“Get your Compostela! Walk with us the last 100km of the Camino de Santiago from Sarria and reward your efforts with the hilly landscapes of Galicia.” A travel agency ad.
Indeed, many people starts the camino in Sarria, province of Lugo, Galicia, cause covering this minimum distance will make them qualify to acquire a Compostela. King Alphonse IX died in Sarria in 1230 while doing the camino in case you were asking, too bad this was the very last part of the long journey to complete. Hence the camino’s demography changes dramatically along this stage, anything from well accommodated people doing the sacrifice of their lives, to mountain bikers, Catholics, local adventurers, etc.
I was lucky enough to exit the town on a Saturday morning and got to see some market activity where food and animals were sold all the same. No touristic attractions, 100% real local life you would find in that place.
Salsa and I started the ride. The views were very rewarding along the hilly landscapes, just as promised by the travel agencies. Santiago was approaching soon and I wanted to slow down the way, so I walked. I pushed salsa and walked for some time. I had a chat with people from Venezuela and Mexico who came to do this last stretch for religious reasons. I enjoyed walking but the road started to get too nice and decided to jump back on salsa.
Over the last 11 days salsa and I had the following records: 0 accidents & 0 loss of production. This was way too good to maintain on such an adventurous road… the toll for today was two accidents. The first one occurred as I maneuvered to park salsa and change my clothing from winter to summer. Sadly this fall made salsa’s left break and gear selector frame to crack, this was quickly fixed by duck tape but will need proper remedy soon.
The second fall was way more painful for me. I just passed a group of people, ‘buen camino’ wishes were heard in all directions. Right after, I was crossing a small stream of water through what it looked a nice arrange of stones bridge, I then realized that the last stone at the far end of the bridge was missing. Going through the missing stone meant a 100% guaranteed fall forwards, so I wanted to stop half way through the bridge but it was too late. My left leg went into the downstream side of the river as I was falling, this on its own would have been a nice way to finish the story. Unfortunately, I kept falling and landed into an array of plants that make your skin burn and itch as you touch them. My arms and legs were all in contact with this aggressive veggie. It was just two days ago that in the spirit of reducing weight I got rid of my ‘anti-itching’ cream, something I never saw myself using. Surely the accident wouldn’t have happened if I kept the cream on my baggage. I opened my first aid kit and used some antiseptic cleansing wipes to try reducing the burning. Things improved slightly over the following minutes but not much. I was told this would go on its own after 24hrs.
Happier moments came instants later when I passed someone carrying a hula hoop. I asked her if she was practicing during the camino and she invited me to give it a try. Elena from London and Stephano from Italy were kind enough to lend me their toy, in turn I was going to give them a very ridiculous act. The hula hoop was meant to be used by a tiny girl, we duck taped some stones around it to make it heavier and increase the inertia but still it was too hard to control. We had a great time and invited other pilgrims to try it. We offered stamping the Camino passport with our own artwork, not many stopped and no one succeeded at keeping it spinning for longer than a few seconds though. It was great seeing people coming out of their comfort zone and do something completely stupid in front of people they would never see again.
I kept going, found two German friends and Alex, all of them traveling on their own. He was a Mexican guy I heard of before and finally met that afternoon.
I arrived to the new Portomarin, the original town was dammed to create a reservoir, putting the complete village under water. The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick back in 1960. This included the castle-style main church.
I wasn’t keen on riding too long today. Firstly my arms were kind of burning, secondly I did not want to get too close to Santiago just yet. As Giovanni, an Italian friend and I, passed a town of about 4 houses I suggested to refill our water bottles at a fountain. I did so and noticed a yellowish color on the water. I stopped and walked into the bar which had a Mexican flag right at the counter, he refilled the bottle with the exact same water from the fountain. I expressed my concern, “people come to this town to drink water cause of its healing properties, we even have a thermal bath not far from here” he retorted. This was exactly what I needed, a quick break from the now touristic camino and a spa. Giovanni decided to keep going and I followed the spa directions.
As the gentleman at the bar indicated this was just 2km away. Just ‘2km away’ once you rode about 8km far from the camino and through noticeable hills. This wasn’t as easy as described considering that the previous 50sh km were mainly mountain biking and very hilly. My plan was to spend some time at the spa and then get back to a town to find an albergue. I parked salsa at the hotel-spa in the middle of nowhere and started to prepare myself to pay the hotel rate as I wasn’t ready to cycle back or forward to any ‘close’ town. Luckily the rate was descent and I ended up staying at a hotel room, those that actually have bed sheets on the bed, bathroom for you only, power plugs at an arm distance, etc. The spa was great and the dinner too. I didn’t mind seeing some of the real world where the correct way is not highlighted in yellow arrows and everyone wishes buen camino to you. I look forward to get back to it tomorrow though!