Day 22: O’Cebreiro – Sarria: 24.5 miles
Saturday, October 1, 2016: Departed: 7:00am, Arrived 5:00pm
My morning started with discovering a fresh round of bedbug bites on my shoulder and forehead (I think the albergue pillow was the culprit). Just when I felt like the blisters and sore spots on my feet were healed, and I was getting over my cold, this pest has turned up again. It seems you can count on some ailment or physical nuisance every day. Despite that, our journey on the Camino today, in terms of weather and scenery was my favorite thus far, after the beautiful trek over the Pyrenees on Day 1. We started in the dark, and in a mist, from the high mountain ridge, and as we hiked progressively down, a mix of ups and downs, the sun came out and started to clear the mist away, but left it in valley pockets through mid-morning. It made for spectacular views. If I’m not mistaken, this region Galicia has a name derived from the Gauls, much like the Gaelic (Scotch – Irish) driven to the further reaches of the Roman Empire. The region does feel “Irish” not just in the abundant use of stone in the architecture, but in the landscape which is much greener and moister than previous Camino regions. We descended into the valleys below throughout the morning, bottoming out at Triacastela, and enjoying a very nice sit-down lunch stop, something we haven’t done much of since we’ve often done short stops or grab and go snacks.
We continued in the afternoon up and around some tributary valleys with a mix a fields devoted to either cattle or crops. While the villages were nothing spectacular, apart from the extensive use of natural stone, I enjoyed that they felt much more “lived in” than some of seemingly vacated villages we passed earlier in the Camino. Locals were about various chores; the streets scattered with fresh manure, tractors were running. This was a nice stretch of the Camino that was largely quiet backroads and entrenched dirt roads, sheltered from direct sun by a canopy of flanking trees and stone walls, so it made for a tranquil walk, made even more tranquil by the absence of other pilgrims doing our longer than average walk. We actually hadn’t planned on going so far today. We had our sights set on an albergue that a friend had recommended in the country, but when we showed up, it was closed / booked up for private wedding party. So we were forced to walk another several miles to Sarria to find lodging. So we ended up doing 2 of the guide book stages back to back in one day.
On the way into Sarria, we ran into our friends Magnus and Roxanna and walked into town together and ended up getting lodging in the same Hostal Escalinata, and going out to dinner on the main street for the Pilgrim’s menu. We ended up getting a private room (shared bath) as we’re both ready for a solid night’s sleep without the distractions of other pilgrims, who we both delight in and distance ourselves from, depending what quantity you find them in. One of the reasons we favored the private room tonight is Sarria is the last place on the Camino that you can walk it and still get the Credencial certificate of doing the Camino (it’s just over 100 kilometeres away from Santiago). So Sarria is where many of the “one week” pilgrims come and start the Camino, and where you’re more apt to see package tour groups doing the Camino. We’re reminding ourselves not to become Camino snobs who look down on other pilgrims who aren’t doing “our” Camino, or walking slower, in big groups, staying in hotels and having their bags shuttle to each stop. We should appreciate each person’s Camino they are able to do, but for tonight, a little bit of privacy is nice before we get mixed into their masses.
While we’ve encountered a few bus groups on segments of the Camino, so far it has been almost exclusively an independent endeavor of individuals, couples, or small groups of friends and family. I’m very happy to be doing it with Kim, to have someone to share the experience with, and to continue to reflect on it together once it’s over. Although, if I were single, it would still be very fun and perhaps even more of an adventure meeting people. Last night over dinner, several of us were recounting when we had seen couples showing public displays of affection (holding hands, cuddling). The initial assumption was they were an established couple, but upon talking with them, we learn they from different countries and met on the Camino, and maybe aren’t even walking the same pace from day to day. So we figured, “new love” is more public than old love. Around the table, we were asked how we met our significant other, and when Kim and I said we’d been together for a year and half, they said we were still “new” enough to show love on the Camino. We have held hands while walking a number of times, often initiated by Kim. But for the last weeks, she has watched me pee on the side of the trail and innumerable times do the “farmer’s blow” and fling snot from my nose with my bare fingers, with nowhere to wash them. So she hasn’t been so keen on holding hands lately. But we try to remind ourselves to show affection and touch, which actually has not been that natural thing on the Camino: We’re walking all day in public, maintaining each other’s personal space, pace, and bodily emissions. Navigating that together is probably a greater expression of love than outward public affections.