Distance to go: 133.9 Kms
What a difference a day makes. Our alarm went off at 6am and by 0640 we were out and about and walking. The morning was clear and a little cloudy but dry and that was the most important thing.
We had a wonderful dinner last night in a local restaurant. Some local musicians with a drum, accordion and Galician bagpipes entertained us and we met up with a marine that we last saw on day 13 and had not seen since. He had lost weight and looked a lot fitter. We also met up with a trio of people that we last saw three days previously. It is quite something how people come into and out of ones lives on the Camino.
The walk today was just wonderful. Lots of woodland walking mostly on off road paths with views that reminded me of New Zealand, Wiltshire and Yorkshire. We could be forgiven for thinking we were travelling between these places as we moved along.
We left Triacastela on a quiet country road and passed through the hamlet of Balsa where only the cows and chickens stirred. The road was tree lined, cool and shady. We left the road and started to climb up a fairly steep gradient into denser woodland and stopped at a quiet spot by a natural spring fountain for breakfast. Here I was to learn a most important lesson. Do not judge people by looking at them only. For as we sat at this quiet spot a group of 5 young Spaniards arrived, lit up cigarettes and started cavorting about. 5 minutes later a group of around 30 youngsters, also Spaniards turned up and our peace was gone. We packed up quickly and moved on upset at the disturbance.
The group of 5 and then the larger group passed us. We noticed that one of the tail enders of the larger group had a small red plastic chair strapped to his back. We wondered why on earth would somebody do that. We were still upset that our peace had gone. We climbed up to Alto do Riocabo at 910 metres above sea level and sat and looked at the views. We heard a woodpecker and a cuckoo in the woods below.
As we descended down towards the tiny hamlet of Montán the young man with the red chair strapped to him was feeding some grass to calves in an enclosure. He greeted us in perfect english and asked where we were from. I replied and asked him about the chair. It turns out the large group were young Jesuits walking to Santiago. They were being sponsored to raise money to equip a school in Africa. The chair was a small replica of ones they would be buying for the school. They were so polite. I was so ashamed that I had thought ill of them. They were full of youthful exuberance and were in awe that we had walked so far.
They moved on. So did we to the next small hamlet of Furela where Casa Do Franco was waiting to relieve us of cash for tea and buns.
As we arrived the 5 young Spaniards who were cavorting about earlier were sitting on the wall outside the cafe and watched us approach. As we did one of them asked in perfect English again where we were from. I replied and asked them why they were walking. One of their friends who delivers bread around the villages where they live swerved to avoid a dog, crashed his van and ended up in hospital. The villagers were sponsoring these 5 lads from the same village to go to Santiago. If they did then the money they raised would pay for a new van for their friend. I learned my lesson today. I was humbled twice within the space of 2 hours.
We moved on through more tiny hamlets of cow farmers eventually arriving at the outskirts of Sarria. The beautiful scenery gave way to grey suburbia and we entered the old town. What greeted us was a steep set of around 50 steps up into the old town. We groaned. We climbed and at the top caught our breath before climbing up the shallow slope of Rua Maior. I can’t say I was overly taken by Sarria. Not compared to some of the beautiful places we have been through.
Sarria is an important milestone on the Camino. This is the starting point for a great many pilgrims for this is the minimum distance from Santiago that you need to walk to get a “compostela” when you arrive at the cathedral. This is the certificate that records you have completed your Camino. We can expect many more people on the path from here on in.
We decided to move on to the next village for some quiet time. We left sarria and crossed the Rio Celeiro by the Ponte Áspera or ‘rough bridge’ which describes the rough cut stone of this medieval bridge. The path again was quiet and took us through woodland before climbing steeply up into fields and eventually to our home for the night in a little hamlet called Vilei just south of the town of Barbadelo.
Our albergue is Casa Baradelo. It is lovely. We paid €15 each for a proper bed in a room of 4. It is wonderfully clean and tidy and has a swimming pool in which I dangled my legs to cool my feet and knees. Wonderful!!
We had a great lunch and it is now time for a siesta to sleep it off. Tomorrow we will get under the 100 Kms to go mark. How on earth did that happen?
Distance walked today: 21.4 Kms