When I woke up, the dorm was practically empty again. I had a chat to Helen in the bed next to me, a lovely bubbly lady who started in Sarria and was already loving it. We ended up having a coffee together before starting out, and kept each other company through the day. It was another fun day, lots of giggles and stories and good conversations about life, love and politics – we walked well together, at the same pace, and enjoyed a stop at the same intervals.
The first 8 kms out of Portomarín are steep, then the trail levels out, but there are no services until you get to Gonzar, where as a bonus you’ll probably see everyone you’ve met in the last couple of days. A bit further on you get to Castromaior, an old Iron Age hill fort, which used to be a detour of 400 m from the road/trail. These days it is signposted and the official camino trail leads up to it … and then misses it by less than 50 m! I have no idea why they have done this, possibly to spare the impact of all the pilgrims trampling through it, but it also means that a lot of people will be missing out. I know it’s there, and I could see people up on the earthworks around the fort, so I took Helen off trail to show her this wonderful gem. Hardly anyone else did.
Wonderful views inside and outside the fort.
This photo is taken from the earthworks around the fort, and the pilgrims are being led straight past it with no signs telling them Castromaior is right under their noses. It’s only a short walk across the bumpy ground to get to the edge of the fort, but no clear path. Such a shame. That said, if you do go there, please be careful where you walk and leave it as you found it – take your rubbish with you!
I was booked into the Paso de Formiga – the Ant palace – for the night, because I always think the Portomarín to Palas de Rei stage is too long, and every time I walk past the outside tables at the Formiga I wish I could stay there instead. So this time I had made sure I would. Sadly that meant saying goodbye to Helen, after a glass of wine and her first piece of Santiago cake to fortify her for the last kms. She was planning on walking longer stages than me and would be on the flight home on the day I arrived in Santiago. I thoroughly enjoyed her company though and hope she enjoyed the rest of her camino. Just before she left, Piia and her friend who had come to walk the last part with her, stopped to have a drink. They would also be in front of me from now on but I hoped I would see her again before she left. The pilgrim centre of Santiago is smaller than you might think, and you normally bump into people around every corner. Buen camino until then!
The Formiga was as nice as I had hoped, the beds were normal, not bunks, and the staff were wonderful. I had a quiet, early night with Sam, who I had met here and there along the way but not really spoken with before. Now we shared a washing machine load, a meal and a room, with only two others sharing our bathroom – what luxury!