Friday 22 September 2023 – Today was a day of inaccurate expectations.
The Accuweather forecast for today was very discouraging. Previously, if the chance of precipitation was around 50%, it might have predicted “Cloud”, or “Intermittent Cloud”. Today, for each of the relevant locations for the day – Triacastela, Samos and Sarria – it forecast, baldly, “Rain”. Given that much of the day’s walking would be on trails rather than roads, I was sorely tempted to wear walking shoes rather than the tried-and-trusted socks and sandals. Before we went to breakfast, I looked outside and it was dry, so I trusted to luck and donned sandals.
As we ate breakfast, it started to rain. Of course it did.
However, I decided to stick with sandals. We donned rain jackets and rain covers for the backpacks and started off at about 0830 into persistent, but not overly heavy, rain.
There were, broadly, two options for the day – going via the Samos monastery, or taking the direct route. We decided to stick with plan A and head for Samos, on the basis that 25km across country in the rain was probably less dispiriting than 16km grinding along beside a road. You can see the Relive video summary of the day here if you haven’t time to read on.
Quite soon after we set out, the rain, to my surprise, eased, then stopped altogether – the first of my expectations unfounded.
We spent the first few kilometres walking beside the road
on a track that was well-maintained for the most part.
After about 3km, we departed the road and struck out across country, coming to the first of the many (largely deserted and somewhat crumbling) villages that we’d pass through in the day – San Cristovo do Real.
Our path was good underfoot, and the weather persisted in not raining.
We walked through Renche,
which had some interesting roof tiling on some of its properties.
We were particularly struck by the “dragon’s back” effect achieved with the slates; dwellings in some of the other villages had a similar approach, so it would seem to be something of a local architectural vernacular. There was a lot of slate in the ground as we walked the paths, which made its choice as roofing material quite logical.
A possible coffee stop in Renche proved to be closed, despite the protestations of the owner on Google Maps. We used his tables and chairs, though, to park our backpacks whilst we took off the fleeces we had on under our rain jackets, as we were getting quite warm. This was as the result of a second expectation of mine which proved to be inaccurate – the terrain. The route, according to Garmin, had this profile.
I had expected a drop of 270m over a distance of 25km to be a gentle downward stroll; as Google might call it, “largely flat”.
It wasn’t. It reminded us of something we’d come across in our travels in South America. In Peru, where the Incas held sway for so long, there is a terrain description: “Inca flat”. Given the Incas’ predilection for building large and complicated structures up mountains, it should come as no surprise to learn that what they considered flat going was, well, not. And so it was with out path today – Inca Flat, with some surprisingly steep uppy and downy bits. However, the weather was kind to us and the going underfoot was largely fine, so it was a pleasure to make our way, and we were really glad that we’d stuck with the longer trail after all.
San Martiño do Real was the next village we passed through,
and shortly after we reached a place proudly advertising itself on Google Maps as the “Mirador de Samos”. We had high expectations of getting a really good view of the fabled monastery of Samos, Mosteiro de San Xulián.
Well, I suppose it’s a decent overview, but it would help if someone chopped a few of those trees down, don’t you think?
We walked the tortuous route into Samos and found a coffee stop – very welcome after 10 coffee-less kilometres – which also gave us a very nice view of the monastery.
As we sipped our coffee and snarfed our croissants, we made plans about just having a quick look around the monastery, as we wanted to crack on with the walk while the weather was good rather than investing time waiting for and going on a guided tour.
Another expectation shot down. You can only enter the monastery as part of a guided tour; we’d just missed one, so would have to wait the better part of an hour before a 40-minute tour. Probably in Foreign, at that. So we took a photo of the (admittedly impressive) frontage,
got an equally impressive stamp on our credentiales, and decided to move on, whilst, as I say, the weather was good.
About half a kilometre further on, it started raining.
We took shelter under some trees and waited a few minutes, and, fortunately, the rain eased, so we carried on.
Very shortly we came to Foxos,
which has a squash court.
We were walking between the road and the Rio Sarria at this point, and the river gave us some nice scenes such as this.
At this stage we were somewhat part of a procession of pilgrims, but we had a trick up our sleeves, ha, hah! Whereas the official track simply headed off directly to Sarria, walking some 10km beside the road, both the Brierley book and the good folks at WalkTheCamino.com had provided an optional route.
and so while everyone else carried straight on, we hung a right
and walked to start with along a stretch of road. I suspect we could have stayed on the road, but the Black Line on our Google Map took us (decidedly) off piste,
past (crumbling) farm buildings,
some nice views
through a village called Gorolfe
to the village of Sivil and a very bizarre sight – a scenario of what looked like cattle pulling an ox-cart.
It turned out to be in the garden of a (somewhat bonkers) Pensión called A Fonte das Bodas.
Bonkers or not, beer and coffee were on offer, and so we settled down outside to watch the fun as the lady who managed it bantered with her various guests.
It will take a while before I forgive the group you see in the photo above. During the banter, we heard that they were from Taiwan. My brain leaped upon this and so for the whole of the rest of the walk, I had the 1973 earworm from a group called Dawn: “Taiwan Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree”. Well, I suppose it made a change from the Funeral March from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony which had accompanied my huffing and puffing up the slopes earlier in the day. I despair at the musical antics of my brain, I really do.
We were nearing Sarria by this stage; just one village to go.
This one was called
and nominative determinism ruled:
“Perros” is Spanish for “Dogs”.
We rejoined the “direct” Camino route, walking along beside the road
and very soon caught sight of Sarria in the distance.
The rest of the walk was a matter of working our way through the outskirts,
climbing 62 steps, called “A Escaleira da fonte”
and making our way past a church with an atmospheric mural
through the town
to our hotel.
We checked in and had a very briskly-dispensed lunch before having a quick wander around to see the sights of Sarria. It’s a quick wander because there aren’t many that we hadn’t already passed: a ruined castle;
a mirador which, to be brutally frank, is even more tree-infested than the Samos one;
an early 20th-century prison building, now an exhibition space;
The Other Church;
and a couple of nice decorative touches.
And that was it, so we had the rest of the day to ourselves, to relax and plan for the morrow.
Sarria has an important part to play in Camino Lore, as it’s just over 100km away from Santiago. Anyone wishing to get the prized Certificate of Distance or Compostela on arrival in Santiago must be able to show that they have travelled at least 100km and got two stamps in their Credenciales each day from places along the way. This means that there are a lot of people starting from Sarria; the people checking in before us at the hotel were prime examples, since they had clearly just arrived in Spain and didn’t actually know how to find or follow the Camino. The receptionist patiently explained about following the yellow arrows and the crowds.
The crowds: this is likely to be a challenge for Jane and me to
moan about rise to. Over the last 400+ miles we’ve relished the experience of being largely alone as we walk, almost resenting the presence of other pilgrims. I wonder how we’ll feel with crowds of “bloody amateurs getting in our way.”
The Brierley book cautions against such a patronising attitude; everyone has a right to enjoy the Camino in their own way, and I hope that we can stay positive as we wend our way Santiago-wards.
Today’s stats: Relive credits us with 26.2km, so we have now covered 690.4km, which is 429 miles.
Tomorrow, our destination will be Portomarin, about 22km down the (crowded) road. The weather forecast is, as far as we can tell, good; let’s hope that Accuweather has got things right about that, so that we can stay positive as we elbow our way through the throng. Check back in soon and you’ll find out how we got on.