Sunday 24 September 2023 – Even if I was going to feel outraged at the crowds on the piste, at least the weather outlook was OK for today’s walk. We shared a breakfast table and pleasant conversation with two American ladies, sisters from Washington State, before girding our loins and heading out into the throng at a few minutes past eight. You can see the Relive summary of the day here.
The weather gods did their best to protect us from the mob by shrouding everything in fog. We also discovered that the bit of the church that loomed over our hotel’s courtyard had its very own stork’s nest.
Our route took us out of Portomarin via The Other Bridge
(the upper one in the photo, as the lower one appears not to be in use any more, but serves very nicely as a creator of abstract lines for photography purposes) and headed steeply uphill
to get out of town and on the way to today’s destination, which was not actually Lestedo itself, but a tiny hamlet just past it called Os Valos. This appears, from Google Maps, to feature just one establishment capable of providing food, Hosteria Calixtino; our profound hope was that there was a bed for us, too.
The mist was slow to thin, and gradually revealed the expected throngs of peregrinos
including some on bicycles
whom we’ve occasionally seen referred to, rather charmingly, as “bicigrinos”.
Our hearts leapt at one stage when our Google Maps Black Line led us straight on when the hordes swung left; were we to have some quality time in a degree of solitude? Alas, the answer
was “no”, as the stream just debouched ahead of us, having simply been diverted for a short while.
Happily, I felt a great deal less outraged at the presence of the assembled masses than I had yesterday – not difficult, this. I suppose it must simply be that my expectations were more in line with reality. Anyway, the weather was perfect for walking and as we climbed up, the view back into the mist was great.
We noted a lot more British accents among the pilgrims at this stage of the Camino; before Sarria we had hardly heard an English accent, but now there were several Brits taking part. One wonders what to take away from this: are the British too hard-working to be able to take the time off to do the whole thing; are they too poorly-paid to be able to afford it; or are they just lazy buggers?
The scenery was enjoyable to walk through, particularly in the perfect weather we had today. The scenery was in most cases unremarkable, being a continuation of the sights and smells of Galician farmland – careful footwork still occasionally neeeded as we picked our way along the paths.
We did pass a few notable scenes, though: some charming statuary outside a house here;
a traditionally built, slate-roofed building there;
and, as we hit the heights, some nice landscapes.
In the final picture above, we saw a fresh plantation of eucalyptus trees; we saw plenty on the day’s walk, and wondered what purpose these fulfilled. Apparently, the tree was introduced privately in the mid 1900s and subsequently supported by the government as a fast-growing source of timber (e.g. fpr pulp) that deals well with fires; there are worries now that it is spreading and displacing native trees.
The landscape photos above were captured from atop one of the principal Interesting Sights, or even Sites, of the day; an Iron-Age fort called Castro de Castromaior. This was inhabited between the 4th century BC and 1st century AD, and parts have been excavated to show where the buildings originally stood.
Surrounding it is a very obvious ditch and wall
and in the centre is something that might once have been the basis of a tower. The site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the north west of the Iberian peninsula. The recent excavations have discovered up to three different occupations, the last one being the fortified site, around the beginning of the Roman conquest.
The site is well-signposted, with the distinctive pink signs used in Spain to indicate a site of special interest. However, the hordes of pilgrims just walked past, paying it no attention at all.
Immediately after moving on from the site, we came across a scene that at first looked sinister or worrying – a Guardia Civil van, patrol car and several uniformed officers, surrounded by a crowd of pilgrims. However, the truth was much less alarming and much more charming – they were stamping pilgrim Credenciales – including ours!
We passed through Ligonde
where there is a building that was once a pilgrim hospital and, a bit further on, a field which was once a pilgrim cemetery
for the times the hospital care wasn’t sufficient, I suppose. And the final village was Portos with a beer stop
named “A Paso de Formiga” – the path of the ants.
A beer was necessary whilst we pondered a significant decision: should we take a diversion off the path to see the church at Vilar de Donas, particularly to look at the 15th-century Gothic frescoes inside it? We’d already covered 21km by this time; did we want to do an extra five – 2.5km to the church and back? The available information about its opening times was conflicting, but we passed a sign to it on the road
with a notice next to it telling us that from Wednesdays to Sundays it was open from midday to 6pm. So off we went.
The journey to the church was not without interest. We saw today’s Mystery Object
and would be grateful for any kind of steer as to what the actual heck this is; and an intermediate village even had its own (small) horse racing track!
We got to the church
and inspected its admittedly impressive and artistically significant door
but the fucker was locked. Thrashing seven bells out of its centuries-old, original Romanesque door knocker produced no action, and neither did phoning the number on the adjoining noticeboard (which also contained a duplicate of the note advising us that the church bloody well ought to be open) although Jane did leave a message expressing our annoyance and disappointment.
We wended our way back to the Camino route and completed our journey to our hosteria just in time to miss the lunch service, as we’d been set back over an hour by our abortive diversion. So there was nothing for it but to rest up until we could take an early dinner.
It was a nice dinner, rather than a Nice Dinner, and the service was dispensed with considerable style and élan by a Spanish lad called, of all things, Nelson. After that, all we had to do was to plan for the morrow.
Before that, though, today’s stats. because of our diversion, today’s walk was, I’m pretty sure, the longest so far; Relive tells us that we covered 27.3km today, of which around 5 were the fruitless diversion to Vilar de Donas. We therefore have now walked 735.7km on the Camino – 457 miles. We also climbed 603m in total, so got a decent workout as we walked.
Tomorrow, we head for Melide, a shorter walk of around 19km, with less ascent and more descent. The weather forecast is for more great walking weather and I seem to be more at peace with dealing with the masses out there. Tune in shortly to see whether my termperament holds….