September 17, 2004
Update Two (from the bar)
SS the SS and Thali are right now at dinner - I just had some grilled lamb that was leftover from lunch so am instead am typing here at the Internet terminal at the bar on the ground floor of our hotel. There's one of the ubiquitous slot machine machines (at least this one isn't begging all passers by to put in some money), a couple of older men drinking at the bar, bottles and bottles of red wine up above the bar and bottles of all kinds of odd old liquor behind. And an espresso machine - may need to have another of the oh so addictive cafes con leche.
(Thali just came by - they just ordered something called finger soup and apparently it looks like it has actual fingers in it. Since here we passed the main pulperia in town and saw multiple octopi being chopped up on a table near the street - well I´m not surprised.)
Okay - one to the train ride to Sarria.... We got up early, picked up a coffee and some bocadilllos for the trip and settled in on the train for the about 8 hour ride.
The scenery was incredible - green green hillsides, homes with red tiled roofs, stone churches all zipping by.
The train blessedly wasn't too crowded and with the reserved seats we luckily didn't have anyone else in our quad. There was a man across from us who kept staring - couldn't tell if we were talking loudly (likely) or if there was something he really wanted to see on our side of the train. From the way and where he was staring I think it was something at breast level.
Thankfully there were also gaggles of older women who would try to look out for us and make conversation in rapid fire spanish - where we were going, where we were from, etc etc etc.
In Monforte we changed to a local train and got into Sarria at about 8. The main albergue (hostel) was full so we had to go to a private one. A group of Spanish peregrinos helped us with communicating with the woman who ran it and we ended up in a room with three twins and a matrimonio bed (for a couple).
We ventured down the road into town to the pilgrim's office to pick up credenciales (a credential or pilgrim's passport is crucial - it allows you to stay in the free albergues along the route and it's what you present in Santiago to prove you've done the camino), to the parish church to get our first sellos (stamps) and to the local store to pick up dinner. Cooked dinner at the albergue, talked to some of the other peregrinos (pilgrims) and went to sleep.
Couldn't sleep well that night - nervous about the start of the trip and unused to the roosters that started crowing at about 5:30 and didn't stop. Ever. I think I can still hear some now.
We got up by 8 and were out by 8:30. First part of the route was through Sarria and then across a combination of fields and woodsy trails. Green grass, stone trails, red roofs on buildings - just gorgeous. The morning fog helped carry us through, the coffee at a snack bar along the way was no doubt helpful as well.
Hit some drizzle so we put on out ponchos and took pictures in the full blown quasimodo dorkiness of them.
We ended up at the albergue in in Ferrioros (sp) at about 1. The mistress there chided us for not walking far enough but let us in - we snagged some beds and went to the nearby cafe for some lunch.
The free state-run albergues are great but a mixed bag so far in terms of accommodations. If you present your credential you can stay there for a night and most seem to have beds, showers (usually cold so hot water is a treat), bathrooms and that's about it. Latecomers sleep on the floor so we've been trying to get to where we´re staying for the night by 2 or 3 pm.
The one in Ferriros was definitely unimpressive. There are flies all over the place (sit still for a second and several will alight on you), and though we were one of the first arrivals the place looked dirty dingy from the start. But its free blessedly free and we were lucky enough to get beds. Something to be grateful for.
(A note on the other pilgrims - they're primarily primarily spanish, some French and German. There are hardly any Americans, though its not uncommon to meet English speakers from other countries.)
The food here has been amazing and the first lunch on the road the best. Menus del dia tend to be a first course (soup, salad or entremeses which is cheese and meat), second course (usually filet of some animal or an empanada), dessert (flan, tarta de Santiago which is an almond cake, or yogurt), with wine or water to drink. We had a kick ass Caldo Gallego (soup with some kind of greens and potatoes) - I think I can die now because I doubt I'll ever have a soup so good. We ended up sitting with a peregrino from France (an older grandfathery-man) so SS the SS was talking with him about his trip while Thali and I made faces as surreptitiously as possible.
We then went back to the albergue and ended up meeting some people traveling together - Iria (an Austrian living in England) and Mateo (an Italian living in Luxembourg) both of whom spoke English so we talked a bunch and shared some camino stories. Showered in the disturbingly hot then cold shower, napped, did laundry (hung it out, had to pull it inside because the the surprise Galician rain), wrote in diaries, read, got some coffee, grabbed some dinner at the restaurant down the road, checked out the next day's walk.
Sleep was hard - the guy in the bed above me wouldn't stop moving around and therefore rocking the whole bed, people kept walking by to go to the bathroom and someone was smoking so the smell was all over. Got up early (you have to be out by 8:00 anyways) and started on the day´s walk to Gonzar.
On the walk today there's been more small towns, old stone buildings, slate roofs now instead of the red tiles, green pastures, blackberries by the side of the trails. After a long downhill into the valley had an early lunch in Portomarin.
The town is beautiful with a gorgeous church, charming square, and more wrought iron. Had lunch at the cafe recommended by the woman at the church - at 11 was too early for lunch (getting used to the Spanish time schedule has been a trial) but we were able to get tortillas (omelets).
Made it on to Gonzar where we were spending the night.
The guidebook said the that albergue there wasn't much but Gonzar was a revelation. Hot water! Well divided so there weren't a ton of people in one room! A kitchen so we could cook! Did I mention hot water? And wonders of wonders a washing machine so we could wash our clothes more thoroughly than some swishes in ice cold water in a sink to the side of the building (what we did at the last albergue). We snagged a couple more people so we could get a full load and SS the SS, Thali and I just sat there next to the machine drinking in the wonderful sound of it going and the hot water heater going on) there were hot showers for everyone there.
But it was a fantastic place. After we got the clothes out of the machine we let them dry in the strong wind and sun, the three of us sitting outside with Iria and Mateo and others from the albergue writing and talking and enjoying not walking. It was such a community feeling - wind would blow clothes off the line and people would pick up whatever/whoever's blew off and even the cafe next door let us bring cups out so we could drink outside. Truly one of the best times on the trip.
Should get going to see the other girls and let someone else on the machine. Will try to write again later (thanks all for putting up with the detail). Miss you all much much much though am having a fantastic time (no blisters yet!)
all text, images (except those noted) copyright 2002-2010 Moryma Aydelott.