After Pamplona we traveled by train to Monforte de Lemos and arrived late in the evening. We grabbed a room in an empty hotel near the train station and jumped on the local train to Sarria early the next morning. When we got out in Sarria we had no idea where the Camino was. Not a problem in Spain! We walked for about five minutes until we saw some people with backpacks. Then we starting seeing unmistakable signs of the Camino everywhere such as these two mosaics of a seashell and a pilgrim.
If I haven’t done my duty before and explained that seashells are a sign of the Camino, then let me do so right now. Nearly every pilgrim has a seashell attached to their backpack and they are often used either as way markers or as parts of markers along the way.
We started seeing a lot of pilgrims as soon as we were outside of town. Since we were near the 100 km mark, the population increases dramatically to probably two or three times what we saw in Navarre.
Soon we were immersed in a heavy wood and later corn fields as we got our first taste of Galicia. Galicia is different from Navarre. It is more like rolling rounded green mountains with lots of farms, almost endless lines of little villages, and stone walls separating the paths and farms. I even saw old stone sheep folds, probably not any different from what has been used for thousands of years across the world.
The buildings are different too. Galicia has a lot more layered or piled stone walls with plaster on the outside, and sometimes the plaster has worn away with the ages. Navarre was famous for the red roofs everywhere you looked. Galicia had a lot of buildings in a state of disrepair, with roofs falling in and some with trees growing out of them.
Looking back on it now, I am reminded of the opening of the book, “The Alchemist”, when the shepherd boy sleeps overnight in an abandoned church with a sycamore growing out of the sacristy. It was just the same here. The buildings looked ancient and who knew how many generations of families had lived upon this same land.
Often we were walking through someone’s farm. Many farmers were out with their tractors working the fields. I even passed an old man on the Camino path hauling a huge pile of produce by wheelbarrow.
Soon we came to Casa Barbadelo, which is a popular albergue about 4 km outside of Sarria. We stopped here to get our sellos, and I finally bought my very own seashell to put on my backpack. This seashell and my memories were the only souvenirs I wanted to take home. As we were leaving a farmer came by with cattle and two German shepherds who seemed completely bored with pilgrims. In fact we started seeing a lot of German shepherds, all of whom took no interest in us.
Just outside of Barbadelo, we found the 12th Century Church of Santiago. We stopped in for a short prayer. I was amazed by the simple beauty of this church.
Then, I stopped at the Camino Coke machine, which had the names of stops from the Camino all over it. I probably got the best deal on a Coke there in all of Spain, 20 ounces of pure Coca Cola for only 1.50 euro.
After the Coke machine, we were back in the Galician countryside. I took a lot of pictures of flowers along the way before arriving at Casa Morgade, where we had a very good lunch of eggs and bacon and a dog decided to hang out with us the entire time. We also saw two markers for kilometer 100. I believe the second one, the more decorated, was the correct one. Anyway, we were happy to be at kilometer 100.
A few kilometers after Casa Morgade we caught site of Portomarin far away. We began a deep descent down to the river. Once at the river, we crossed a bridge and entered the ancient archway into the city. Portomarin was perhaps one of my favorite cities in Spain. The city sits high above a reservoir which was filled in and drowned part of the original town. They had to relocate the 12th century church of St Nicholas stone by stone to a high point above the reservoir.
We checked into a nice pension, Cafe Gonzar, which overlooked the river. The pension owner was extremely helpful. I didn’t have cash, and she let me pay her later on, after I had a chance to clean up and go into town to the ATM. We decided to swim at the local pool, which has a magnificent view of the river below.
We also decided to try pulpo for dinner. Pulpo, which is octopus tentacle chopped into little round pieces, is considered a delicacy of Galicia. We were unable to eat it. The flavor was overpowering, and the texture was something we weren’t use to. I know a lot of people swear by pulpo, but I didn’t like it.
I also attempted to go to mass at St. Nicholas, but I thought my clothes were too stinky from walking. I sat in the back corner away from other human beings, but by the time mass started, the church was filling up. I left mass early :).
The next day we had a great breakfast at Cafe Gonzar, and then we were on our way to Palas de Rei.
Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.