Wednesday, August 5, 2009


We´ve been walking through the hills and there has been no internet available - hence no e-mails from me.
We worked it so when faced with the steepest climb on the Camino, we were close to it - about 10km to O Cebreiro. Most of us paid a taxi to take our bags to the top and believe me it was a wonderful feeling to just step out with only the daypack. The first 1.5 hours were beautiful, on well-marked tracks well off the main road. Then it got steeper but we just slowed down and strolled. I was with a group of 4 Canadians married to each other (you work it out!) and we had a great time chatting. Then we were in misty clouds, climbing through a chestnut forest. Suddenly we were there! The only person complaining was Barry from NZ who carried his backpack, so that must be the difference. The book said that experienced walkers should allow 3 hours and we did it in 2h45, so in a sense it was anticlimactic. There was quite loud Celtic music playing (the Galicians are proud of their Celtic origins) and Gregorian chant in the church. There must have been four cafes and more tiendas in what is a tiny place. Two German pilgrims wondered when the first MacDonalds would appear on the Camino. Tourist buses rolled in and out, and all the while the fog was fairly dense with visibility down to 100 m. We all decided to walk on to Fonfria because there was a rumour new albergue there. We set off, cresting two ridges (Alto de San Roque and Alto de Poio) over 1200m high. Then we dropped down to Fonfria - about 27km for the day, about 5km more than my body enjoyed. Yes, the albergue was new and matched with a new restaurant both built by the same family. There is no shop ... get the picture? The four Canadians and I booked in with a guy (7€ each), grabbed our bunks and unpacked when in rolled the hospitallera. It was fiesta time for Corpus Christi (o no, we groaned) and no doubt she had been otherwise occupied. No, we could not use those bunks as they were reserved for a touring group of kids. Well, after a lot of tooing and froing she relented and when the kids came, some of them were bused back to Hospital (a village, not an institution). When Barry, Deanne and Jean arrived there were only private rooms available, the ones which had been offered to us. They took them gladly, so all were happy. For dinner I bypassed the Menu del Dia and had instead Pulpo, the great Galician signature dish. Pulpo is octopus and you will be pleased to know it was chopped up and cooked. Actually it was wonderful, leaving the impression of having been cooked in wine, with a light touch of virgin olive oil. I will certainly be having it again. The pieces were mainly discs around 1 - 1.5cm thick and had a lovely not-too-chewy texture. It cost 8€ and as I had only bread and water with it, the price for the meal was still most reasonable.
The wax ear plugs are great! I had a sound sleep and heard nothing of the fiesta. Barry said the band stopped at 4am. Next morning we walked through Triacastela (which has no castles and certainly not three), through Renche which was having its CC fiesta on the Sunday, to Samos where we enjoyed a guided tour of San Julian monastery, and the 6 o´clock mass. Apparently almost the entire monastery was burned out in 1959, but the walls were fine so it was rebuilt pretty much as it had been. This is the place whence set forth in the mid 19th c, Don Salvador to found the Benedictine monastery at New Norcia some way out of Perth. He is described as Apostol do Australia.
The monks singing was not fine as 5 yrs ago so I think they need a music director. A hesitant and feeble organ accompanied the singing which was dominated by the monk/priest who runs the shop, and the president of the service who last time was cantor. There are only 15 monks now but about a third are young (monjes in Spanish, with nuns monjas). OK, it was CC, so after the service there was a procession out from the church and through the cloister. Everyone joined in and the wafer representing Christ´s body was held in a dazzling monstrance, with a pall held over it by 6 men of the town. The women walked before the monstrance bearing candles. (Monstrance has the same root as demonstrate, not monster. Thought I´d sort that out for you.) I asked Deanne what she thought and she was ecstatic as it took her back. Apparently her church no longer processes.
I ate with two women from South Africa. They are recently divorced, I would say, and heard of the camino only months ago. They are walking to clear their heads, enjoy the simplicity, and work out what is important. We all had the M del D and it was OK. We felt sorry for the poor waitress as she was alone and literally running. I had bean soup and 4 rings of calamari and chips. Pulpo was better. (Later I saw the hired help having 8 rings, so it pays to work there.)
Arrived in Sarria in 2.5 hrs and chose the only one of the 5 albergues in the same street to be open. 6€ plus 6€ for washing and drying clothes. That´s fine.
Walking into the city centre I passed the Centro do Culturo, bowled into this old school where there were no signs or sings of life. Eventually found 2 people on the third floor, one of whom brought me to the ground floor and in through a blank-faced door to a library. (Now, don´t advertise you´ve got a library - someone may actually want to use it!) Sure enough, they have two fast computers with Net access and NO CHARGE! WhooHOO! That´s what I call cultured.
I hope this arvo to have my pics transferred from chip to CD ROM. I´ve pruned the number down to around 700, I think, so it will be a good insurance policy. You know, I have only had to charge my battery twice? Pretty good.
A couple of weeks ago Manfred and I swapped aphorisms. Mine was, A traveller may lie by authority, while M´s was (probably from Dante) A traveller has no shame. Folks, while I MAY lie by authority, all I tell you is the truth, but it is true that we travellers have no shame. You should see the piles of rubbish we leave by the road. And we wee by the track and get changed in our dormitories. We are all terribly discreet and nobody perves (an action done by a perverted person), but I am sure the attitudes will change back home.
Yesterday as I walked by the road I studied the grasses alongside me. There were flowers in abundance with whites, bright yellows, russets, reds, and browns, and the grasses themselves ranged from new growth in light greens to yellows and browns. Through it all there was the wild life - birds, butterflies, ants, spiders - and I thought how as I child in class I had painted my pictures with green grass and blue sky. We have to learn to observe, and have to time for it. I wonder how often we notice a fabulous sunset or rejoice in the new growth of spring? Of course we do when away from home and especially in a new environment. I know I need to make time for this. So often I just don´t see anything except what i have to do.
God bless you all

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