Camino Francés – Sarria to Portomarin to Palas de Rei, Spain

18.11.16 – 19.11.16 Sarria to Portomarin 22.4km; Portomarin to Palas de Rei 24.8km


It’s easy to think that you must walk alone on the Camino, because your own pace is the one which allows you to remain comfortable and go as far as you want to each day. As it turns out, I discovered that it was not necessary. What a pleasure to find that two can walk in step with each other and both be comfortable together!

The Roman bridge of Aspera

I witnessed pairs and triplets of friends who walked in time with each other for a while, and then separated, settling into their own individual rhythms.

I walked with 2 others, falling into step with first one, then the other. Sometimes I was alone with my thoughts, musings, or own quiet, at other times I sang with the other two, and we strode out together. This is how it worked: if one fell out of humour with the second, the third was there to allow the first to walk on alone and regain equilibrium, whilst keeping the second company, listening to their complaints and woes, and eventually enabling a new harmony to evolve.

Fragrant chestnut forests, not like the enduring manure/chemical odours as I walked for kms through the rural villages and farmlands of Galicia



When walking with a companion there was the pleasure of peaceful silence. Then again of conversation, of sharing music, or of gossiping about the walkers ahead. There was the telling of secrets – when looking ahead at the path it can be more tempting than when face-to-face. From profound to prosaic – from comparing notes of last night’s snorers, to the exchanging of intimacies – away from home it’s surprising what you can share with a stranger.

The first sight of Portomarin
The first sight of Portomarin

And you can haul each other up the slopes or through puddles if one is feeling weaker than the other. In the case of Portomarin, it was another of the long flights of steps at the last minute, on entry to the town, and then down again as the first hostel was not ideal!


Characteristic ‘horreos’ where grain is stored for the winter

On the subject of safety, I didn’t experience any bad feeling, only support and encouragement.  People cooked together, shared food and news, advice, of course, and their stories. I heard tell of articles stolen from one woman, but wonder if they had actually been lost, because in the 700 km I was unaware of any such (difficulty). Whilst I was very careful to carry my passport, phone and money with me at all times, others around me (who were much more experienced Camino walkers) were very lax, leaving things in other rooms, for example, when they had a shower, and everything was always there when they got back.

Despite the late year, December in north eastern Spain saw lush landscapes with copious wild flowers

Spain seemed to me to be very safe; bus drivers weren’t hidden behind perspex screens with signs warning ‘passengers who attack our staff will be prosecuted’, as in Scottish buses. Money to be used for change when buying tickets was out on the counter for anyone to steal, but no-one did.

Romanesque church, Portomarin
There were dogs absolutely everywhere, and, here, one had the sort of companion I did not!

Men and women shared dormitories and often there were unisex toilet facilities. I was several times on my own in empty buildings, save the male hospitalier, and I never felt in danger, although I have always taught myself to think of what might happen and to be safe!

100kms to go!

On the other hand I did not walk alone after dusk through forests with wolves, but a woman I met in Santiago reported that she had; and I met several couples who had walked at night, which was not something I fancied. I can understand the attraction, especially in the summer, as it would be cooler, and light until late, with only short darks. Plus the quiet would be fantastic. And the stars, oh the stars are amazing when there’s very little light pollution! You can see layers and layers of them, a true depth to the night sky which you can see in the Scottish Highlands, but certainly not in London or most of Edinburgh.

As a long-time allotment holder in Scotland, I was endlessly impressed by the ‘hueltas’, the vegetable gardens that bordered the roadsides in Spain

The next day I travelled to Palas de Rei. It was a journey of delightful countryside walking, coming across this beautiful, well-worn cross at the entrance to the Ligonde, a peregrinos’ cemetery.


Wide open, inexplicably orange, pathways, all but deserted although the ghosts of the 1000’s of summer walkers were all around me.


The good weather had to break occassionally!

That evening I did have one very small incident. I was sleeping in a dormitory for 6 and it was full. I needed a break, some of that peace and quiet, after tea, and so I headed out to the town, downhill, for a wander around the admittedly dark and deserted streets. Within a short time, however, a man spotted me from the opposite side of the road and he started to follow me, to talk to me uncomprehensibly, and I didn’t get a good feeling. I hot-footed it back to the security of the hostel, and a most relaxing time on my bunk listening to music with my friend.

The hostel was ultra-modern, and as nowhere else was open it was very full. The other pilrims were very friendly, and although we were not supposed to cook, we all did. But we were not allowed to make our own breakfast and so it had to be paid for – served from a hatch, and much less satisfactory than the usual fare.


The next morning it was raining. Many of us waited before leaving, just in case it let up, especially as it had been threatened for days and, luckily, not materialised. But today it did, and oh, did we get wet!

Camino Francés – Liñares to Triacastela to Sarria, Spain

16.11.16 – 17.11.16 Liñares to Triacastela 18.2 km; Triacastela to Sarria 18.7km

Wonderful views from the top
The cold of the valley cleared in an hour, and there were spectacular views from the top

In my diary I noted that it was 190 km to Santiago de Compostella, and there was a heavy white frost that Wednesday leaving Liñares. That’s only one more week of this Camino – best not to anticipate the sadness. I was already ‘writing’ about today in my head as I made the first climb. I felt very happy.

It was soft in the morning light when I came up to the San Roque statue commemorating all the walkers who have passed this way through the ages.

Pilgrim bronze statue,  at the top – Alto de San Roque – he’s holding onto his hat against the wind

‘for the walking body… is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.’ p. 6


Because of the height (1,270m) I can see the countryside I will be walking through in the future laid out in front of me.

Moving through Galicia, there are circular buildings of wood, or small grey stones with thatched rooves, for storing grain. So pretty – like miniature Kentish cottages!


We walk through days of tremendous chestnut forests, which of course shed their leaves at this time of year so that my feet shush and shuffle through deep ditches as I walk. In As Pasantes, the locals believe that this tree is 800 years old.


I realise I am walking without a watch now – I barely know the date never mind the time! It is the practice of regularity, of one foot following another, which seems to stop time, or suspend it. And the contemplation of the simple sights is enough, there is no need to check what hour it is.


‘an abundance of beauty that can turn the soul over.’  p.6


Castanea Sativa – sweet chestnut, a substantial, long-lived deciduous tree. It is a valuable cash crop in these parts.

It has been predominantly a downhill sort of a day, and a shorter one than usual. The hostel where I stay the night is on a slight slope, and I have my celebration beer at a table by the roadside next to the wet washing, hoping it will dry while the sun sinks.

‘After a whole day’s walking, the simple relaxation of taking the weight off your legs, satisfying your hunger simply, having a quiet drink and contemplating the declining daylight, the gentle fall of night’ (after Rimbaud).                                     p. 143


It is early afternoon when I arrive at Triacastela

I take a walk around the town, admiring the church and, finding a sheltered corner to sunbathe in, I find some peace and quiet away from the other peregrinos.

Iglesia Romanica de Santiago de Triacastela

 ‘outside is no longer a transition, but the element in which stability exists’ p. 32

It used to be that I went outside to go from home to work, or from work to the shop. Now the nights inside have become the transitions, different every evening, allowing me to get outside once more when it’s light.

8.30am Triacastela
8.30am Triacastela. The special 2016 Autumn moon is still strong at this hour

Today I am aware of the balmy air against my forearms as I climb steeply once again. I watch the butterflies everywhere. I smell the chemical fertiliser and muck. There are white campion flowers, chamomile, lots of types of wild mint, Lords and ladies. Layers, lakes of cloud, hanging above the valley but below the silhouettes of the mountains. There’s a heavy, white dew still lying at noon.


and, in the distance, later in the afternoon too.

Luckily today there was no crisis as feared. Instead, you can see how the day unfolds in this time-line of photos:

as the late year’s light is slow to reach the paths
and, thankfully, the blue sky returns,
the water sparkles between sparse banks,
until the whole gentle vista can be seen laid out ahead
still green and abundant in Galicia.


WITH donkeys…

We are just two in the dormitory in Sarria, and able to take a delicious nap at 6pm before tea, a well-earned rest after a full day’s activity and fresh air.

‘Tasting one’s own presence in harmony with the world’s’.      p.143

All quotes taken from A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros.

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