Friday, November 12, 2010

On the Camino Santiago, Day 1: Sarria to Portomarin

We started our Camino in Sarria, a town just far enough away from Santiago that we could qualify for the minimum 100 km to be Peregrinos; Matt and I flew to Santiago and then took 2buses to Sarria, arriving in time to catch the semifinal match of the World Cup from our table across the street from the bar. I enjoyed watching both the game and the enthusiastic crowd. There was much celebrating--including a man who spent the night with his vuvuzela just outside the doorway of the refugio where we stayed that first night, in the charming and beautiful old town. Periodically through the night, he'd wake up, remember that he was supposed to celebrating, and make noise until he fell asleep again.

We also got our first taste of refugio life, staying in a recently remodeled room in a very old building, with perhaps 20 bunk beds and bathrooms down the hall.

I have to admit my excitement, as we left the bus station in Sarria to seek out lodging, at seeing my first yellow arrows and shells. They would continue to mark our path the rest of the way to Santiago!

In the morning, our room emptied out quickly as folks got on their camino. We waited around, planning to meet our friends as they arrived on the morning bus. Watching those early morning pilgrims from our second-story window, as they moved through the dim light and morning fog on that ancient street, gave our journey a mysterious and beautiful beginning.

Our first real day on the trail, we started to get the hang of things: of stopping to enjoy snacks and lunch at little cafes and bars along the way, of drawing water from fuentes along the way (enjoying both their status as watering hole for centuries of pilgrims AND the reality of their somewhat bizarre modern renovations), and of shady rest spots. Late in our day, we found a little rock shelter near a farm where we rested for a while, encountering other pilgrims headed to Santiago and one enthusiastic Portuguese man who was hiking backwards from Santiago on the Camino. We spied an absolutely beautiful albergue and restaurant, about 7 km short of our daily goal--it had a gorgeous, grassy garden and looked beautiful. But, in order to make our goal, we decided to press on...

Our day ended as we descended to the river in Portomarin. We were all quite tired, and no one was enthusiastic about hiking much of the hill above the river, where the town stretched out. (The mandatory stairway up to the lowest part of town was enough for us all!) So, we were delighted to find both lodging and food in a refugio near the bottom. And, just as we got settled, a spectacular thunderstorm began. From the restaurant, we had a beautiful, panoramic view across the river, as lightening danced in the sky and the sun set.

The only photo evidence I came away with, though, was this shot of our dinner. Which was delicious.

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