A week into my Camino Sola I was sitting outside the Mirador, where I had arranged to have breakfast with A and B, only to find that two bus loads of teenagers had booked the entire café. Shame, because the view from there is spectacular as the sun rises and you can see the remains of the old town in the low waters. (Yes, I’m okay to watch it from that distance after the bridge fear has worn off.) So I sat outside and pilgrim watched with a coffee, seeing lots of familiar faces and pilgrims ready to go.
When we were all gathered and had been to the café next door to eat, we eventually started walking. Not always side by side, and not always talking, but each at her own speed, falling behind to remove layers, catching up and overtaking. We were prepared for the long stretch without food or water, so when we finally got to the first café we decided to take our time and have a spot of lunch. The sun was out, the café was full as it always is, and we were not the only ones reluctant to move on. I could easily have stayed there and just enjoyed the sun, the company, that whole Camino thing.
But the nature of the Camino thing is walking, and walk we did. It’s strange how sometimes when you know you have tens of kilometers to go, you avoid adding the extra hundred meters. When we got to a side road leading to Castromaior, our energetic Sarrian read the sign about the place – an important archaeological site on the Iberian peninsula – and told us it would add 400 meters to our journey. I have to admit B and I were reluctant to begin with: What was it? Would it be worth it? But come on, it’s 400 meters and an archaeological site! So off we went.
Our first thought was that all the 400 meters seemed to be going uphill. Our second was that no one else seemed to be doing this. Our third, as we got closer to the old fort site, was that they had an incredible view from here. Having recently been to Hadrian’s Wall I was getting a bit excited about seeing more old stone. And just outside the gate was the Spanish version of the Sycamore!
The whole site, the views, the well preserved walls and oddly shaped rooms in the fortress, the sense of history, was one of the highlights of this Camino. A true gift from our Sarrian! We didn’t stay there long, but when we left there were still no other pilgrims braving the extra distance – or maybe they just followed the arrows and didn’t read the signs. Next time I will go there again and spend more time, maybe read up more on it beforehand.
With the late start, the long lunch and the unexpected detour – plus a few pit stops along the way – it was getting quite late by the time we approached Palas de Rei. We were getting a bit worried about finding a place to stay, and the odds of being able to stay together were not good. As we stopped at A Brea I asked the barman if he knew a place that had rooms for three people, or somewhere that wouldn’t be full. Instead of throwing out names, he got on his phone and started calling places for us! The girls and I were discussing what we wanted while he did that, and agreed a private room would be great … but it soon became clear that everywhere was full. After a while he asked us if we would be happy with three beds in a private albergue and we said yes! Absolutely! And so my decision to not book accommodation turned into a massive fail, but hey, at least we would all be at the same place!
Now that there was no need to hurry anymore we could walk into Palas at our own speed. It turned out the private albergue was actually the one where the Scouse Spouse and I had breakfast in March, and we were in a room with three bunkbeds. The girls very kindly took the two free top bunks and let me have the bottom (so another fail, but I was happy with that).
The albergue had a washing machine and drier as well, so we pooled our laundry and put it on, then went for a meal in the restaurant downstairs. We took turns going upstairs to check on the laundry, transferring it to the drier and finally hanging them on the lines to air off, and in the morning we had lovely fresh clothes again, hurra!