October 14: Ah, Sarria. Your name is full of associations. It is the last place that a pilgrim can begin his/her journey and still receive a compostella certifying that he/she has walked the Camino. As a result the number of pilgrims goes up exponentially once you reach Sarria.
Today was another excellent day that seemed to go by quickly. Though my weather app promised sunny skies we were actually walking in fog most of the day and it was decidedly chilly. It was very Lord of the Rings-ish. We expected the evil nazgul on their black horses to appear at any time in pursuit.
Early in the day, for the second or third time, I met Andrew from Glasgow, a retired chemist who has worked in upper management in industry, taught at the post secondary level and also studied sociology and social psychology. The miles flew by as we chatted. He is walking the Camino in three stages, two weeks at a time, and tomorrow he flies home out of Santiago. This is fortuitous because tomorrow I pick Susan up at Santiago Airport. After checking into bus schedules, Andrew has decided to take a taxi tomorrow and for the cost of the bus fare (about €15) I will go with him. (I think he has more money than I.)
Along the way we encountered a rest stop was was a wonderful kind of “hippie haven.” A young man had turned a very old house and barn into a way station where they provided a profusion of drinks, fruit, snacks and almost anything you can imagine. There were couches to sit on and blankets to wrap yourself in. Five young kittens frolicked in the yard. There were no prices, just a donation basket.
I checked into the pension that Susan had booked for us in Sarria and it is very nice. We have heard that accommodations are very tight due to the influx of pilgrims and so it is best to reserve or to stop at places other than the standard ones. Julie got no sleep last night due to the extreme snoring and sleep apnea of a fellow pilgrim so she decided that if there was a single room available here then she would take it to be guaranteed a good night’s sleep. There was.
After checking in and sorting out the bus/taxi issues, we walked into the old town where all the albergues, bars and restaurants are. We settled into a sidewalk cafe and ordered an assortment of tapas (appetizers): olives, cooked ham, asparagus, cheese and prepared meats with bread. And of course, wine or beer. We wanted to try pulpo (octopus) which is a regional specialty but it was not going to be available until 7:30 and it was now only 6:00. So we sat and ate and drank beer and wine and talked.
Various people we had met along the way came to join us and then moved on — Michael and Cholena from Australia (we toasted Michael’s 40th birthday), two women from England and Switzerland/Canada, and finally Andrés, a lawyer from Germany with a wonderful, droll sense of humour. Finally the pulpo arrived and Andrés ordered a bottle of fine Rioja wine. It was an evening of great hilarity fuelled by good wine and we all enjoyed it tremendously. Andrew said it was the highlight of his Camino.
It seems odd that I won’t be walking tomorrow but I am looking forward to a day of rest and seeing Susan again. The pension is very comfortable. It will be the first time that I have stayed in the same place for two nights. Julie is walking on tomorrow so will not have a chance to meet Susan, which she would like to do. I am unsure how many, if any, of my Camino friends will be able to meet us either along the way or in Santiago. I hear that it is amazing how many people encounter each other again in Santiago so who knows?