Day 39 – 25th October 2015, Portomarin to Palas de Rei.
Right, well folks, now that I’m in Portomarin, I’m approximately 93 km (57.8 miles) away from Santiago de Compostela. Today I will walk about 25 km to Palas de Rei. Its funny but when I look back over the last few weeks to the day I began my Camino, I thought distances between 25 and 30 km were enormous feats of endurance! I wondered if I could ever reach those distances day by day. Now though, my body is much stronger and I have gradually built up some stamina, I consider a good 18 km to 20 km to be a really comfortable day’s walk i.e. a ‘short day’ and 20 to 25 km doable, and 25 to 30 or over is perfectly possible if I remember to take regular rest breaks and keep myself hydrated. Obviously it doesn’t help if the Brierley guide book fails to mention or show any major inclines across those distances, because they always add to the exertion and distances involved! I remember Laurie, Alan and I referring to these as ‘wrinkles’ or ‘pimples’ on the landscape. Also it is more exhausting if one gets spectacularly lost and climbs mountains twice in one day!
Anyway I digress, I had a lovely, cosy and comfy night’s rest at the Hotel Villajardin. I would definitely recommend this peaceful place if you feel in need of a proper rest and period of recuperation. I gave myself a mini lie-in this morning. I didn’t feel like rushing off in the dark particularly because there was a thick mist, engulfing the town, giving it an ethereal quality. I toddled off up the street to the main thoroughfare, Rua Xeral Franco, and into the square, Praza Conde de Fenosa. I found one of the albergues off the main square open for breakfast and buzzing with a few, brightly coloured pilgrims, in their wet weather and sports gear. Instantly the image of a flock of pink flamingos gathering on the shores of Lake Nakuru in Kenya came to mind. Odd how the mind plays tricks on an empty tum!
I peered out through the window onto the square and saw various small groups of pilgrims converge and then disperse in an array of directions. Replete, after my usual desayuno, I sauntered across the square to drink in the mystical, misty atmosphere before setting off. By this time the sun was up (although I couldn’t see it) and there was only one other person in the square, who had stopped, like me to take it all in and take a couple of photos. Glancing over to the old church, Igrexa de San Juan, through the misty veil, I felt as though I had been transported back to another age. I wandered over to this chap, a statue depicting a pilgrim, frozen in time as if he had been turned to stone by the White Witch of Narnia. I wondered where Aslan was or even Mr Tumnus. The stoney-faced pilgrim, mouth open in greeting, gesticulated left, so I duly followed his direction to pick up the Camino trail once again.
I ambled down the cobbled streets, back the way I came the afternoon before and descended to the smaller bridge over the Rio Torres. There I continued on to find a beautiful, tranquil woodland path, winding up and out of Portomarin. I glimpsed a magnificent sight through the woodland canopy – silvery, whisps of misty clouds, hovering around the tree crowns and bathed in the golden glow of the sunlight. Once again, I was on top of the world! I revelled in the sheer simplicity of life that the Camino de Santiago teaches us. What bliss it is to take a moment and stare enraptured at the beauty of our natural world and feel intimately connected with all that is in this world and beyond!
I relished the serenity of the soft, woodland pathways and the flickering morning sunlight as I strolled underneath the protective, lichen-clad branches and around the sturdy, ancient tree trunks. I could tangibly sense the wisdom and energy from the trees and I found myself pondering on what the trees are trying to communicate with us, for they do communicate, like many other plants. I remembered seeing a video from the Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity, in Italy, in which they put some kind of electrical sensors onto the leaves of plants and connected them up to an amplifier and the results were astounding. The plants made music! A veritable, botanical orchestra, wove strands of a symphony, unique, haunting and exquisite. To me, this was another piece of evidence to show how we are all connected up to everything else. We are One. I wished I could hear the trees sing.
I steadily climbed up and over alto San Antonio in the wake of an energetic group of Spaniards, of all ages. It was lovely to see so many young people enjoying the hike engaging in pilgrimage along such an important, ancient pathway, which is part of their heritage. The Camino experience is certainly something anyone can feel part of, should they choose to heed its call.
The Camino trail, a gravel senda, roughly followed the main roadway through a little place called Toxibo and then Gonzar. I seem to remember I stopped at a busy roadside cafe for a second breakfast, the cafe Gonzar. Anyway I didn’t stay for long, there were too many chattering pilgrims about and I wanted to get back onto the trail and walk in relative peace and quiet. A while later on, I passed by a fellow pilgrim called Owen from Ireland. He seemed at peace and strolled along in a mindful manner, living totally in the moment. I sensed that he was perhaps in the priesthood and after a pleasant sharing of “Buen Camino”, we went our separate ways, as I also sensed he valued these quiet moments of solitude.
I was so happy to be out in the fresh air, walking in the sunshine and admiring the lush, green countryside. The deliciousness of serendipity came to my mind and its very essence hummed in my heart chakra in time with the vibrations of each step. The gravel senda, gently led me through more woody glades around the village of Castromaior and long the main road to Hospital de la Cruz towards Ventas de Naron, before a steady climb up to 750m of the Sierra Ligonde and down to Ligonde itself and a pretty little hamlet of Eirexe. I liked the sound of Eirexe and I noticed my Brierley guide book mentioned a small albergue here called A Paso de Formiga so I hoped to find a bed there for the night. However, when I finally reached the albergue it was closed, I guessed it was closed for the season by now, which was a shame because it looked characterful with large metal sculptures of ants in the front garden! Oh well, this was a sign that I had to continue onwards to Portos.
Here I decided against going on the detour, marked blue in my guide, towards Vilar de Donas to visit the church of San Salvador. My body was beginning to feel a teensy bit weary at this point so I trundled, ever slower, down to Valos, Mamurria and Brea (hamlets, which sounded like they had been plucked out of the Game of Thrones kingdoms) before the final ascent of the day up and over Alto do Rosario.
I enjoyed my long walk up and over the hillside and down into Palas de Rei. I could tangibly feel relief welling up inside of me, knowing that I would surely find my place of rest for the night. Palas de Rei comes from the name Pallatium Regis, the palace of the Visigothic King Witiza, however the town didn’t appear particularly regal at this moment in time. I was glad to get off the asphalt and into the lovely Pension Pardellas, tucked away in one of the little side streets. I managed to bag a small, yet comfy ensuite room and crashed out for a while after showering.
I reflected on the three lessons of the day – simplicity, serenity and serendipity. The Camino continues to reveal its truth.
In the evening, my poor feet couldn’t manage a long walk to find food, so I popped round the corner to the nearest place down some steps into a friendly bar/restaurant, already packed out with pilgrims. In time, a waiter invited me to sit at a table near the door and soon my friends Stefanie, Sheree, Nick and one of their friends joined me at table for an evening of joyful company! A perfect end to a beautiful day!
Stay tuned, for another exciting episode…
Peace, love and light,