Sunday, May 19, 2013

Portomarin to Palas de Rei

When I left Portomarin about 8:30 this morning, I felt like I had finally encountered "the wave." Pilgrims of all ages (many young people now with school out) were pouring out of the albergues and on to the Camino. The path out of town led back to the reservoir and over the River Mino.(photo 1). The descent is very similar to what is experienced around Madison, IN, to the Ohio River.
Again, today, the trail looked very much like West Virginia and Kentucky. (Photo 2)
We continued to travel through farmlands and encountered the occasional herd of cattle being led from the barn, which is often near the house, to the pasture down the street (photo 3).
The first bar I stopped at was in Gonzar and it was like a reunion. People I had not seen in days were there -- the couple from Nashville, Karin from yesterday's breakfast, the older Austrian couple I have followed for 5 days, and a Spanish woman, my age, whom I have hiked with off and on but whom I haven't seen for several days. Gerrie and Sabina were there, too, and we had coffee together.
Afterwards, we had this long climb up a paved path and Gerrie caught this photo of me making it to the top. (Photo 4)
Galicia is farm country and most of our scenery is related. One thing that had caught my eye are these little "houses" that seem to be at every farm. Some are very simple; some elaborate. Some in good shape and some in disrepair. Some even have religious symbols at both ends. (Photos 5, 6, 7) I asked about them and discovered this information.
They are called "horreos." They are raised from the ground on pillars or a stone base. Their purpose is to keep grains, vegetables and fruits dry and away from rodents and other plagues. They were also built with ventilation. The old ones have wood slats but the newer ones use bricks turned sideways. Today with new agricultural techniques, very few are still used but for some they make a great place to store firewood. What surprised me the most was that all of them seemed to have the exact same dimension -- that someone had designed it centuries ago and everyone used the same blueprint.
Some of the farms appear to be struggling, but many of them are quite charming. I thought this one (photo 8) seemed to have it all: lovely house with chickens in the yard and laundry on the line - a very pastoral setting.
Fortunately, we didn't have rain today, although the temperature changed every 5 minutes: jacket on, jacket off, then on again. The terrain was very gradual and I made good time. I did over 15 miles in 7 hours with an hour lunch break and 2 coffee stops.
I arrived in Palas de Rei, my destination, around 3:30 and checked into the Hotel Benilde. A lovely single for 36€. Michele was up the street at an albuergue and I met her there for dinner. We were joined by a friend Martin from Denmark. Then Michele and I met Brent, our friend from several cities back, at a hotel for drinks. Afterwards, it was still daylight, and I caught a shot of the ancient Romanesque Church of San Tirso with the camellia bush and rhododendron in bloom, again, just like home. (Photo 9)

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