June 6, 2011
Most of the group (with the exceptions of Dr. Gyug, Allison, and Helena) got a bit of a late start leaving Sarría, perhaps due to the generally gloomy weather this morning. A couple of hours into our walk we experienced our first, and hopefully last, taste of the infamous Galician rain. Nevertheless, this intrepid group of pilgrims pressed on, having prepared for this contingency psychologically and with plenty of raingear.
In the midst of the rain Peter and I passed a significant milestone. Or, more accurately, a kilometerstone. Specifically, the stone marker that designates that on is 100 kilometers from Santiago. Most of the stone distance markers have little stones stacked in cairns on top of them or some kind of graffiti, however this one was covered in jubilant, colorful writing in a dozen languages and was both covered and surrounded with stone cairns and tokens from peregrinos. Peter and I stopped to take a few photographs for posterity, and wound up walking the next stretch with an older French gentleman for whom we took a picture at the marker. He informed us during our conversation that he had been to New York twice before to run the marathon; once in 1999 and before that in 1989. Neither Peter nor I had the heart to tell him that he has been running marathons since the year we were born. Just another example of the sort of amazing and dedicated people one meets along the Road.
The biggest difference between today and the previous days (besides the rain) has been the increase in the number of people on the Camino. Sarría is a popular starting point since it is a big city that is the minimum distance from Santiago required to get the compostella. It is easy to pick out some of these newcomers; their clean clothes, jeans, sneakers, or lack of equipment are dead giveaways. In a way I found myself frustrated with some of them. I saw a young woman wearing what seemed to be a preschooler's backpack emblazoned with a Nike swoosh, a pair of brand new running shoes, and walking with two trekking poles. This was not the smelly, dedicated, beleaguered comrade I had come to know. Then it occurred to me, with some sense of shame, that starting from León I must have seemed like that kind of "inauthentic" pilgrim to that sixty-something French gentleman who walked all the way through Switzerland. Really, I felt kind of second-rate compared to all of those people we had encountered that started at Le Puy or St. Jean. Perhaps all that means is that I need to come back though. We´ll see.
Arriving in Portomarín today, the river basin that Dr. Gyug informed us is usually full was at a very low level. As a result we were able to see the old Roman bridge and the ruins of the old city of Portomarín as we crossed the Miño River into town. In the 1960's a dam was built that caused the water level of the river to rise. Franco, wanting to preserve the town, ordered all the buildings moved, stone by stone, to new locations on top of the hill where the modern town is currently situated. The highlight of the historical sights is the Church of St. Nicholas. Built in the 12th or 13th century by the Knights Templar, the church combines the architectural features of a fortress and a Romanesque church.
On to Palas de Rei tomorrow!
-Nicholas P. Garcia