Camino Frances: Part Five

With the Meseta behind me, I had to make a painful decision in Leon.  My ankle was barely functioning and I knew that if I didn’t take the bus forward to Sarria and rest it for a couple of days, I wouldn’t be able to complete my journey in the time I had available.  This went against all my initial plans, but one thing you learn quickly on the Camino is that you are not in control and you have to just go with the flow when things take a turn for the worse.  Before leaving Leon I attended a mass in the cathdral and enjoyed looking at the beautiful architecture of this magnificent building, and listening to piped Gregorian chanting as I walked around.

In Sarria I stayed in the worst albergue of my trip – it was noisy and was manned by a very rude hospitalero.  Choosing albergues to stay in was always like dipping into a Lucky Packet – I never knew what to expect.  Some were modern and neat, whilst others should have been condemned by the health authorities.  Sometimes, from the outside, they looked like they wouldn’t stand up to a night of heavy snoring without the walls collapsing, and they were the best of all.  This one in Portomarin could sleep hundreds of pilgrims – a nightmare in summer, I’m sure.

I must tell you which albergue to avoid if you, like me, are concerned about your modesty.  The Xunta Central albergue in Palas de Rei has mixed dormitories and none of the showers has a door.  Fortunately I had a sarong that I hung up to curtain myself off, but it’s difficult to avert one’s eyes and not gaze at folks of the opposite sex showering in full view.  Like the super-fit cyclist  who was proud to display his wonderful body.  I did cast my eyes downwards as I walked past him and was amazed at how much caught my eye in that split nanosecond before I looked away: firm rounded buttocks, rippling six-pack abs, broad shoulders and a tattoo in small print (9 pitch Times New Roman – italics) that I think read “I’ve also ridden the Camino” on his …   Oh never mind, I didn’t really get a good look anyway.

But seriously, after this episode in the shower I had to drink ten Bloody Mary’s and go to confession.  Only after I recovered from my hangover did I realize that I was probably supposed to have gone to confession and said ten Hail Mary’s.  You see how confused I was.  Deliver me from evil (thoughts) ….

Galicia is one of the most beautiful regions along the Camino Frances.  The weather is much cooler – in fact it rained quite a bit which was wonderful after the dry heat I’d experienced for most of my journey.  The paths are lined with oak and chestnut trees and adjacent farmlands are cordoned off with stone walls.  It is very picturesque.  Juicy apples were in abundance and often farmers left ripe ones lined up on walls for pilgroms to take.  This was the section I walked for the joy of my soul!  It was also quite busy, because all pilgrims must walk the last 111 kms from Sarria to be eligible for a certificate saying that they had completed the requirements of the pilgrimage.  Many new pilgrims therefore start at this point.  They are a lot faster and noisier than the folks who are in a more contemplative and meditative state of mind after walking hundreds of kilometers along The Way.

Counting down the last 100 kms to Santiago was very gratifying.  In fact the 100 km marker itself was quite festive and one had to stop off here for a photo.

The food along the Camino was disappointing.  Pilgrim meals were cheap enough, but never offered any fresh vegetables which we were all craving after weeks of walking.  The closest we ever got to greens was a lettuce and tomato salad.  Other than that it was mostly French fries and starch with every meal.  The seafood and fish was always good, but the absolute best meal that I had on the Camino was a plate of Pulpo Gallego (octopus) in Melide (at restaurant Pulperia Exequiel).  I contemplated spending a few days there for that one meal alone!  When I enthusiastically recommended this dish to a fellow pilgrim he said it was against his principles to eat any food that sucked onto windows when it was alive.  A worthy principle, I agree, but he sure missed out on a wonderful treat.

Galicia is the province of horreo’s.  These are wooden or stone barns used for storing grain, crops and farm implements.  They are elevated to prevent rodents from entering and the walls are slotted for ventilation purposes.  They are everywhere, and being in various states of repair, they are interesting to photograph.  Some even look like coffins.  I saw a few houses that had miniature horreo’s for bread deliveries, not unlike our postboxes.

Next week my final Camino blog will be about the last part of my journey and my arrival in Santiago.

<Camino Frances: Part Four                               >Camino Frances: Part Six

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