Day 37 – 23rd October 2015, Fonfria to San Mamed del Camino.
Gosh, I slept so heavily and comfortably at Albergue A Reboleira (no, it wasn’t a wine-induced stupor, honest!). Although my body ached as I creaked and groaned my way into the shower, I felt rested enough to launch myself into the day ahead. As per usual I got up before daylight and got myself packed up and ready. I joined the humming throng of jolly pilgrims in the bar/ breakfast area. The atmosphere was really warm and upbeat. I concluded that the communal dinner the evening before certainly helped to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones! Perhaps, the Arthurian style, dinner table added to the magic! Who knows?
I had received a message from Fiona, who had reached O Cebreiro, yesterday afternoon and decided to stay the night in the municipal albergue, before making her descent today. It was good to celebrate with each other, even though we were in different places! Feeling happy and hopeful for the day ahead, I stepped out onto the path, all layered up against the October chill. I ambled along the trail through the village and down the hill and stopped for a few moments to watch the sun come up. Sven had done the same. There was no need for words. We just enjoyed the dawn spectacle in silence, like a meditation. And then off we went, on our respective walks for the day, wishing each other a cheery ‘Buen Camino”. I cherished these moments of walking in solitude, to drink in the scenery, the light, colours, birdsong and energy. I felt it was important to remain alert to the details of my walk today, for some reason, as yet to be discovered.
I ambled down the Camino track through Biduedo, an odd little place, and through Filloval to reach the small and attractive town of Triacastela, the town of three castles, which was a very important stopping off point for pilgrims coming down the mountain in medieval times. I made a pitstop here and sat in the sunshine to enjoy my usual cafe con leche at O Peregrino. I felt so good, breathing in the fresh air and watching the pilgrims click, clack by. It wasn’t really pilgrim rush hour, but I expected the town to become teeming with walkers later on.
You see Triacastela is an intersection. Pilgrims can choose to take a left out of the town to follow a long loop towards Samos, to visit the famous monastery there or take a right and go through the tiny hamlet of San Xil. I consulted my Brierley camino guide and ummed and ahhed for a while. Which way now? Choices and I wished I could divide myself down the middle and go both ways at the same time. There are so many delights along the Camino de Santiago, I didn’t want to miss any of them. In the end I decided to take the right hand route towards San Xil. Although this route had a steep climb up and over Alto do Riacabo, most of the trail consisted of natural pathways, whereas the Samos route took pilgrims along the busy main road for quite a while. No, I wanted to be in the midst of nature for as much as possible today. I was happy with my choice.
Off I bimbled down the road out of town and took the right hand turning onto a quiet country lane. When I reached the tiny village of El Beso and crossed the gurgling brook, I had trouble finding the way and took, what I thought was the right pathway and followed the lane round as it snaked along the hillside. I enjoyed myself along the treelined lane but after about 15 to 20 minutes I realised I had not seen any other Camino way markings, nor any fellow pilgrims. This was odd. I decided to backtrack down to the stone bridge. I consulted my Brierley guide again and the text mentioned to follow the trail steeply up a woodland path. I looked up and saw it, dead ahead. Wow it was indeed a steep climb up but I forged on ahead, my lungs felt like they would burst with the exertion. I kept going and followed the gravel path round and round to the top. No more Camino way markings and not a single pilgrim in sight. Oh dear, I realised I was lost again!
In true blonde and bimbling style I had got lost twice! I know what you are thinking, how is that even possible? How could I have missed the Camino arrows? Oh my word. What to do now? I was already on top of a steep hill so I thought I would keep going forward instead of retracing my steps. I told myself not to panic, I was perfectly safe. The humanitarian aid worker in me kicked in (having had a variety of security trainings in the past) and I immediately broadened my arc of awareness to notice the details, looking for clues in the landscape. I spotted some bicycle tracks and footprints and I asked the angels for guidance. As if by magic I found a white feather, which seemed to point me in the right direction and I followed the track down the hill. I was relieved and felt quite proud of myself for not panicking but then I burst out laughing when I glimpsed Triacastela through the trees. I had come full circle! This was all a bit groundhog day really and an important lesson in learning to read the land, decipher clues and trust in the Way.
I found my way, again, to El Beso and crossed the bridge, again. My stomach alien was crying out for some food but I kept on going. This time my arc of awareness was wide enough for me to finally spot the shell and arrow round to the right, up above on the wall of a stone cottage. Hurrah! Summoning my energy, I trundled on ahead, bypassing San Xil and with more lung-bursting exertion I managed to get to the top of Alto do Riocabo, my second ascent of the day. On top of the world two days running! I meandered down through the woodland path to Fontearcuda and then picked up the minor road to Furela and then Pintin. By this time, it was afternoon and my body felt tired and weary after the double ascent and re-doing part of my journey twice already. I was looking forward to a rest and perhaps even a nap. I realised that I was way too tired to push on all the way to Sarria so I would need to stop soon.
Pressing on for another couple of kilometres, I came to Aguiada, where I stopped for a moment to check my guide book and saw that there was a lovely albergue coming up in the next place, San Mamed del Camino, 3 km outside Sarria. Sure enough, just about another half a kilometre along the road, I caught site of the rose pink walls of Albergue Paloma y Lena, set back from the road. I enquired inside and was thrilled to find I could have my own ensuite room at a good price. The owner was friendly, warm and welcoming and I immediately felt at home in my bright, colourful and clean room. After unpacking, showering and changing I sat out on the veranda to watch the pilgrims go by. Ahhh this is the life. So quiet and tranquil. I spotted Nick, Sheree and Stefanie arrive and waved.
As the sunlight faded, I shivered and wandered inside to the main lounge and dining area. Paloma y Lena was a stunning home from home, with high ceilings and wooden beams in barn-conversion style and a huge open, fire. I flopped into one of the comfy sofas among all the cushions and enjoyed a herbal tea, whilst listening to the ethereal voice of Loreena MacKennit singing the Lady of Shallot. Pure magic.
A short while later we were all invited to sit at the communal table for a wonderful and delicious five course vegetarian meal, which was more like a banquet! We started with a tasty lentil and vegetable soup, which was so good I downed two bowlfuls, followed by a green salad, tortilla and vegetable quiche, fresh fruit and Santiago cake! Golly I was stuffed. The atmosphere was slightly less raucous than the night before but still convivial and no less enjoyable. After all my blonde adventures of the day, I soon toddled off to bed content and at peace.
Stay tuned for another exciting adventure!
Peace, love and light,