma. Knows seemingly everybody on the Camino. Walks very fast and for very long stages, but also smokes like a fiend and takes multiple long food breaks throughout the day. We really like her a lot. Everybody walks their own Camino!
Tomorrow is on to Palas de Rei, about 24 up-and-down kilometers and it should be warm again. Hoping for some shade. Buen Camino
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