We slept the previous night in an upscale Albergue in the town of Ambasmestas – – – still bunk beds, up to 6 to a room (we were 4 with a French fellow named Jean-Jacque), but they provided real towels, electric outlets by every bunk, and actual sheets and a blanket. Very comfy.
Good thing, as we woke to a lot of rain, so we had a leisurely breakfast and decided to hunker down and wait, hoping it would end soon or at least lighten up.
This good sense lasted until near daylight, when we got too antsy and plunged out into the wet.
There was, sadly, no horseback ride for me. We stopped to inquire, arriving right about what turned out to be a standard departure time, but I indirectly woke the guy up (this at 9:30 am), as he had presumably decided he would have no business due to the (steady, all-day-long) rain.
Once he understood that I would be his only customer, he made it clear (in 2 different languages) that this wasn’t happening. So I got to slog up the hill with the rest of the infantry. On the upside, this kept me warmer.
We stopped for a break in O’Cebreiro, but were too soaked through to stay long. After that, staying warm was indeed a factor, as the wind increased. We thought we were soaked through before, but by the time we finished for the day we felt an extra increment of “really sopping wet”. Imagine walking fully clothed through a lake, up to the top of your head. About like that.
So a bit after 2 pm we were very pleased to see an Albergue sign. We hiked about 15.6 miles, with nearly 3000′ of climbing, ending in the town of Fonfria. The scenery was nice, insofar as we were often in fog and always in rain. Very green is Galicia, lots of cattle about as we climbed.
A nice Albergue, warm (which was very important). We three split up into different parts of the large sleeping area, each seeking a “best” bed, and also for places to dry our very wet stuff. I think we’re a bit more relaxed about this than most, as we’ve each had a number of experiences getting up in a tent and putting back on wet clothes on a cold morning. Compared to “normal” hiking, this is cake.
Which we’ve agreed, however, that we’ll be careful about how and when (or if) we’ll express along this trail. We started with a lot of hiking experience and, in particular, our footwear all dialed in. For so many people, this is a big and challenging adventure, and the last thing we should do is to denigrate someone else’s experience, even inadvertently. In some other venue, I’ll be the neophyte having a tough time at something that’s relatively easy for someone else.
A wonderful communal type pilgrim dinner; sometimes when an Albergue offers dinner (of course for an additional charge, typically 9 or 10 euros) there are separate tables and the three of us don’t connect with others. This evening it was one very very long table, with a very fun, communal, and of course international feeling. Our German brother friends were in a German sub-community at the opposite end, so we didn’t interact much (too bad, as they were all clearly having a great time). A mixed group at the opposite end kept toasting each other with red wine and the chant “Sin el vino, no hay Camino” (without wine, there’s no Camino). Close to me were an Australian couple, a Korean guy, a Canadian girl I talked with a lot (as she’s very interested in the PCT), and a woman named (I think) Nina who is American but fluent in Spanish and has traveled a lot in central and South America.
Quite a (pleasant) change from so recently slogging very cold and wet through from constant rain. Perhaps this happy change had something to do with our collective exuberance and bonhomie.
We got started hiking as usual in the dark the next morning, shortly before 7:30, and while per the forecast it wasn’t raining, there was a cold damp wind and it was Very foggy.
Shortly after we got started walking, we met a couple who had preceded us, but turned around: it was too foggy for them to follow the path.
And wow, we could relate – – – in just the distance between my headlamp and the diagonal line to the ground in front of me there was enough fog to disperse the light significantly.
But sometimes, I’m afraid, we “very experienced” hikers believe our own hype, so we pushed on. This was less about foolish male pride – – – I like to think – – – and more about me being able to periodically verify our being on-course using the GPS app on my phone.
We had a few pretty foggy miles, but the trail quality wasn’t too bad (not too many puddles), and as we descended and the sky got brighter and things just started looking better and better. If you’re familiar with the most touristy southern parts of Spain, Galicia would seem like a completely different country, and the Gaelic slant on things only adds to the surreal feeling of being in a sort of alternate universe version of Ireland where the people speak Spanish. And no leprechauns spotted so far, but do recall not so long ago that we were seeing hobbit-like bodega hills, so who knows for certain.
In one small village (of many today) we came across an 800 year old chestnut tree, 2.7 meters in diameter. Impressive. We see (and lately are often forced to walk on or step around) a lot of chestnuts on the ground, but we don’t see really big trees. I presume that they periodically harvest them for wood and that this one has been specially preserved.
We made good time (even for us), getting to our selected Albergue in Sarria a little after 1 pm. Sarria is 111 km from Santiago; to get a certificate of completion of the Camino, you only have to walk the last 100 km. The rest is optional. As a result, many people start their journey from Sarria, though I think a lot less at this time of year. Another result is that there are a Lot of Albergues in Sarria, I think 19 of them. Kudos to Milky for picking out a good one, just 4 beds (two bunkbeds) in our small room, and as I write this it’s just the three of us in there. We went out to have a fine “menu of the day” meal, a modest walk about, and then we found an excellent supermercado to buy likely too much food for dinner and breakfast.
It will be interesting tomorrow to see if we can spot any “just getting started” pilgrims. I expect that the three of us will get an earlier start to the day than most will, so perhaps not.
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