And then I woke up in Sarria. The difference from one day to the next is gobsmacking, to put it mildly, though it shouldn’t surprise me anymore. The camino drag was heaving with fresh people on fresh legs, some of them still doing last minute purchases like clicking walking sticks. Many were in groups and most carried only a daypack. I took my time nursing a cup of coffee and waited until almost nine, which is usually late enough to end up behind them so I can feel like I have the trail to myself, but at quarter past they were still pouring up the hill and queueing for coffees… This could be a long day.
I did manage to dodge them at times though and snap a pilgrim-less photo. I know, I know, aren’t we all there to make new connections, get new viewpoints etc? Well yes, but so many of the new arrivals had never really left and weren’t really looking for anything – they had their extended family or group of friends with them, and they clearly had no need or wish to talk to anyone else. In fact, most of them seemed to ignore everyone else and pretend we didn’t exist when we tried to get past, or asked them to put their backpacks on the floor so a walking person could have the seat for a rest. Never mind asking them politely to stop twirling the rubber tip-less sharp walking pole. (Why do they take them when they never use them? Is it a picador thing? They just want to stab someone with it? )
The trail was as beautiful as ever though.
Then in the middle of the boy racers on bikes and party groups filling the width of the trail, a new kind of crunch came closer from behind. Turns out it was a group of runners in red T-shirts thundering past without giving much warning or taking much notice of the rest of us. That really inspired me … to find the next bar and hide out there until they were all gone. So I did. And on my way into the bar, a priest in a god collar came out with a beer bottle and said, in English: ‘This is what we need!’ I couldn’t agree more and wondered if it was Art’s blessing that was working in mysterious ways.
Oh look, the 100 km marker almost without graffiti and almost empty of people! I took a photo for some very excited young girls, got my snap and moved on. From now on you need two stamps a day in your credencial if you want to qualify for a compostela. And if you believe the rumours flying around, that you don’t need more than one if you started before Sarria, check your credencial. Mine was the Holy Year official one and this was printed in Spanish and English at the top of every page:
First proper glimpse of Portomarin! Now there was only one last hurdle… That Bridge. I was planning to walk in the pedestrian lane this time, but on the left, as apparently that can help with the fear of edges (acrophobia is a thing). But of course, both lanes were filled with slow moving, sightseeing and photograping pilgrims, so again I just took the car lane and power walked across while I muttered my mantra – Peregina soy, a Santiago voy – possibly a little bit too loudly.
That Bridge 0 – Linda 10. I conquered it again! My prize was going to be a meal at the Italian place opposite the church, but it was closed. I looked for a not-full place in the shade and spotted a single pilgrim looking person outside a bar on the other side of the church, so I headed that way. Turns out the barmaid was just closing for siesta, but she took pity on me and the man and brought out two large beers. She seemed to assume we were sitting together, so we did. He was Irish and told tales of his millionaire, who he’d met along the way. Not only did they walk together, he was organising and sharing accommodation, booking tables, shopping and cooking for this millionaire without expecting – or getting – much in return, but he didn’t seem to mind. I think he just enjoyed having someone to look out for and was impressed with his generosity and patience. And secretly hoped this millionaire really was a millionaire and would shower him with grateful gifts at some point (or at least pay his fair share).
Later the Musicians, who were becoming semi regular dining friends, kindly invited me along for a nice dinner at the Mirador overlooking the basin and the bridge, and guess what, they had zamburiñas and albariño … and langoustines, and grilled vegetables …
Then back to the Ferramenteiro albergue with its massive dorm. A good day on the camino!