I had the crappiest night’s sleep. My shoulders and back are achy from carrying the big bag (not even an hour), there’s a strange jabbing pain in my side from who knows what, and my eyes are burning from lack of sleep. And yet, I couldn’t have asked for better accommodations. The room at Alfonso IX was warm and clean and the windows opened. Even the bed and pillows were super comfy. I blame the cafe cortado I had at 6:30pm the night before. The coffee machine on the train to Sarria was broken so I didn’t want to risk a headache. Dumb move. On top of that I was jittery with excitement and nerves.
Before taking that very first step, I grabbed coffee and croissants in the cafeteria and then went back to my room to pack and unpack my very large bag and move stuff over from my very small bag. I almost made the decision last night to not take my fleece sweater. This morning, I changed my mind. But, note to self: don’t take it off when you get hot while walking and then proceed to let it get soaking wet. You WILL need it again.
It was a chilly 46F/8c. The sky thick with gray clouds. And while I only had to make it to Morgade, I still feel a bit achy and tired, possibly from all the wetness and cold. But I felt neither wet nor cold until I made it to my first stage: Sarria to Morgade. Whoever recommended not getting GORE-Tex shoes has clearly never hiked in Galicia in (almost) winter. They truly saved my feet.
It poured for a good three hours as I trudged through mud puddles. The scenery went from medieval small town with a few people walking here and there in Sarria, to woodland trails that cut through forests, across tiny bridges and over bright green pastures and farmland. Crows cawed from leafless trees, seemingly marking yet another mile. The first hour I walked excruciatingly slow. Like a meditation, I could think of nothing else but the beauty around me, and the quiet sounds of birds, wind and rain. There was not one soul in sight. Not one. And while I saw many muddy footprints, I spent the entire 8 miles completely and exquisitely alone.
There’s something mysterious about an empty, well-worn path. I actually kept looking over my shoulder thinking someone was there. Nope. Just the ghosts of hundreds of thousands who came before me.
By the time I got to Barbadelo, where the guidebook promised a nice little rest, and maybe something to eat the rain hit heavier and the one albergue that existed was closed for the winter. I ended up finding a little “tienda” run by a gruff looking Galician woman who softened when she realized not only did I speak Spanish but that my sons (and half my family) are Spanish. Although she thought it was a little odd that I was hiking alone, and without a husband. And in the middle of a downpour. Anyway, I used the outdoor bathroom (perhaps there are angels!), which saved me from finding a bush. And I bought an apple. It poured until I nearly reached Melide and when I finally did, and found shelter, the rain stopped. I peeled off my layers and felt like crumpled up wet wipe. And without walking to generate any heat, I started to get cold. Fleece = useless. The casa rural that I booked was 7km off the Camino so, covered under the cost of my stay, was a toasty warm taxi ride that took me to the front door. I was prepared to wait an hour for him, but he arrived in about 25 minute.
I really do feel like I’m back in Ireland. I went there eons ago during the month of November to visit a guy I was dating. His family ran a dairy farm and he was studying to become a vet. It was cold, rainy, beautiful and green, but when you finally got inside a house or a pub it was equally as cold. I remember thinking this is why the wool sweater industry is so successful in Ireland. You have to wear one to survive.
I’m currently under two wool blankets in a rather cold but beautiful stone-wall room, with tiny windows that look out over a pasture of sheep. My wet clothes are draped over the radiator that’s barely putting out any heat. My stomach is full with hearty Galician cocido, and I think I’m going to pass on dinner. I just can’t get out of bed. My plan is to sleep like a rock and then do it all again tomorrow.