Camino Diary Entry #34
# 34 emails home from the Camino A long way to Sarria
As one does, when you arrive in a town you look for the first cafe/bar and calculate the chances of getting to use the loo before you have to buy something! We gravitated to the bar that looked the busier of the two – lots of pilgrims, so plenty of ‘distraction’. The plan started to go wrong about then! We were swooped upon by the waitress/manager before we had even disgorged our day packs “What would you like to order?”. Pleading the need for time we shook our heads and continued the unloading process. You would think that in a town with the biggest of monasteries, you would find a Christian soul! Not so, I actually suspect that living in a town full of monks was most of her problem!
I made the first move inside and decided to order a small beer. While she poured I asked about the toilet, she nodded towards the other side of the room and then turned and pushed the ‘on button’ for the lighting! Now this was a first!- the bar lady in charge of the lights!
I returned to join Gwyneth, clutching the small beer I didn’t even really want! “Now Gwyn, I have checked things out and there are things you need to know:
1st: I heard her tell her mate that she doesn’t like these pilgrims on the Camino who only want to spend 1€ and then use the loos. 2nd: she gets to control the lights on and off for the loos. 3rd: I am not responsible for what is already floating about the loo!4th:the floor is awash! 5th:there is no paper!….” About now Gwyn gets up and heads across the road to the deserted bar where she is prepared to take her chances!
It is probably helpful at this stage if I add a little background – just so you know!! We have had some health issues!! If there is an upside it is that Gwyneth has not caught my cold and I have not got her ‘funny tummy’. Suffice to say, it has had its challenges!
The Monastery across the river was an imposing building, but at this point we were more concerned with sorting out which way the yellow arrows pointed to head us out of town. We made a decision and had our plan reaffirmed by pilgrim signs and off we went. At the top of the road some distance on we were a little thrown to see a yellow arrow to the right with a bicycle painted beneath it and a further pilgrim indicator to our left. A little discussion and we went left but not before we noticed a very small church beside us and an enclosed cemetery .
Being a Sunday we felt we should have a look. In a previous town we had bowled through the doors right into the middle of the priest blessing the communion wine and were forced to beat a hasty retreat. This little church was well locked up and we peered through the ironwork at the not unsubstantial headstones. Gwyneth remarked that they were all pretty ornate for this remote rural setting ‘what with all the pull out drawers and things!’ I thought about the pull out drawer concept and realized she was referring to the stainless steel loops at the top either side of each marble slab. ” I’m not sure those things do pull out so well Gwyneth! I think they might be more about somewhere to poke your bunch of flowers (plastic or otherwise). Thinking that through even further I decided I probably made that up and actually had no idea!
Moving on….we walked through beech forest offering dappled shade, along farm tracks made by stock in single file, remote villages, and deserted roads. Very occasionally we saw a yellow arrow. Now I know we are not very quick of mind these days, but it only took 2 1/2 hours before Gwyneth noted we had only seen 2 men in a car, 1 farmer spraying, 1 horse, 2 cats, 1 dog and a bunch of chickens since taking the road to the left! Please note, I have not mentioned that we saw another pilgrim – because we didn’t!
Being the eternal optimist, I kept the faith in the yellow arrows! (Few in all as they were!) None of the village names bore any resemblance to my Michelin book of villages, there was just no one about! Poor Gwyneth by now was feeling particularly seedy and it would be fair to say neither of us had a clue where we were!
But good old St James continued to taunt us. Throwing us a very random bit of yellow paint here and there! Things were getting a bit tense! It was hot and dry! At one point a pilgrim appeared walking towards us (always a little unsettling when you are feeling a bit disorientated and the only pilgrim in sight is headed in the opposite direction!) with some random sign language he confirmed we were headed for Sarria and having already been to Santiago he was now walking back to Leon!
We finally got a break heading down hill on hot asphalt and I could see in the distance the tantalizing sign of a cafe/ bar with the ‘ice cream choice chart’ parked outside. I’m not sure if you have ever had that nightmare where you are in a reality tv show, and nothing is what is seems. Disappointment plus, plus! It was a grand 2 storey stone house, fancy cars in the big new shed, and the ice cream board spied from afar was some spoilt brat’s discarded box from his latest remote control car awaiting rubbish collection! To add further insult as we rounded the corner the swimming pool over the fence was crystal clear and bubbling with fresh water pouring in. It was a very cruel blow!
I choose to forget exactly how many hours more passed by but somewhere mid afternoon, we spotted two pilgrims resting in the shade up a little lane way off the trail. It was a small gesture, but it did give us some renewed hope!
We finally found a cafe with the promise of a loo and a cold drink and we stumbled into the darkness. A fellow pilgrim who had passed us very early that morning was clinging to a bottle of chilled water at the table. Not that he spoke a lot of English, but he did manage to ask ‘did you also take the alternative way?’ We nodded in response, words being beyond us! We were just so relieved to be on the outskirts of Sarria.
With some despair that we learned we were still 3 kms from our destination – another hours walk in these conditions! Gwyn couldn’t help but comment that the track we were on didn’t look very well trodden. My repeated words of encouragement that we were ‘nearly there’ fell on deaf ears as she pointed out that I’d said things like that before and been wrong! I’m not sure she realized that my frequent backward looks and never being more than 20 steps ahead was to check she hadn’t passed out on me!
Our luck continued as some 3 1/2 kms later we located our hotel and found it was yet another fiesta day in the town! I don’t remember how good the hotel room really was, but we were ecstatic! Aircon, a shower and clean sheets!
It was the first time we struck a place with a swimming pool and I thought it only fair to give Gwyneth some space in the room and I cleared out for an hour and enjoyed the pool with not another soul in there and an entire town going crazy over the fence with sideshows and fireworks (yes, in daylight!) Not content with that, they blew another half hour of fireworks at midnight and the music played on until 3.30 am!