Sarria to Portomarin - 22.4 km

June 11
Lat: 42.807222 Lon: -7.615

The alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I was up and packing to head out after breakfast, which was provided by the hotel. This was a different style of serving. It was put out like in the motels at home. There was a buffet style where you fix your own and have a host of choices including canned fruit cocktail, which wasn't too bad. I ate quickly and was on my way by 7:20 a.m. It was a great day to walk as it was overcast and cool so I didn't get very hot on the climb to start. It was pretty much that way the entire morning.

One thing you must remember when leaving Sarria is that from this point forward to Santiago you must get two stamps (Sellos) a day. I decided that I would try to do all churches, but that proved to be a little harder than I thought. In all the little towns and villages most of the churches are closed in the morning, so I stopped at all the bar/cafes and looked at all the stamps to find the best looking one to use during the day and then when I come into the towns for the night, I'll go to the church and get the end-of-the-day stamp there. It worked very well today and I have a very pretty stamp from the cafe where I had tea. I will try to get my first stamp about half way to my final destination every day and this should prove that I walked it (not that they are going to check). I will try to do this again tomorrow.

Today's walk was very interesting after I left the city as I walked along small country lanes, many that aren't paved but just lined with granite stepping stones that will keep your feet above the normal flood levels. The path today looked like it was plowed out and the trail was deep with large rock walls lining the path on both sides. There was one interesting thing that happened today along the trail. I was walking along by myself when I was approached by two women with clip boards. One came up to me and handed it to me to read (and it was in English) and sign. It was a petition of sorts. I started to read it and the first thing that caught my eye was that it was for helping the “International Dumb Deaf People.” Well, they picked the wrong person to give this to as I worked with the deaf for many years and I sign. The first thing I said was that I was offended because the deaf aren't dumb. By the way, I was signing this, and talk about dumb looks that I got from them, but not a word.

About that time, a Peregrino came down the trail and he starting waving his hands at me to get away from those people. I just threw the clipboard back to the woman and said “NO!” I caught up with the Peregrino and asked him if he spoke English? He said “yes,” so we talked. I told him I wasn't going to sign the paper anyway, but what was it all about. He said that those people are from Romania and were gypsies and that first they get you to sign the paper then they extract money from you. He said its a big con. He is from Madrid and said that they are having a huge problem with them.

Just before I got to Barbadelo I started seeing a lot of cow dung along the lanes as the farmers bring their cows from one field to another by way of these lanes. I was at the Casa de Rego having a cup of tea when I saw a giant tractor slowly going up the lane and taking up the entire path. I was just about ready to leave when the cafe owner told me that I couldn't leave yet as the farmer was bringing a cow to the bigger pasture up the hill. They had the cow hooked up to the back of the tractor and was pulling it slowly along. The cow did not want to go but had no choice. About ten minutes went by before I got to leave. I did get a second cup of tea in the process. (By the way, it was the best tea that I've gotten since I've been on the trail). The name of the cafe is the Casa de Rego and they are just before you get to the village of Mercadoiro.

After I left there I was only about 7 km from Portomarin and the end of my day. I got to my hotel, the Hotel Villajardin, at about 12:30 p.m., but noticed that the church was open so I walked about a block just to see if I could get my stamp before checking into the hotel and sure enough I could. After that I went to get my room and get cleaned up. It was a great day. I got in a nice walk and also got in early in the day. After cleaning up I got lunch and waited for Hawk and Christine to come into town. At about 6:30 we went to dinner together. After dinner I went for a walk around town before going and getting ready for tomorrow.

Looking for more adventures tomorrow, so check back and see where I get to on the Camino...Buen Camino!

Triacastela to Sarria - 18.7 km

June 10
Lat: 42.775556 Lon: -7.4125

I got up at the usual time of 6 a.m. and got everything packed. Because they offered a full breakfast with lodging, I stayed to have it. The other reason is that today was going to be a short day and that I'd finish up by noon without a strain. I left at 7:45 a.m. and took the option route that was the recommended route up to San Xil and it proved to be a good way as it was just about completely off the roads and through the woods. I really enjoy these paths. They are great when you're alone and it gives you time to quietly think.

There was a nice climb this morning up to a 910 meter summit (I wouldn't call it a mountain, just a nice hill), and it got the blood flowing and the breathing right. After that it was pretty much smooth sailing and I got to the little village of Furela for a cup of tea and a slice of cinnamon cake. The place was packed with Peregrinos and it took me almost 20 minutes to get my order. What a lot of people don't understand is that these little bar/cafes are run by one person and they will be tending to as many as five or six people at a time as well as cooking, making coffee (which is made one cup at a time), and taking payments and making change. I don't know how they do it.

After taking a long break, I pushed on back into the woods after a short back-country, road walk. This reminds me of the trails that I'm used to back home and it's nice. It seemed like no time I was on the outskirts of Sarria so I had to start keeping my eyes open for the way to go. Sarria is the first town that you're required to start getting two stamps a day on your “Credencial” to prove that you walked the last 100 km of the trail to Santiago. Without this you won't be allowed to get the completion certificate in Santiago. I was told by the man at the church that what I needed to do is get a stamp during the day while I'm walking, preferably at a church that I pass and then at the end of the day at the place I'm staying. This pretty much proves you're on the trail. At this point, I've only got five more days to Santiago and I'll be finished. But I'm going to take a day off in Santiago and then head out of town on the Camino Finisterre Trail, go to Muxia and then on up to Finisterre to the ocean. If I have enough time left, then I'm going to walk back to Santiago. At this point, I’ve walked 682.2 km.

I finally found the Oca Villa Hotel and got checked in and cleaned up. Two things that I like are getting on the trail early to see the sun rise and getting to my finishing point early and getting cleaned up. Some people suggest that if you go so fast that you will miss stuff, but the truth is, I see more because I can wander around the town and go in all the shops and buildings and see everything at my pace and not have to carry my pack. I tend to think they miss out on not only the sights, but the culture, which is something that I've comes to enjoy more than anything.

I'm still working on Spanish the best that I can, learning new vocabulary, and putting myself out there trying to make conversation with the people. It's kind of funny when I mess up badly and they smile and nod their head or just correct me. Anyway I'm having a good time with that.

Well, I'm in my room, preparing for a longer day tomorrow and the possibility of rain so I'll let you know how that turns out tomorrow. There is more to follow so as always... Buen Camino!

Alto do Poio to Triacastela - 12.5 km

June 9
Lat: 42.755278 Lon: -7.2425

I got up at 6 a.m. and was packed to go. I had a cup of cafe con leche and then walked out into the dense fog. It was so thick that you could hear a car coming up the road, but it was difficult to see them. In fact, you couldn't see 15 feet into the parking lot of the Hostelles and it wasn't much better at 7:30 when I hit the trail. It pretty much stayed that way all day.

The trail was wide and hard to miss. I planned on walking to the next town of Fonfria and getting something to eat but they didn't have anything I wanted so hot tea had to do. I pushed on for 7.0 km to Villoval where I came to a great Albergue with a restaurant. This is where I stopped and got hot tea and a tortilla. They had a TV turned on and "Back to the Future" Part 2 was on (in Spanish of course), but I watched the whole movie. It was great to relax and besides, it was drizzling rain and the trail was muddy. I was only doing a short day today anyway, so why not? After the movie ended, I paid up and walked the last 3.4 km to town and found the Casa David Pr. Hostelles. I got checked in and then cleaned up, waiting for the weather to break. Hawk and Christine came into town, but they stayed across the road in another “hostelles.” The drizzles came to a stop so I went out and walked around the town to see what was here and to get an ice cream. At least it was a warmer day… it made it to the upper 60s. Around 6:20 tonight, I met up with Hawk and Chris and we had dinner together.

Today has been a great day for walking. I love walking in the rain and fog. It gives you time to just put your head down and think about things. The distances just seem to click off and before long you've made lots of miles/kilometers. Tomorrow, I will have breakfast here at 7 a.m. and head up the trail for a longer day. From what I've seen on the weather, it's supposed to be pretty… we'll see. Until then I'll say, Buen Camino!

Herrerias to Alto do Poio - 16.9 Km

June 8
Lat: 42.711944 Lon: -7.126111

I got up at 6:00 this morning and was packed but the weather was terrible outside. It was drizzling with heavy fog and cold; thankfully it wasn't windy. We ate breakfast at 7 a.m. and then hit the trail at 7:30 a.m. We had an 8 km climb up to O'cebreio and it was an all mud trail. About 2 km into the climb, I disappeared into the fog, never to see anything. A little bit farther, the trail got a little steeper and the fog turned into a light misty rain, but it still wasn't windy. It's tough hiking in shorts and a T-shirt with the wind blowing. It was not even a good day for frogs as I saw a number of them dead in the trail. Today’s high only reached 49 degrees.

After just about two hours, I finally got to the top and the little town of O'cebreio where I went looking for a restaurant to get a cup of hot tea, but nobody was open. I started to push on through the town when I saw a man put his menu board out so I asked if he was open and he said yes. I went in and had a cup of tea to warm up. I guess that some folks from England had the same idea. We sat there for about an hour and talked and drank tea to warm ourselves. Finally we all decided that it was time to move on. I went outside and knew right away it was going to be jacket time. It was raining, and NOW the wind was blowing.

You couldn't see more than about 10 to 15 feet in front of you and the trail markers were going to be very difficult to see. As I left there was already a couple heading out the wrong way so I called to them to let them know the way to go. Several times I had to double check the path and backup and look for a marker. As the day progressed, the weather only got worse. I finally got to the little village of Alto do Poio at 12:15 p.m. and Hawk and Christine didn't come in until about 3 p.m. They said that they got turned around and went on the wrong trail coming down. We had something hot to drink to warm up and Hawk and Chris went and took a nap. They asked the owner if he was going to turn on the heat in the rooms and he said no. "Heat finito! " In Spain they only turn the heat on if it's very cold and also only for a few hours and then it's off. I guess we'll have a pile of blankets on tonight.

The woman who runs the place is a really nice lady. She's from Romania and speaks good English, Spanish and French. She and her mother made dinner tonight and it was wonderful. I had almost a half a chicken, the obligatory French fries, and homemade vegetable soup. I had two bowls of it and could have made a meal on it and the bread. For dessert she had made a cheese cake and I had a slice of that. After dinner we all sat and talked to four Portuguese fellows who were really funny. Finally I came up and got ready for bed.

Hopefully tomorrow will be prettier and warmer… only time will tell. More to follow tomorrow. Buen Camino!

Villafranca del Bierzo to Herrerias - 22.0 km

June 7
Lat: 42.672222 Lon: -6.978333

I got up at 6:00 this morning but wasn't leaving until 7:00 since breakfast was included with the room. Normally I'll leave early even if breakfast is included because I'll stop in a town about 5 km up the trail and eat, but today I'm taking a more wilderness route over the mountains and I won't be able to get anything for several hours. I finally got out on the trail at 8 a.m. and it went straight up. This is one of the optional routes that you can take. The other route is along a busy highway. I made the right choice on this route as did several others. It was a total woods trail and looked back on the city below. I only saw eight other people on this 11.7 km route before it rejoined the trail down below.

I hiked with a woman from Switzerland for a while and then the rest of the morning with a woman from Holland. People from all over the world are on this trail and they are all ages, from kids with their parents to people in their 80s. After I finished the wilderness option, I dropped down to the little town of Trabadelo where I had a cup of coffee before starting the road walk to Herrerias. It was a pretty uneventful walk except that I was back with the crowds of people. I think most people take the road walk option on this because it's not only level and shorter, but has places to stop along the way. I got to Vega de Valcarce about noon so I stopped in a bar/cafe and had a cup of tea before walking the last 3.5 km to where I'm staying tonight.

I had a reservation for a room at a Casa Rural Hostelles so I don't have to hurry to get a place for the night. They cost more than the albergues but you have your own room and bath and can wash your clothes. Hawk and Christine came in around 2 p.m. and missed the rains that came in. It had been a cool, overcast morning and finally rained some during the afternoon. They are calling for rain tomorrow when we have to climb up to O'cebreiro, but will face that tomorrow. Buen Camino!

Compostilla to Villafranca del Bierzo - 20.9 km

June 6
Lat: 42.609167 Lon: -6.811111

I was up at 6 a.m. after a not-so-good night’s sleep due to no air conditioning, but I was packed and ready to go. Hawk and Christine were also up and ready to move out. It was a very humid morning with a lot of cloud cover, but it looked like it would be a good morning to put in some kilometers. We knew that it was going to be a while before we could have coffee and something to eat. I finally got a cafe con leche in Camponaraya, where the woman was just opening up. I still wanted something to eat but it would be a little while for that. I got to Fuente Cacabelos where I found a nice little restaurant and I got a good cup of cafe con leche and some tostadas with jelly. It was just enough to get me on to Villafranca del Bierzo.

The trail for the most part this morning had a little more uphill to it, but all in all it was a good morning and wasn't that taxing to me. I got into town about 11 a.m. and checked into the “Hostelles.” It's a really nice, upscale establishment. It's close to places to eat as well as near the 12th Century Romanesque Church of Santiago that has the famed "Puerta del Perdon," Door of Forgiveness. As the story goes if you come to this church and go to the door and then for some reason you die before making it to Santiago then you will go to heaven! Anyway that's their story and their sticking to it.

This is a great town with lots of things to see and do, and the food just keeps getting better and better. I went to dinner tonight and had two nice pieces of grilled chicken breasts with French fries and a mixed veggie salad; for desert I got a medium-sized piece of ice cream cake. The meal also came with a full bottle of wine (red or white, my choice) and all of this was only 10 euros… not too bad if I say so.

Well it's time to turn in and maybe watch a little Spanish TV before going to sleep. More tomorrow. Buen Camino!

Acebo to Compostilla - 19.5 km

June 5
Lat: 42.569167 Lon: -6.600833

I woke up at 6 a.m. and as I was for the most part packed up, I left the “hostelles” at 6:30 a.m. and was on my way. The weather was beautiful with blue skies. I actually took the jacket off in the first 10 minutes because it was so warm at 50 degrees and there was no wind. The trail was on a downhill slant for most of the early morning. I got to the little village of Riego de Ambros and was looking for coffee, but everything was still closed and one woman told me that I had to go another 6 km to Molinaseca before I could get anything. She was right. When I came into Molinnaseca I crossed over the bridge and saw a small bar. I ordered a coffee, but it was not good. I drank some and then pushed on to the next bar up the street. The coffee was really good; I'm becoming an expert on cafe con leche.

After a long break, I took off and headed to Ponferrada, where I had plans to spend time touring the Templar Castle. I started walking with a fellow from Berlin. We talked all the way to Ponferrada at the castle. He was pushing on to get more kilometers for the day. I got to the castle at about 11:00 a.m. I went in and toured the castle for about an hour and a half. I thought where we were staying was on the edge of Ponferrada and that I could walk back to the city and look around and that we'd be able to get a "Peregrino meal," but I was wrong. It turned out that the hotel that we're staying in was about 2.5 km out of town and they don't have a dinner meal at all. The hotel is not that nice and is advertised as “Peregrino friendly,” but that isn't true either. From my experience here, it's on the same line as a badly run Motel 6. The air conditioning is broken (the temps were 80 degrees at 4 p.m.) and they were calling someone to fix it at 2 p.m. The TV is also broken and although everything is in Spanish, I still enjoyed watching some of the movies. I guess you can't expect too much for 20 euros and I'm only going to sleep and be out of here at 6 a.m. in the morning.

Hawk and Christine finally came in a little after 4 p.m. and they were beat. The heat was so bad this afternoon that they have decided to leave in the morning at 6:30 a.m. the same time as me. We can make our destination by noon and sit out all the heat of the afternoons. Christine didn't want to walk 15 minutes back to the first bar/restaurant that we saw so Hawk and I did. All we could get was a salad and a beer with some bread. It was good and filling and besides we won't starve by tomorrow. We walked back and are going to bed to get ready for tomorrow.

All in all it's been a good day and there's more to follow tomorrow as we start getting ready to climb back up into the mountains...Buen Camino!

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