Tag Archives: Triacastela

Camino Day 34 – Triacastela to Sarria: Going to the Dogs

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.

Camino Day 33 – O Cebreiro to Triacastela: Down, down

Wednesday 21 September 2023 –  My fears about approaching rain were confirmed; it hurled it down and blew a gale all night, and when we went for breakfast this morning it was still pelting down and we had to splash through the puddles to the Hotel Cebreiro for our meal. This was dispensed with brisk efficiency by the lady manageress who’d been in charge for our lunch yesterday. She had, today as yesterday, her finger on the pulse of everything going on in the restaurant and made sure that it all ran smoothly. She really earns her crust, like so many of the people we’ve met who manage establishments catering for the pilgrim trade. Several places were run almost single-handedly by someone who has to work the bar, take restaurant orders and manage the reception. Our hat is off to them all.

As usual, the route summary and photos for today can be found in a Relive video.

As we set off on our 21km walk to Triacastela, I was not looking forward to what I thought would be a very wet day

but it wasn’t actually raining after all.

There was some confusion right at the start as we encountered two official Camino signposts pointing in different directions, neither of which corresponded to what the black line on our  Google map suggested.  We opted to trust the black line, but it soon led to a very suspect trail

which soon ran into grass. While I’m sure we could have followed it, I really didn’t fancy the prospect, equipped, as we were, with sandals and socks.  You might question the widsdom of our footwear choice, but it’s not as daft as it might seem: we’d established, way back in the early days of our Camino, that walking with damp socks doesn’t cause any major issues; and, furthermore, we knew we were in for a major descent into Triacastela, and sandals are much our favoured choice for downhill work, as they remove any danger of mangling one’s toes against the front of a shoe. However, there’s a difference between damp and sodden; walking through wet grass seemed a poor idea, so we backtracked and restarted on one of the offical alternatives.

Someone commented, as we passed, that she thought our feet must have been cold, but they weren’t. It also reminded me that we’d offered some advice to a chap yesterday who had noticed our sandals and asked us about wearing them for walking the Camino trails (as opposed to when relaxing at the albergue or wherever one is staying). We had assured him that we highly recommended hiking in sandals but advised socks, as we thought that combination was a winner; I wonder if he was at this point testing out our recommendation and what he thought…

A little further on we came across the point at which the black line rejoined our actual track

and I felt that my reluctance to walk it had been justified.

The rain, remarkably, held off, and we even caught the occasional glimpse of the scenery as a shaft of sunlight broke through

but fundamentally, the weather was very gloomy and the view, when the clouds parted, quite dark.

The going underfoot was good;

so far I have been impressed with Galician Camino footpath maintenance as compared with other provinces we’ve walked through. And every so often, the clouds parted and showed us what we had by and large been unable to see.

We passed through Liñares

personfully resisting the urge to stop for coffee – we had, after all only walked 3km so far. The trail wound up, at times sufficiently steeply that I was tempted to unship my poles, and reached a hilltop, Alto de San Roque, at 1270m – not today’s highest point, as we’d hit that soon after setting out, but the point at which the overall trend of the path was now downwards. The Alto is marked by the statue of a wind-blown pilgrim

in a pose which matched ours at times. Soon, though we caught sight of the place for our first coffee stop; a village called

Hospital. Yes, really.

Suitably refreshed, we moved on in increasingly pleasant weather; the sunshine was nice, as it was a cold and windy day.

For the first time I was wearing both a fleece and a rainjacket against the chill; and I found gloves were necessary to stop my hands getting uncomfortably cold.

A further tribute to Galician Camino maintenance comes in the form of very much more frequent distance markers – it seemed that they cropped up about every half a kilometre.

Mind you, looking closely at them shows an unnervingly precise declaration of the remaining distance.

Our Brierley book comments that upgrades and changes to the course (as well, of course, as the various optional diversions on offer) render these more useful as encouragement than anything else.

We passed through the small village of Padornelo, which gave evidence that even stone-built dwellings can crumble

but seemed to have its own saint, as the church

is noted as Igrexa de San Xoán de Padornelo.

The Camino track closely followed the road for several kilometres

and leads past some modern-looking pallozas

to our next planned coffee stop, which was to be in a village called Fonfria. There were a couple of options shown on Google maps, one of which was a modern-looking building, an Alojamiento (lodging).

We approached it tentatively, as it wasn’t at all clear whether it was in the business of offering sustenance to passers-by. There were lights on and a single person sitting inside, but the door was open and so we asked after the possibility of coffee and were rewarded with a positive response. It was basically deserted, but we were rather pleasingly the trendsetters as a few others drifted in after a few moments and soon they were doing reasonable business.  A group of lads sat outside for a while but then came in to eat their sandwiches, which made me a bit concerned as to what the weather was doing.

Rightly, as it turned out. It had started to rain as the clouds descended around us from the surrounding hills.

We got back under way, and the rain changed from the sort of wet mist that you get in every cloud into real, proper rain. Quite heavy rain.

The rain lasted for some 4km before we dropped down below the clouds and once again could actually see some scenery. And it was quite lovely.

There was actual warmth in the sun as we approached Fillobal,

a quiet village with a couple of surprises for the unwary passer-by (quite apart from the lamppost, which was somehow incongruous in this setting).

Above is, we think, an example of a traditional grain store, mounted on mushroom-shaped stilts to keep the rats out.

The path wound down, quite steeply in places

and with frequent reminders that this was cattle farming country. One had to be really quite careful in picking one’s way down the track, particularly in sandals and socks.  However steep the path, though, the surface was almost entirely benign, as opposed to some of the other descents we’ve had to make as part of our Camino.

We passed through Pasantes, another quiet village

and approached Triacastela,

passing, as we did so, a Castaño Centenario, a 100-year-old chestnut tree, which was a very gnarly thing.

We reached Triacastela some five and a quarter hours after we’d set out

and made our way to our hotel, which is just after the church shown in the picture above. Our accommodation is the grandly-named Compliejo Xacobeo. It really is a little complex, consisting of an Albergue, a restaurant and a modern wing at the back, which houses our room. It’s all very well-organised, with laundry facilities, a restaurant that’s open all day and – this is something I’ve dearly missed for several days now – internet access of a decent speed.

We took lunch in the restaurant and went for a short wander around the village, picking, as we did so, one of the only times it rained. Although it’s not a big place, Triacastela has been an important calling place throughout the ages for pilgrims coming down from the mountains.  It’s named after three castles which no longer exist and which may, indeed, have been destroyed by Viking invaders as long ago as the 10th century, before they were fought to a standstill. The church still bears, albeit faintly, a stencil of three castles in its tower,

below the status of St. James in the niche. There are other clues as to its status to be seen in its streets.

Down by the bus station (by the first of the two plaques above) there is a Camino monument

which was erected in 1965 to commemorate the tradition described in the Codex Calixtinus. According to it, the eleventh stage of the Way starts in Villafranca do Bierzo and ends in Triacastela, which “… is where pilgrims pick a stone and take it with them to Castañeda [further along the Camino from here] so as to make lime with it to be used at the building works of the Apostle basilica”. The stones could be picked up from any one of a number of sources along the way.

The village also has a rather charming dovecote,

and, erm, that’s it.  We had Seen The Sights and could retreat to our hotel to relax for the rest of the day.

We have seven more walks to do in our Camino. Tomorrow’s will take us to Sarria. There is a “direct” route of about 16km (it still winds its way across country); there is also the option to travel via a place called Samos, where there is a sizeable monastery. Doing this increases the distance to about 25km and that is our plan A unless the weather is a complete disaster.

Our stats: today was 21.7km, according to Relive, so we have now walked 664.2km on the Camino – very nearly 413 miles. The descent to Triacastela was a major part of the day, but we climbed at first, too; our total ascent was 337m and descent 964m. Highest point was 1,376m and lowest 667m.

After Sarria, things start to get more serious and we can expect a great increase in the density of pilgrims (who’ve by and large been reasonably intelligent thus far). I’ll explain more once we reach Sarria, so please check back in soon to discover more.