Sarria to Portomarin
First Day of Walking the Last 100km of the Camino de Santiago
Elevation: 510.97 meters up + 580.25 meters down
After a simple breakfast of yogurt, nuts, fruit, coffee, tea and some frozen hard-boiled eggs (I had done them the night before and the fridge was a bit on the cold side), we gathered outside the apartment to begin our walk.
My mom was on this trip with two of her dear friends, Laura and Peggy. The three of them have gotten together regularly all throughout COVID with a group of their friends. There are eight of them so they call themselves the Crazy Eights. They met outside in each other’s backyards. Even in the winter, they would bundle up and get together. So in spirit, the other five ladies were with my mom and her friends, following their journey. One of their friends did a lot of research on the Camino and even painted them all pictures of the mile markers on the trail. And she sent them all traditional Camino prayers to have for their trip. So before we started out, Laura shared one of the Camino prayers with all of us:
All powerful God, you always show mercy toward those who you love and you are never far away from those who seek you.
Be with your servants on this pilgrimage and guide their way in accord with your will.
Be a companion for them along the path, a guide at crossroads, strength in their
weariness, defense before dangers, shelter on the way, shade against the heat, light
in the darkness, a comforter in their discouragements, and firmness in their
intentions, in order that, through your guidance, they might arrive unscathed at the end of their
journey and, enriched with graces and virtues, they might return safely to their
homes, filled with salutary and lasting joy.
Through Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Together we say the Pilgrim’s Prayer:
St James, Apostle
Chosen among the first
You were the first to drink
The Cup of the Master
And you are the great protector of pilgrims;
Make us strong in faith
And happy in hope
On our pilgrim journey
Following the path of Christian life
An sustain us so that
We may finally reach the glory of God the Father
And then we began.
We headed out of Sarria to Portomarin with many other pilgrims who were starting the day on the Camino.
You only have to walk the last 100 kilometers of the Camino (or bike the last 200km) in order to earn the official certificate of completion, so this stretch from Sarria is the most popular section of the Camino. Many pilgrims begin their journey here.
Over the bridge and into the woods, we went.
Into beautiful Galicia!
It’s a hilly first day, gradual rolling hills, but still a lot of up and down.
Everyone was snapping photos, gasping at the green fields, the flowers, the old stone walls, the cows grazing and the tall trees.
There was already so much to see and take in.
We stopped at the first old stone chapel we reached.
The door was open, so we pulled out our pilgrim’s passports to get them stamped.
You need two stamps a day between Sarria and Santiago to show that you have walked this section, but of course, we collect many more than two a day.
While standing outside the church, I met a few fellow pilgrims, some who had walked from St Jean and some who began with us in Sarria.
On this first day, everyone was finding their way, perhaps questioning themselves a bit:
Am I carrying too much in my backpack?
Do I have the right layers on? Should I have brought one more or left one behind?
How long will it take me to reach the next stop?
Will there be coffee again soon?
Should I stop here and find a bathroom or should I wait until the next village?
I knew that soon enough, everyone would work out how much they wanted to carry and how to pace themselves on the walking.
I slowed down to stay in the back and walk behind everyone, knowing that the Camino would provide each person with just exactly what they needed.
The day was cool when we started out, but quickly began to warm up, and us with it.
It stayed overcast most of the morning with a few glimpses of sun and blue sky peeking through the clouds.
We stopped around 11am for our first longer break at a cafe.
It was one of the first places to stop outside of Sarria, so there was a long line of pilgrims waiting for coffee and pastries, a sign that we would need to be patient at stops.
Those who were tired went to find a seat or the bathroom while a few of us stood in line to place orders.
After a while we arrived at the table with trays of coffees and little pastries, cakes and cookies. We all sat around visiting and trying everything.
Those who had gotten ahead had waited for us so we were all together again.
It was a good, long while before we got ourselves going again.
Some of us were visiting and talking while walking.
Some walked on ahead.
Some walked in silence.
There were horses along the way to chat to and pet.
Apples and blackberries to pick.
Pear trees to climb.
And cats and dogs to greet.
There were more stops made for food.
You would catch up to someone and they would be sitting at a table saying, here try this empanada.
Look at this fresh juice we found!
Maybe you would take a bite and keep walking or maybe you would sit down and stay awhile.
Whatever you wish.
It’s your Way.
Already I was delighted to see that folks were seeing and experiencing what I love so much about walking the Camino.
You separate and find each other all day long.
There is always a place to stop and wait or stop and rest.
Or maybe you just stop because something about this particular village is calling to you.
You don’t even necessarily have to be hungry.
And so on and on we went.
Walking and talking.
Walking and eating.
Walking and drinking.
In between stops, the countryside beckoned us on.
So many flowers and fields to see.
Over time, the large group of pilgrims we started with in Sarria became spread out far and wide on the road.
There were no longer crowds anywhere, just a few folks here and there.
If you stopped for any length of time, someone would come along, but also if you wanted to be alone, you could walk on alone.
Everyone was easily learning to follow the path, to watch for the yellow arrows and sea shell markers.
And to stop whenever they felt like it.
Rain had been predicted to start sometime in the afternoon, but it really held off most of the day.
Since it was our first day I was super grateful for the lack of rain, but I knew we were going to get into it at some point.
It was also predicted for several more days ahead.
But I also didn’t want to rush anyone because of coming rain, so we continued to dilly dally along the Way.
We stopped in another church, noticing how people had left behind all kinds of prayers, pictures, letters and mementos.
And of course, I stopped to photograph my favorite signs and symbols of the Camino.
But eventually, it did begin to rain.
Light sprinkles at first, but then a more steady rain began to fall.
We dug out raincoats and backpack covers and began to walk just a bit faster towards our destination.
It was the end of the day and everyone was tired, but they remained in such good spirits.
We walked for well over an hour in the rain. Everyone’s shoes and socks got wet.
But they kept walking.
No one even mentioned calling a taxi.
Eventually we reached Portomarin and walked over the long bridge in the wind and the rain.
I had intentionally neglected to mention that there would be a climb into the town at the end of the day.
Only one person said, Do we have to climb those steep stairs?!
But then everyone was laughing when I took their picture on the old stone steps.
The rain subsided a bit as we reached the town and we got a quick photo with the town sign before finding our albergue for the night.
It was a newer place with lovely private rooms.
Everyone changed into dry clothes and wrapped up into the fluffy blankets that were on the beds.
I went around and announced that I was headed to the square for a celebratory beer for anyone who wanted to join.
Some folks stayed behind and napped, but several of us headed down the street.
We made it all the way here from Sarria to Portomarin! Cheers and Buen Camino to everyone!
After some beers and snacks, we all went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner.
We had a short, optional yoga session in the courtyard of our albergue just before dinner to stretch our hips a bit.
Then we headed just up the road to a restaurant for our 8pm reservation for pilgrim’s dinner.
The pilgrim’s menu is a fixed price menu where you choose a first course, a main course and a dessert. Plus wine and after-dinner coffee of course.
I think we managed to order all the choices on the menu between the nine of us. We had salads and classic Galician soup. We ordered chicken and beef and fish. And then we had flans and cheese cakes and yogurts for dessert.
After an evening of eating and drinking and laughing, with full bellies and hearts, we wandered back to our rooms to fall into our cozy beds and do it all again tomorrow.
Very fun to read this and relive that first day on the trail! Raining here today, so makes me think even more about that day.
Alison, once again, reading your words, makes me feel like I was walking with you! What an amazing trip! Can’t wait to get with your Mom and Peggy and hear more!
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