Zen top-up: Sarria to Portomarín

My last day in Nicole’s company. I had called the hospitalera in Portomarín and confirmed that we could share my twin room, it would cost €15 more but was totally worth it, as the whole town seemed to be bursting at the seams! I guess it is the Sarria Effect and that everybody stops there because it is 7.8 mainly uphill kms to the next place in Gonzar.

Early in the morning I was woken up by all the excited pilgrims starting out and not all having got the hang of their packing, or being quiet, or not turning the lights on before seven. I guess I just got carried away, because I completely forgot my own rule about never walking in the dark – and set off an hour before dawn. I even had a coffee and a piece of cake first and it was still dark, and busy, and trying to rain. Up the hill I went with all the others, and only when we got to the top and headed down that steep slope towards the river, did I realise I was quite literally in the dark! I had to listen out for people, and got very grumpy at the two grown men with cowbells on the backpack … luckily they walked faster than me and the clanks finally faded into the distance.

From there on I had to rely on random bouncing headlamp beams ahead and behind me to get from the little bridge leaving Sarria, along the uneven stony path, across the train line, up among the trees and all the way to Barbadelo for my first break. I told myself this was good for my soul; relying on the kindness of strangers is a big part of the pilgrim ethos, after all. And I did wonder if the person behind me, in whose lamp light I walked for so long, stayed behind me to be kind or because we just happen to walk at the same speed. Whoever they were, thank you so much!

I also kicked myself for being so stupid, there were so many beautiful sights I would have enjoyed seeing – clearly! – only an hour later, when most of the people were gone and I could have had it all to myself … but nooo. As I sat down outside the café in Barbadelo with a second coffee and an Aquarius, I decided headlamps aren’t so bad, but walking in the dark really isn’t for me. I like to see where I am going. Not that there was a lot to see even after daybreak, as the drizzle that was trying to rain, gave up and decided to just turn to thick mist instead. Made for some pretty photos though.

As soon as the mist started to lift, it got very hot. I arrived at Casa Morgade, one of my favourite places to stop for lunch, and since it was so early the tortilla was still warm!, I decided to have some – with beicon, not bread. I sat down in the bigger, airier room at the back with my Aquarius and my brunch of champions, but for some reason I got up to ask for something – and just as I came into the bar, so Swiss Iz from last night’s dinner came in! Yet again she joined me at my table, and yet again we had a lovely time chatting (and giggling a lot I seem to remember).

Fortified and refreshed we carried on towards Mercadoiro, picking up Nicole on the way. We stopped for a spot of late lunch, and Swiss Iz had booked a bed there for the night, so after a HUGE bocadillo (Nicole) and some Santiago cake (me; a treat for surviving the walk in the dark) we said a provisional goodbye to Swiss Iz and set off to try to reach Portomarín before it got too hot. But hot it got. I was hoping the drinks donativo in Vilachá would be open for a quick cold can of coke or whatever, but sadly it was not open – I guess the British man who owns it was back in the UK to save up more Schengen days. Maybe next time.

At the crossroads just before town we chose the ‘old’ way – the one to the right – down to the river and That Bridge. I had a plan to attack it from the left, as I had heard something about seeing the drop on the opposite side might make it less scary, but it was so hot and I just wanted to get on with it. So I did! I took the car lane – I have been blocked on that tiny pedestrian ledge once and never again – and power walked across muttering my mantra: Peregrina soy, a Santiago voy through gritted teeth. Nicole stayed close behind in case of panic, but yet again the crossing was a success!

 Challenge completed, we started on the next one: Finding our room. It should be easy, we turned right after the bridge and the map showed it in a parallel street. Problem was how to get on to that street! We walked further and further and had almost given up when we saw the name of the place painted on the house, facing the road we were on. Even further up was a very steep little slope down into the correct street, and once we figured out which house we were in, it was all glorious. The hospitalera took our extra €15 – a bargain! – and showed us the kitchen with a fridge full of pilgrim goodies: water bottles, a selection of cold drinks, milk, juice, ham, cheese, fruit; and on the table there were little cake treats for a quick blood sugar boost, snacks and jams and Nutella and all the things we could want. Our room was downstairs, spacious and clean, and right next door to the shared bathroom. Two quick, cold showers and some light laundry later, we were ready to go and sit in the shade with a well deserved anker bier!

Turns out it was easy to get to the city centre from where we were, a 3 minute walk in a straight line across some cobbles that really massaged the feet. I knew of an Italian place, Osteria El Italiano, under the arches where there would be shade. I have always enjoyed the food there, and one big table was full of Italian pilgrims, so that was a good sign. We sat down at a table in the shade, and there we basically stayed for the rest of the evening. We had pizza for dinner, then a good while later we shared a proper carbonara for an evening snack, all the time rehydrating with big icy claras while we talked about life, love, plans, coincidences and the magic of the camino. No photos were taken as I was busy chatting! It was lovely having a last evening with Nicole before she changed gears and zoomed off towards Fisterra the next morning.

Buen camino, peregrina! Until next time 🌻

9 thoughts on “Zen top-up: Sarria to Portomarín

  1. Hi ,
    Loving catching up with your blog 👍
    What month are you walking this ? Personally I am MONTHS behind on writing up my adventures. 😏
    …… also when Nicole left you to head for
    Fisterra from Portomarin was that direct
    and not via Santiago?

    Thanks ,

    1. Hi Ian, glad you are enjoying my belated trip down memory lane! I was walking in September this year. And Nicole just had to start walking longer stages in order to get to Finisterre, via Santiago, in time for her flight home.

      1. I take great comfort in you catching up from an adventure in September as that is exactly how far back I have to catch up. Not even started – I think I was too excited or exhausted to do so at the time.🤣

      2. Well, yes, I always think I will make notes (I don’t) or blog every day (ditto) and I normally am very busy from October to New Year, hence the posts only coming out now. It’s nice to go through the photos and think back though.

  2. I *hate* it when people walk with the cow bells! It really ruins the mood. I also hate walking in the dark, but I kept leaving too early as I was used to walking in the summer, not in the autumn, so I kept thinking 7 was a good time, but it was too dark. Looking forward to reading your continued adventures!

    1. I can’t for the life of me imagine the reason why grown men would hang cow bells on themselves? They are every bit as annoying as tinny pop music blasting out from a mobile, in my humble pilgrim opinion … but maybe they are sent to try us? 😁 One thing is certain, I won’t be walking in the dark again without bringing and using a proper light. It’s one thing to go out in the slow dawn but this was before there was any light. Lesson learned.

      1. I don’t get it either! I was having my breakfast on a terraza in a very small pueblo, and I thought a cow had got loose at first…nope, a group of men all wearing cowbells passed me. I wonder if they might have been the same group you ran to…please tell me it isn’t a common thing!

        Yeah, I’m okay as long as there’s some light, but I want to see the scenery and towns I’m walking through. And if there are boars or any other wild animals I might encounter…

      2. I wonder if they are the same men who stand along the ski tracks at big competitions making a racket? I don’t mind it so much then.
        My main reason to not walk in the dark is that I love my ankles. I can imagine how easily I could turn one of them on a rocky path or lurking random tree root. Also I like seeing the sights, so I wait. It’s no hardship as long as I have a coffee and a window to look out through.

      3. That too, so many reasons why I like to wait. And now I want some café con leche as I admire the views of northern Spain…

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