13kms uphill walk to start my day… You’re kidding, right?
I’m awake around 5:00am listening to the rain bouncing off the roof and patio. Great. That will teach me to look at the guidebook before going to sleep. Leaving Portomarin this morning means crossing a secondary bridge back across the reservoir and then pretty much an uphill walk for the first 13 kms of today’s 26km day. Last night before going to sleep I figured it would be no problem. Blue skies like today, light breeze out of the north east, couldn’t be more pleasant. And couldn’t be more wrong.
I wandered out of my Albergue at 8:30am and into the nearest bar for my morning ritual. It was almost like a mini-reunion this morning with several Peregrinos I hadn’t seen for some time. A quick coffee, comparison of notes and plans and then away we go. Down the hill, across the bridge stopping only briefly to look on in wonder at the newly revealed landscaped previously hidden by water.
Across the street, into the woods and thus begun the uphill portion of the day. No more than 50 metres and it really begins in earnest. It gets steep fast and holds it for a little too long. The air is heavy with mist so this presents are real challenge balancing my body temperature. I try to avoid any perspiration lest the inside of my waterproof jacket gets wet which will inevitably stay that way for the remainder of the day. I’ve got he main zipper down, the pit zips wide open, hat and buff off but I am fighting a losing battle. The damn hill just keeps going up! I can’t help but wonder, between gasps, if the Church decided this on purpose to get their pound of flesh for those who started in Sarria. They’re only walking the minimum 100kms so let’s find the steepest, nasties way to start them each day. Probably not but the oxygen deprivation and resulting delirium has set in and I can’t control what is going through my mind any longer. As with yesterday I seem to find numerous interesting patterns in the leaves that I simply must stop and photograph. Mrs. Peregrina wants our next Camino to be a camera-free journey and I already wonder how I will deal with all these steep hills.
On a wing and a prayer I manage to reach the top of the first steep section. Now it levels out to a nice, moderate climb, maybe 3-4 degrees of slope. Easy street. That is until the heavy mist turns into a light drizzle. This makes regulating my body temp a nightmare as I can’t have all the zippers open. Even though the climb is not steep my metabolism is firing on all cylinders this far into the trip and as soon as my zippers go up and can see the thermostat heading towards its redline. Great. This also means I have to pack away my camera. Canon says my camera is weather proof but I just can’t seem to will myself into believing them.
The first town is Gonzar, home to a nice bar along the main road. At 7.5 kms I’m already dreaming about another nice coffee. As I approach the bar my heart sinks, the gate is closed and locked. I plop down on a bench next door and consider my next move. A man walks by so I ask him where the closest open bar is. I need to stop asking questions if I’m not willing to be happy with the answer. His answer, which I almost wish I didn’t hear, is Ligonde, another 8kms uphill, mas o menos. The rain has started coming harder and this day is going downhill (metaphorically speaking only) fast. I stare at the taxi sticker on the wall beside me for a good 45 seconds. Nope, can’t do it. Ligonde it is then.
The Camino winds through a few smaller villages and there just isn’t much to note about these places. No services, no people and even the cats and dogs are hiding from the rain and wind. Somehow the way has gotten steeper again.
Staring at my feet I manage to block out the weather and slope and before you know it, Ligonde. The bar is on the far side of town and turns out that they only serve bocadillos and beverages. I’m not heartbroken about this.
Moving on it is time to give back to the Camino community I have received so much from. A week or so ago I was contacted by another member of our online Camino forum sharing with me a woman’s story about the passing of her brother while walking the Camino. She has enquired about whether or not anyone had a photo of a stone relief carving called Daniel and the Lions found on a church here. She asked if I would be able to help and grab a photo. The answer could only be yes. The sense of community within the forum is strong and I was happy to help this woman who had lost her brother. A few day later another forum member contacted me asking if I needed any help locating the church which had the carving. I certainly did so he sent a map and a few other links to guide me in. With his help it literally took just a few minutes to complete my task. I can’t imagine the grief that must come with losing a sibling and if this helps in any small way it will be a testament to a wonderful collaboration of people.
Back in the trail with rain coming down, I move along as quickly as I wheels will take me. Palais de Rei is all downhill from here and I’m looking forward to a hot shower tonight. It is a long day, not arriving until 5:00pm. Settled into my Albergue, a great meal and a hot shower, I find a strange thought running through my head as I lie in my bed waiting for sleep to come… Only three more days until I am in Santiago. Wow.
Distance walked today: 26.4 kms
Total distance walked: 526.8 kms