Winter walk to Portomarin

(From our walk in late February, early March 2020)

Sarria! Normally the narrow street in the little town would be heaving with excited pilgrims starting their first walking day, and dusty long distance walkers going head down, full speed to get ahead of the colourful, energetic (and fragrant) crowds. We had breakfast at the Mesón O Tapas, sitting by the window overlooking the street, and were amazed at the lack of people. One young man came in to get a soft drink and a bocadillo to take away, that was about it. Most walkers seemed to be men this time of year.

Up the hill, then steeply down the hill, then you’re in the countryside. We still can’t get over the group of Asian pilgrims who stopped on the train lines one year to take selfies. Actually on the train lines. I always stop, look and listen and then shoot across like a panicked squirrel. Imagine their selfies with the train in the background …

So peaceful and so pretty. We had this tree lined hill all to ourselves again – definitely a perk of out-of-season walking. Lots of time to stop and stare, breathe it in and soak up the silence – a deep reservoir of calm to dip into in these uncertain times. We hadn’t watched any news for over a week and didn’t really talk to anyone, so we were blissfully unaware of how fast and far the virus was spreading.

Then the landscape flattens out and you can see for miles. We had to up the pace to stay warm though, and there was yet again nowhere to stop for a rest by a fire.

Even the Taberna was closed (sigh), but the small tienda nextdoor was open – hurrah! I’ve never really noticed that it says Café-Bar on that sign, all pilgrims just go straight to the Taberna (which also has a very nice stamp with a heart). The lady in there actually had a roaring fire going, and a few tables where cold pilgrims could sit down and enjoy a choice of fruits, yogurt, coffee and cake, a bocadillo or a drink of beer or wine. She probably would have whipped up eggs and bacon as well, and it was tempting to ask, but we weren’t really hungry, just cold. We really appreciated the stop though and will make sure we go there again.

The Morgade was closed, the Mercadoiro too, and even though we had started from Sarria, there really weren’t many other pilgrims around. The odd glimpse of a brightly coloured rain cover, that was it. Not even the cows were out on the trail.

Top tip: Always take the route to the right to get down to Portomarin.

And it was getting very damp and bitterly cold. That sort of cold that seeps into your bones and stays there. So when we got to our room, we put on all our clean clothes, put the rest in the laundry, and went to the Mirador to have a meal overlooking the river. It was too cold in there though, so in the end we just had a drink and then crept back to our pension and tucked into a full pilgrim menu in the small, but nicely heated comedor there instead. There were two other pilgrims staying, both men walking alone, and none of them interested in company or a chat. Maybe that’s why they walk in the winter. Normally they would gravitate together, especially if they have seen each other on the trail during the day.

No matter, we had each other to talk to, and in the end we might as well talk in our warm room, so we had an early night and hoped we’d avoid the forecast rain the next day.

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