Zen top-up: Triacastela to Sarria

Another bright, lovely and eventually very hot day started with a balanced pilgrim breakfast containing enough fat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and electrolytes to last me until second breakfast. Nicole would be on the trail already, though I had no idea if she’d chosen the longer route via the old Samos monastery or via San Xil, so I might or might not see her before the albergue in Sarria. Interestingly the two markers were just outside my window so I could see three kinds of pilgrims passing by: the Samos ones, the San Xil ones, and the ones that didn’t notice the markers and just followed the last lot. Every day someone ends up on the wrong one or have no idea where they are. All part of the fun!

The good news is that the El Beso – The Kiss – albergue was open again with all its rural charm and eco goodness; the bad news was that Art’s Art gallery was closed. Otherwise it was a joyful and glorious day in Galicia! After A Balsa, with its lovely tiny chapel dedicated to San Antonio, finder of lost things, the trail led me up, up, up through the lush green woods like an echo of the walk up to O Cebreiro. At the top is the shell shaped fountain where everyone stops and takes a break and gets someone (me) to take their photograph.

Then the trail keeps going up, offering fantastic views of rolling hills and rolling fog, and then starts descending like a mad thing down worryingly steep trails where you have to slow down to babysteps.

On the way up I met two lovely ladies who had seen The Clapping event the day before, and had lunch with them at Casa Franco. I didn’t stop at the hippie oasis though, as it is normally very busy … but I did stop and have a chat to the Harley Davidson cows! Nearer Sarria I discovered that the wonderful Paloma y Lena albergue was closed and for sale – such a shame. I made a mental note to put the lottery on as soon as I came home. The phone number is below if you have already won …

When I arrived in Sarria, hot and dusty, I even took the stairs up to the main pilgrim drag! (Would not recommend.) I checked into the O Durmiñanto albergue, which was new to me but looked good, and was the first into a new room so I could pick my bed! I dithered for a bit before I settled by the window – and then realised I had plonked myself as far away from the only charging point in the room as humanly possible. Bring power banks, people. They can be left unattended to charge.

I showered, changed and went up to the rooftop terrace to hang my clothes, and there was dear Nicole. We enjoyed the views for a bit before strolling up the hill for late lunch at the Matias Locanda, which has great pizza. We were too hungry to remember to take photos of the food! On the way back to do some light shopping for the next day, we bumped into the Canadian Ladies again and exchanged numbers, as there would be a massive influx of people from the next morning – it was already visibly busier in town – and we might not accidentally bump into each other again.

After the massive pizzas, Nicole decided to spend the evening in the albergue and get an early night, as it would be another hot day tomorrow. I went out for a drink and to people watch. There are many (unkind) opinions on the ‘Sarria Circus’; I choose to call it the Sarria buzz, with all the fresh faces beaming with excitement ahead of the start of their adventure. Just as I arrived at the Meson de Tapas, which was full to brimming, one table for four came free. I asked the waitress nicely if I could sit down for just a drink, and she nodded on her way past. I still felt bad for taking up four seats … so first I offered the spare table to a French mother and daughter who had a severe case of the Sarria buzz; I caught familiar place names, which was nice. Also the day’s special looked so good that I decided to have a light evening meal. Have table, will eat, as my new saying goes.

My food had just arrived when I noticed a lady standing on her own waiting to be seated. She had no chance – everyone had just arrived for dinner, no one would be leaving. I gestured to my spare chair and invited her over, and after a surprised pause she joined me. Turned out she was another veteran peregrina, a Swiss lady who had returned to the camino on her own and was happy to share a table with a stranger. You really never are alone on the camino – unless you want to be.

We had a great time, chatting like we’d both caught the Sarria buzz until it was time to get back for lights-out. When I left my room was almost empty, when I came back in it was full! I was so glad I had managed to pick a bottom bed by the window and opened it a crack to get some air through the night. I heard the last of the Sarria buzz die down as all excited pilgrims drifted off to sleep.

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