Day 30 – Sarria to Portomarin — 23 km

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On I walk……

If you really want your Compostela, the certificate given by the Cathedral in Santiago to say you’ve completed the Camino de Santiago, you need to at least complete the last 100km of the Camino (or 200km if you’re cycling) – which means that you need to start at least as far away as Sarria (cyclists must begin no closer than Ponferrada). Surely the Camino isn’t about the piece of paper you receive at the end!!!  It is about the depth and breadth of a “journey” irrelevant on how far you are walking or cycling.  If the certificate is not so important to you and you don’t have time to do the whole Camino, there are other more beautiful sections you could complete (not that the last 100km aren’t beautiful, it’s just that there are more impressive parts of the Camino – but that is my opinion).  I personally recommend doing the stretch from Leon to Ponferrada, which takes you through Astorga and past the famous iron cross near Manjarin.
Anyhow today felt like I joined the human train, which the Camino now has become – a never-ending row of pilgrims, all heading for Santiago. At one stage I counted at least 30 pilgrims in front of me and about the same number behind me.  Most of the new comers seem to walk at snail pace which is so frustrating as there is a bit of stop go (reminds me of the traffic back in Johannesburg)!!   I have slowed down but I don’t like the constant disruption to my rhythm and even though I am taking my time, up until two days ago I felt I owned the Camino and now all I want to do is avoid  the groups of young kids, as they never stop talking and playing their music (loud), groups of tourist, girl guides and scouts, school groups, holiday makers – there are JUST TOO MANY PEOPLE ON THE CAMINO RIGHT NOW!!!!!!   I must have said  “buenos dias”, followed by a “buen camino”, wishing each other well on the Camino a hundred times today!!

+- 3 km out of Sarria

Well , I thought being in a private Albergue, only four in the room would equal a good nights sleep.  WRONG, had another snorer last night and with no more sleeping tablets, I am battling to get any form of sleep.  The three pilgrims in my room left early (round 5:30) and I decided to stay in bed to see if I could catch some zzzzzś for an hour or two.  Plan worked well and I finally left Sarria at 08h00 this morning.  I continued to walk leisurely through some beautiful countryside in the “nicest” weather.  I encountered the largest number of flies I ever have seen or experienced. I can assure you that the army salute came in handy.  These villages which we travel through – and there are many – are tiny communities consisting of more cows than humans. Hence, one experiences a wonderful country smell when passing though these small communities – cow dung, wet hay, chickens etc – of course all paradise if you are a fly – which accounts for the multitude of these annoying creatures and to top it the flies are HUGE!!  I still can’t get my head around the cow sheds under the houses – yes, you live on top of the cows in this part of Spain.

In front of the private albergue in Barbadelo

Barbadelo – this little village had a strong esoteric feel to it and the celtic music playing in the back ground was refreshing.  I passed so many powerful messages written on rocks, written on crosses, written on walls – the energy was enlightening and even the yellow arrows started looking like crosses.  (Seriously – it was the weirdest thing)!!
The energy was amaze balls and I could have stayed in Barbadelo for a week to soak up the good energy.  The private Albergue (just as you enter the village) looked like an upmarket bed and breakfast and I decided to stop for my morning cafe con leche and tostados.  While sipping my coffee I had the perfect view of the path and enjoyed watching the pilgrims walk by in all shapes and sizes, — I love watching people (what interesting human beings we are)!!
When we have even a partial glimpse or feeling of  enlightenment we experience joy, insight, intuition, creativity, and freedom.  In addition, there is the awakening of love, kindness, compassion, happiness and equanimity.
A lot of climbing again today.  Constant up up up is really tiring on the body.  The first 18km just up hill and the last 5km a steep down hill into Portomarin.

The esoteric energy continued along the path to Portomarin

A well earned rest in Ferrerios after climbing a fairly steepish mountain, I met two elderly ladies from Ireland.  Peg and Olive.  It was their first day on the Camino (as mentioned before, from Sarria to Santiago is very popular as you only need to walk 100 km to qualify for your compestello).  They loved the fact that I was from South Africa and  were very concerned for me as I was apparently not looking well!!  Oh – OK maybe I am not – I am exhausted and my feet still hurt badly and I have been walking for 30 days solid!!  After getting the feedback from them I decided to get cracking focusing on “renewed energy ” in my mind and picked up the pace, put a smile on my face, walked upright, pushed harder on my walking sticks to get to my planned destination for the day.
Geeeez what a highlight passing the 100km way mark on the Camino today!!  WHOOP

100km’s to go

+- 3/4 km outside Portomarin I see “KYK LINKS” painted in yellow on the road!! I think WHAT – you gotta be kidding me and look left (well I thought I was looking left but was actually looking right – see what an exhausted body does to the mind).  I see nothing but another road and continue to be puzzled with the KYK LINKS.  I continue walking and I see an Albergue on the left – HUGE FLAG – nothing registers and ……on I walk thinking I don’t have much further to go to get to Portomarin.

KYK LINKS – painted on the road +- 3 km before Portomarin

I will get back to the “disappointment” around the KYK LINKS later in another blog!  Goodness I can kick myself!

Messages along the path today

Finally – hello – Portomarin!!  which is surrounded by a big dam. The story goes, that underneath the water one can find the ruins from a battle between two holy orders, who used to occupy each side of the riverbank – however all that is in the past so who cares!!   I am  finally here!!  Crossing the bridge over the reservoir, the road enters the village through some stairs – here we go again CLIMB!!  The hostel is very close to the Cathedrals of San Pedro and San Nicolás, on the very square where the town hall and the arcade area are. It has been a long day!  Even though todays journey was again very pleasant, with the oaks providing wonderful shade against the warm sun it all went for a ball of ………. when crisis struck!!  The municipal Albergue was full and so were all the private Albergues.  I could have walked the extra 8km to the next village but I was hungry, hot and wanted to see the church that was rebuilt after the flooding of the village, brick by brick the Cathedral was relocated to the village from the dam area.  I was also looking forward to the some fresh calamari as Portomarin is known for its octopus.  I managed to find a double room at a Pension for 45 euros, way out of my daily budget but maybe this was the gift of a good nights sleep and a relaxing bath, my first bath in days – what bliss!.  Portomarin was a great city for a stop over and the main street was full of bars and places to relax. There were many, many peregrinos here and I caught up with a fairly large group of friends, who I have seen on and off for the last 10 days. It was great to catch up and potentially will be the last as we all are getting very close to Santiago.  The fit pilgrims will be in Santiago in three days if everything goes well and everyone is very focussed on reaching this goal, which for some, is the end of a road which has lasted for more than a month but for me,  I did not want this journey to end.  Everyone was rushing and all I wanted to do was slow day and make   this last forever.

Cathedral in Portomarin – on the plaza

The trio (Shereez, Jess and Kristin) were also in Portomarin for the night.  Kristen managed to get into the municipal Albergue but both Shereez and Jess had to go private and fortunately they got a bed at a private Albergue.  I did not spend much time with them as we were spread all over Portomarin.
All these messages along the way definitely gave me the feeling that the last part of the journey tests the meaning of spirituality   I am so calm and feeling so peaceful within – is this the final gift you get from walking the Camino?  If it is (I don’t know yet as I have few days still to go) – I am so grateful for the inner peace I have found along the way!  I can feel that I have lost weight as well – is this due to the shedding of years of pain or the walking or a combination of both?  I am feeling lighter within and now lighter on the outside as well – holy moly a winner all the way!! Every true spirituality begins in humility. If we are to hope to learn great things we must first understand that we are desperately small and weak. I felt like this in the beginning when I posted “questions and more questions”!  Pilgrims can easily succumb to an ironic “pilgrim pride” that ranks pilgrims based on how far they have walked toward the goal of Santiago de Compostela. Someone starting at the doorstep in Brussels is held in higher esteem than someone starting at St Jean de Port, who carries themselves proudly in comparison to someone who has started at Burgos or Leon. Someone starting in Sarria is to stand in awe of someone who started in France or Germany.  Someone who uses a back pack service is not as true a pilgrim as someone who walks with a back pack. Lowest of all are those who walk only the last 100 kms and whose lunches are brought to them in a van and who carry no back packs at all!  These are “mini pilgrims” or “van pilgrims,” not True Pilgrims like me. So, since pride separates – our first spiritual commitment would be to practice the discipline of seeing ourselves as no better than anyone else.  I am so happy rather than race through this walk,  I have slowed down and become aware of the surroundings. The world is full of wonder. I now notice the flowers, the trees, the butterflies, even the dam flies!!. Listen to the sounds of church bells in the distance.  Talk to so many Pilgrims, hearing their journey and experiences.  So interesting!!!   When you walk 7 to 8 hours a day you have a lot of time for introspection.  I am learning to listen to my body – for the first time ever in my life.  To know what we are feeling is to be in touch with the world!.  Most of all I have learnt to relax and enjoy the experience. Breathing it in every day because it will end soon.   The world is a beautiful place.
….on I walk!!!

The dam at the entrance to Portomarin

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