Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rente (Sarria) to Portomarin

This morning I was all set to have breakfast and leave shortly after 8. However, when I went downstairs in the farm house, it was very dark and the doors were locked. Equally important was that my shoes and raincoat, which I had dutifully left by the front door to keep the place clean, were nowhere to be found. And I still had not paid, a strange custom where one doesn't pay until after the service is rendered.
Finally, I found an elderly man in the kitchen who then went and woke the mistress of the manor. She didn't seem too pleased even though it was 8 and I had said last night I was leaving at 8. I asked her about my things and she went outside in a shed to get them. Strange place to put things considering it never stopped raining last night. They were ok but cold.
Then she insisted I sit down to have breakfast -- which is nothing more than cafe con leche and toast, but gets you started. While I was waiting, a woman named Karin from Holland whom I had met yesterday in a coffee shop, arrived from an albuergue down the road, and we ate together. I am always impressed at how well the Dutch speak English. She told me her Camino story, a sad one. She is about 50 and had recently lost her husband. She was doing the Camino to put some distance between her home and sad thoughts of him to focusing on the potential of her future life. We also spoke of adult daughters (she has 2) and relationships. We hugged and said we would meet again on the Camino.
Finally, my hostess came in with the bill: 48€ for my room, dinner and breakfast. An incredible deal.
So at 9, I ventured out into the rain. There were a number of pilgrims who had started in Sarria (about 3 miles back), who were now passing by. I joined the parade.
The scenery today was very similar to yesterday -- deciduous forests with moss- laden tree trunks (photo 1) interrupted by farmlands where cows and sheep graze. (Photo 2) Where you have constant rain and country trails, sooner or later you are going to get mud -- and we had plenty of it today. Sometimes these trails, as well as the rough streets in the villages, are used to move cows from one pasture to another. That makes for an interesting mix on the trail -- is that mud or is it ...? After awhile, you realize you can't dodge it all and you just plow through.
For awhile today I walked with a charming 20-something man from Ireland. We had a nice chat about the Camino and his girlfriend. She was supposed to have joined him in Sarria, but he got there too soon. He is a fast walker. So she will meet him in Santiago and walk to Finistere with him instead. He said the Irish don't like to take vacations to sit on the beach -- they want to be active. I said I can relate to that.
There were several pilgrim fountains today but this one was different -- it seems to have a representation of Joan Miro's artwork. (Photo 3)
The landscape continues to resemble Kentucky, including the stone fences (photo 4) and the shaded paths (photo 5).
I finally reached Portomarin, my destination for the day, after about 10 miles. This town sits on a large reservoir which is known as the Embalse de Belesar. Formerly this was the Mino River and was damed up in the 60's. This area is a natural basin because we had to walk down a steep incline to the new bridge and then up to reach the city. Greeting us at the end of the bridge was a steep staircase that was part of the original medieval bridge. (Photo 6 and 7)These led up to the arch and Capela de Santa Maria de las Nieves which, along with several other historic monuments, were all removed to high ground when the dam was built to create the reservoir in 1962. Included in this was the austere Romanesque church of San Nicholas (12th C), also known as San Juan due to its links to the Knights of St. John who guarded this part of the Camino. It was painstakingly rebuilt on the city square (photo 8) from its original site now submerged under the reservoir.
I checked in at the Pousada de Portomarin, a bit of a splurge tonight at 68€. However, exchanged into $, that's about $88, what I pay at the Super 8 in Huntington, WV.
Later I had dinner with Sabina and Gerrie, two women from Holland with whom I have shared several meals over the past few weeks. We seem to be on a similar schedule. I always enjoy their company and we talk on a wide range of topics.

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