The Road to Santiago.
Journal.

November 9, 2002
Saturday

Water Dam.
Water Dam

Triacastela to Sarria

¡Hay lluvia afuera! (It's raining out!)

That was what everybody was saying in the bathroom in the morning. Kind of a let down, after a day of good weather from O Cebreiro. But it was a mild rain with no wind. Besides, the temperature wasn't too bad. Perhaps it would be a good day after all.

After my experience of not being able to find cafes/bars since I entered Galicia, I decided to have coffee before I left. Outside the bar, I was struggling with my poncho when Gudrun and Marianne came by. They stood on either side of me and pulled the flaps over my backpack. I felt like a little schoolboy being fussed over by a couple of aunts. Before I left, they invited me to dinner. Tired of "los menus del dia," they had decided to cook a dinner and were off to look for a tienda (store) where they could buy food. I promised to bring the wine.

After Triacastela, the camino bifurcated. Each route was considered traditional because it went via places of religious significance for pilgrims. But at this point in my camino, historical reference was not my main focus — reaching Santiago by the 14th was. One route went up and through the woods on a path that was quite scenic. The other followed the river through the valley on the edge of an asphalt road built upon the old camino. Walk up over a mountain path soaked with rain or down along a flat, paved highway — another difficult choice. The low road, which I took, went by way of Samos, the location of a famous monastery. When Christine, a French woman, heard me say that I was headed in that direction, she asked if I would get her some postcards showing the town and monastery. I promised that I would.
 
For most of the day the sound of running water was dominant. The camino followed the edge of the river which was raging from the abundance of rain. And more water was coming down though the mountains, spouting forth at numerous points along the edge of the carretera (road). But it was a pleasant walk, in spite of all the rain. The high mountains, the cows in meadows, chestnut trees, and the occasional maple trees were all very scenic. I felt like I was in Vermont.
 

Grist Mill
Eventually, the camino left the highway and went along country roads. The villages were at low points in the valleys at the edge of rivers. In one pueblo, three streams converged right in the center of town. The road was very wet and slippery. I couldn't help but wonder why people would settle in such a vulnerable spot. Then, a few hundred meters further, I found my answer — an old grist mill. Also, a series of dams and trenches demonstrated that the brooks provided a very important source for irrigation.

Soon, I was overtaken by a young Swiss man whose native language was German but he spoke excellent English. Before long he left me behind. Later, I overtook him sitting on the edge of the trail. I asked if he was all right and he said that he had just stopped for lunch. He offered me some chocolate (which seems to be the favorite source of nutrition for pilgrims). I declined and kept going.

The rain became lighter. But I became hotter and hotter. A combination of the humidity and the effort from the ever-increasing upgrade made me perspire profusely. Before long, there was more moisture inside the poncho than outside. I took it off, gathered it up, and stuck it under my belt. As I walked along, it looked as if I was wearing a skirt. I felt ridiculous, but I knew that if I put it away, a downpour would ensue.

Just before noon the trail started back down and before I knew it, I was looking down upon the monastery. It is reputed to have the largest cloister in Europe and, from my vantage point up the hill, it certainly appeared so. (Although, I can't claim to be an expert on cloisters!)

I reached Samos just after noon. Since I didn't have much of a breakfast and there weren't many pueblos between Samos and Sarria, I decided to have lunch. I entered what appeared to be one of the few establishments that had a comedor (a dining room) and asked when I could obtain a comida (a meal) — 1:00 o'clock. Okay, I needed the rest anyway! I took off my mochila (backpack) and left to look for a tienda  (store) to buy carteles (postcards) for Christine and pilas (batteries) for my camera.
  
I returned to the restaurant and waited at the bar. I ordered a vino tinto and began to read a major newspaper of Galicia. The combination of being tired and the strain of reading and trying to comprehend another language made me very sleepy. I was afraid that I would nod off so I propped the heel of my hand under my chin. Just as I was about to drift off to dreamland, I felt a hand on my shoulder, "Senior, estamos listo." (Sir, we're ready.)

It was a nondescript meal of caldo gallego y lomo (Galician broth and pork loin), but it was tasty and, after a terrible breakfast of coffee and a packaged croissant, I devoured it. Even though I had had a Spanish style breakfast with its usual load of carbohydrates, my blood tested at 81 mg/dl — normal. I ate a few potatoes and a small piece of bread, but didn't take any insulin for fear that I might go hypo later in the day.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful except that I was very tired and sleepy. Since the day's trek had been relatively easy, I could only attribute this feeling to the descent from O Cebreiro. The distance from Samos to Sarria was 12 K but, since the trail was headed gradually downward, I made good time. I reached the outskirts of the city of Sarria at 5:00 p.m.. I followed the yellow arrows down to the river where there was a beautiful pedestrian walkway and small park. The trail then wound up into the old section of town and came to a steep set of steps. Not being one who likes climbing stairs while wearing a 40-lb. pack, I decided to circumvent the obstacle by going around the block. Well, as I rounded the corner, I found a steep upgrade. It was so steep that the sidewalk was a series of steps. As I climbed my way up to the albergue, I decided that my penance for laziness was to be forced to perpetually climb upwards.

Gudrun and Marianne came in shortly after me. They vindicated my decision to take the low road. They said that the walk was difficult and they were tired — too tired to cook. Secretly, I was pleased because generally meals prepared in the albergue (although they taste good) are predominately rice or pasta — food that I should avoid. We agreed to meet for dinner at 7:30 to look for a spot to eat.

The three of us wandered up the street looking for a restaurant that served an early meal for pilgrims and soon found one. We noticed the camarero (proprietor) dunking an entire ham into a large pot of boiling water. He didn't just leave it there, but periodically pulled it out. I'm not sure what the process was called, but the result is known as jamon cocido (boiled ham) and was delicious.

As usual, I tested my blood before I ate. The result was 102, almost on the mark of my target goal. This was surprising, considering the fact that I hadn't taken any insulin at lunch. Perhaps I had found the cure for diabetes — just walk 20 K a day.
 
I got back to the albergue to find the young Swiss man in the kitchen and he was quite upset. The albergue had a nice kitchenette and dining area but no dishes, utensils, nor pots and pans. I don't know what bothered him the most: the fact that there was no way to make dinner or the idea that he would have to carry all that food in his pack the next morning. I commiserated with him and took the opportunity to introduce myself. His name was Christoph.

Later that nigh,t as I lay in bed, I couldn't help think of Christoph. This day was my 40th since I started at Roncesvalles. This young man started in Switzerland and had been on the road for three months!
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