After such a terrible night in Alto do Poio I was so grateful to be in a clean, comfortable albergue, Paloma y Leña, in San Mamede del Camino. I decided to take advantage of my warmth and comfort and “sleep in.” Instead of setting my alarm I’d wake up when I heard the rustling of the other pilgrims in my room.
It was so lovely to wake up in a relaxed state instead of in a panic trying to run far away from the albergue.
I got ready and had breakfast at Paloma y Leña. The night before they laid out all the fixings we’d need, so the other pilgrims and I ate together before we went about our day.
I wanted to get recommendations for the next place to stay and soak up not feeling gross, so I lingered for a little while.
I said goodbye to Beth, a fellow pilgrim from Canada, whom I thoroughly enjoyed talking to during my stay. I wanted to ask Elisa, who works at Paloma y Leña, about a choice for my next albergue, but I didn’t see her around.
I felt burned by my time in Alto do Poio and wanted to do everything in my power to avoid a similar situation. After waiting in vain I left “late” by typical Camino time, around 9:00.
My boots had not dried from the day before, so I wore my running shoes to start my walk. I was grateful to Gary and Denise from my first day for talking me out of mailing my sneakers ahead to Santiago.
I walked along and made it to Sarria, one of the most important towns along the Camino Frances. You can start the Camino de Santiago anywhere you want, but in order to receive a Compostela (the certificate of completion) you must walk at least 100 kilometers. On the Camino Frances that 100 km point is Sarria.
For this reason Sarria is the town where many, many pilgrims start their Camino. Arriving in Sarria is a major Camino milestone, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
I had no idea how hilly the town is, but I could feel every step. I moved through Sarria, but even after I got through the town I still had issues with the inclines.
Because Sarria is such a popular starting point the paths on the Camino become more populated from here on out. In the woods outside of Sarria I started running into big groups.
Prior to Sarria when I encountered pilgrims doing the Camino together it was mostly in pairs. After Sarria there were a lot of church and youth groups. I found it a little jarring to have so much more activity, but I tried to work on those feelings.
One of the things people who start before Sarria need to be aware of and keep in check are feelings of ownership of the Camino, especially as it relates to “newcomers” who haven’t been walking as long as they have.
It wouldn’t be a day on the Camino de Santiago without a bocadillo de jamón and zumo natural, so I stopped for that at Casa Barbadelo outside of Sarria. I continued walking and stopped for a quick rest and backpack readjustment in Peruscallo.
I walked on to Casa Morgade, where I planned to have some pasta for lunch. The only option was a bocadillo, which I’d eaten not terribly long before in Barbadelo, so I just got a bag of chips to tide me over.
As I sat there snacking I tried to evaluate how much farther I would continue for the day. It’d been a tough going since I left Paloma y Leña and mentally I was struggling.
It started when I left in the morning not wearing my hiking boots. It’s like I had been stripped of my cape! My running shoes are great, but my Salomon boots make me feel like I’m unstoppable against any obstacle or surface. That mental boost goes a long way in trying to tackle something like the Camino.
As I walked I felt like I was going so slowly. It was like I was moving through molasses and wasn’t making any progress. This was magnified by the fact that I didn’t see anyone I knew as I was walking that day, a rarity on the Camino.
Beth from Paloma y Leña said she walks so slowly that I would probably pass her. I was counting on that in order to see a familiar face, but that never happened.
It was such a deflating and sad feeling. I was so far behind and moving at an ever-slowing pace. At this rate I had surely lost track of everyone I know.
I was quickly losing my motivation for continuing for the day. It felt like a wash. I told myself though that I would see where I was at 3:00.
I continued walking along and came to Casa do Rego in A Pena. I hadn’t received albergue recommendations, but Casa do Rego here in A Pena and Albergue Mercadoiro farther ahead were two that I marked in my guidebook as options.
It wasn’t quite 3:00 when I got to Casa do Rego, so I wasn’t sure if I’d stop there for the day or keep going to Mercadoiro. There was one bed left at Casa do Rego, so I needed to make a decision.
As I started to contemplate it began to rain. I decided I’d had enough for the day and didn’t need to get soaked to contribute to my downtrodden feeling. I took the bed and started to get settled in.
Carol, who owns Casa do Rego with her husband Lorenzo, told me about their communal dinner and asked me if I wanted to partake. I was a little unsure and wanted to see about other options. I remembered how I felt on the night when I didn’t enjoy my full dinner and how sluggish it made me feel the following morning. I decided to go with the set menu anyway, which was a great choice.
This wound up being the tastiest dinner I had on the whole Camino. Every part of it was amazing.
The salad was magnificent. They don’t use dressing in Spain, so the oil and vinegar combination was one that I hadn’t quite come around to yet. The ingredients in this salad, however, were so fresh and flavorful that I became a convert.
Then came the chicken. So delicious! And bread that was just perfect. Lorenzo is the master behind the food, and he puts his heart and soul into it.
Then there was the company. The group had people from Austria, Australia, Brazil, and Italy. It was a lively group.
Carol said the length of dinner depends on how everyone is getting along with each other. Sometimes the group eats quietly and dinner is over in 45 minutes. That night, however, our group talked and laughed and ate and drank for over two hours.
It’s amazing how across five different countries and four different languages spoken we can all still find ways to communicate and have a great time. Every single word might not translate exactly, but laughter is universal.
I really felt so grateful to find Casa do Rego and will cherish this evening for a long time. After a day of feeling disheartened and alone this was the perfect antidote.