Yesterday we walked to Palas de Rei on the Camino but were unable to get accommodations so we taxied off the Camino to a b&b with the intention of taxiing back in the morning to pick up where we left off.
As it happened the b&b was located right on the Camino Primitivo. It is said that in the 800s when the bones of St. James were discovered, Alfonso II (or Alfonso III, or the Bishop of Cluny, no one is sure who) went to Santiago to pay homage and the Primitivo is the route he took.
The Camino Frances has been really crowded with lots of new people arriving at Sarria and walking just the last 100 km. The quiet of the path is suddenly disrupted with excited new pilgrims. So walking the Primitivo today has been a dramatic change.
It has been so quiet. As we stepped into the primitivo a man passed us by
and with our presence the the Camino the population just increased 300%!
The Primitivo is very diverse. Within 2 kilometers you can walk through a pine forest, pastures, an orchard, a town, and an area that resembles the Blair Witch Project 😮. Spain is truly a beautiful country.
And one more thing…
Melide is known for its octopus so we went to one of the top two restaurants for lunch. Octopus is really delicious 🐙. It’s sautéed with a little hot paprika and drizzled in olive oil. Yummy!
When you spend an evening with friends that you’ve known for a long time your conversation is comfortable and dwells on the every day bits and pieces of lives: your children, your grandchildren, shopping, a new recipe, what’s going on at work and then sometimes just to spice it up a little bit you’ll hit on the topic of politics just to see how much you can rile up your friends. Because you know they’ll still be your friends at the end of the evening. But when you’re on the Camino you find yourself in situations with people you’ve never met before in your life.
Last night we had dinner with three complete strangers. This is a different kind of conversation. You are, to be honest, unlikely to see each other ever again and yet you find that you want to know each other on a deeper level. So you gloss through the mundane and settle quickly into bigger subjects.
We sat down to what is possibly one of the best meals of the camino at a bed & breakfast that exuded comfort and hospitality. Two older couples and one young woman (at different tables) shared our spiritual hopes for the Camino and experiences we have had along the way. A spiritual director would be asking the question, “Where is God in all this?” It was truly a spirit filled meal.
The chicken in a white wine sauce with rice was to die for. And my sardines on toast were delicious.
Once again the air is filled with the sound of foreign voices. They’re excited, they want to talk. Sometimes they ask where I’ve started. When I say St. Jean I hear a little sucking in of the breath and then a low “Wow, you’re doing the whole thing.”
And I say to myself, “I have been doing this for quite a while.” My rhythm is that of the Camino.
Tonight I am in Sarria. This is the beginning of the last stage of the Camino. In order to receive a Compostela a Pilgrim must declare at the Santiago Pilgrim’s office three things…
1. The Pilgrim walked the last 100 km.
2. The Pilgrim carried all of his/her belongings.
3. The Pilgrim is walking the Camino for spiritual reasons.
I never wanted to make this walk about the Compostela and yet it is looming large in my mind. Even though I’ve taken three days off of the Camino and taken a cab at the end of two other days I have walked nearly all on the Camino.
Now is the final push into Santiago. I feel some of the same fear I felt leaving St. Jean Pied de Port. But there’s no time to dwell on fear. The first steps have been taken. All I need to do is continue on.
I am back on track for a short 9 mile day to Triacastela. We are really and truly in Galicia the province where Santiago is located.
Apparently Galicia is the land of one million cows and here are just a few.
It has been a rainy, misty day. I walked mostly alone. Time to think about the last stage of the Camino. On the one hand I am anxious to return to my bed and my own cooking. On the other hand what will I do each day when I don’t have to walk. What parts of the Camino will come with me and what will I leave behind?
It’s late and I’m tired despite it being a shorter day.
Today’s post will be very short. Once again I had to take a day off for my ankle. In addition it was a steep climb to the next hotel and by the time I arrived the altitude was really effecting my head. So I laid my pack on the floor, crawled into bed and slept. Tomorrow is a shorter walk and hopefully I’ll be back to 100%.
Thank you for all your prayers and support.
BTW I’ve been spelling Buon Camino wrong. It’s BUEN CAMINO!
We are only 2-3 days away from Sarria which is the 100 kilometer mark from Santiago. The Camino seems more crowded but it’s not the same people we have been traveling with. The Australians, New Zealanders, Germans, Dutch, Norwegians, and French have gotten either ahead or behind us.
This fresh crop of pilgrims are newer to the Camino. We’ve seen the buses stop at the hotels and watched them debark. They’re cleaner and less worn looking. They smile brightly, wave heartily, and call out “Buon Camino” in a cheery voice.
Some of these pilgrims are rejoining the Camino where they left off last year. After all not everyone has six weeks to do this. Some of them don’t have the time but want to reach Santiago so they start in Leon or Astorga or even Sarria. And some are part of a tour trying to capture the Camino experience. They have smaller daypacks and the tour company provides them a gourmet lunch to have along the way. The sag wagon is available for pilgrims who get tired along the way. I’m not judging them. This is the way I bicycled through Tuscany several years ago.
I biked a few hours to the first test stop and then rode the sag wagon in to lunch and awaited the rest of the riders while drinking an aperol spritz and writing postcards.
It was the way I wanted to do the ride just like everyone does the Camino in his or her own fashion.
So there’s something I haven’t talked about yet on the Camino and that’s the food. Before coming on the Camino I researched Spanish food and tried out a few dishes with some success.
The first food we heard about on the Camino is garlic soup. Now to be honest my first impression was that I’d see a few garlic cloves floating in some broth. So I hunted for a recipe online and found one that was particularly good. Essentially it is the same form as French onion soup. The garlic and broth form a base, add in toasted day old bread, and then crack an egg and let it poach over the bread. Not to toot my own horn, but this was amazing. Garlic soup on the camino is a little bit different. The garlic and broth still make a base, but the egg is whisked into the broth like an egg drop soup. Bread is served on the side, usually not toasted, and you can dip it in the soup if you like.
This is paella and it’s wonderful. This guy works at the farmer’s market and every week has a huge skillet of this paella that he sells. Frequently in Spain you will see signs in front of restaurants advertising Paella Mixed, Chicken, Seafood, or Shrimp. This paella is pretty good. I had it twice on the Camino. Just don’t think that this is something the owner is cooking up fresh in the kitchen. These are commercial paella sold in individual servings that the kitchen heats up. It is good, but not as good as the picture above.
Fries come in all shapes and sizes. Ask for fries and you may or may not get something that looks like McDonald’s. And like all other fries it depends on how you like them cooked. I like my extra crispy which I didn’t always get. One thing I can guarantee is that these fries do not sit under a heat lamp. They are hot from the fryer.
Chili Rellenos stuffed with Cod
Finally you have to be willing to try something different. Chili Rellenos is not like the Chili Rellenos from your local Mexican restaurant. Spanish food is not terribly spicy. Having said that these Rellenos were among the best food I had on the Camino. Sweet red peppers stuffed with cod and smothered in a cheese sauce. Yes, I ate the whole thing.
The last thing I want to say about food on the Camino is this…frequently I just didn’t know what I wanted to eat after a long day of walking. I’m not even sure I was really hungry. Often what I craved is protein. I ate eggs every chance I got and I would be willing to bet that most of the eggs I ate were retrieved from under a chicken 🐓 a few hours earlier. Most of the time breakfast is coffee, juice, and toast. Those carbs burn off quickly and don’t really get you up any hills.
In no way did I cover all the food I had in Spain but I hope you’ll find some Spanish recipes to try out.
The second was to visit the Ferro Cruz (the Iron Cross) and lay down my burden as symbolized by the rock I got from Zanesville.
I know I had expectations and that’s how we are disappointed but I couldn’t help myself.
I expected to see a tall cross anchored into the ground with stones piled around it and up the base of the cross. I wanted to take some time and reflect on all those burdens that pilgrims had carried with themselves and finally laid down at this cross.
Instead I found a small mound of dirt between 15 and 20 feet tall with the post holding the cross anchored at the top of that mound of dirt.
People were climbing up the hill in order to make a Rocky-like victory pose waving their trekking poles in the air.
I’m trying not to judge. I just wanted a moment to connect with all those who came before me and laid down their joys, illness, futures. And I didn’t want to walk upon those sacred stones. So I found a spot along the side and laid my stone down.
It’s the small white one.
So I have to trust that even though this moment didn’t deliver the spiritual high I was looking for that God received my burden with the same love that God receives all our burdens.