DAY 24 June 18 2015 Sarria to Portomarin ( 24 km )

We awakened to another glorious day—clear, blue skies and temperatures to reach 19C. This is great walking weather. It is also unusual for this time of year in Galacia— June is often a rainy month here.
Wanting to have our credencials stamped we hoped that the Mary Magdalen Monastery would be open when we passed by on our way out of town. It was not but there was a bell rope and when pulled the caretaker answered and gave us the stamp. This was a nice, positive start to our day.
Today’ s walk was mostly beside cherry, apple, pear and peach orchards. Each day in Galacia we are stunned by the greenness. With it’s rolling hills, stone walls dividing pastures, it is much like Ireland. Now once again we are seeing lush gardens of tomatoes,potatoes, onions, lettuce, and rapini. Much of the undergrowth is bramble which is in bloom now but will yield berries called “mora” which are like our blackberries. Edible wild mushrooms grow here too and are often on menus. They are delicious.
We had several pleasant encounters today. First, about an hour into our trek we came upon a Hungarian pilgrim and a donkey. (The donkey’s name was Serafina but she is Martin to us). The fellow does not carry food for the donkey but allows it to browse along the way. He bought Martin (Serafina) for 700 Euros as Martin is trained. You can buy an untrained donkey for 250-300 Euros. We can just imagine what an interesting journey that would be.
As we mentioned in previous blogs, the closer you get to Santiago, the more pilgrims there are. This day there was a tour group of Americans and Canadians. They walk as far as they are able and then a van picks them up and returns them to their hotel. The great thing about these types of tours is
each evening there are talks by experts on the regional history, architecture and such. We would like this, as Delana is our “expert”and often times the information is only in Spanish. The group was into their 4th day of walking and we thought they were doing well. One Canadian lady was 76 years old and had had both hips replaced—she was spunky!! However, we feel certain that no one had prepared them for today’s 24km walk which is described as medium to hard. You never want to see “hard” describing your upcoming walk. We found the walk challenging in spots and we’ve been at this for awhile! There were steep ascents but even worse descents over loose rock, boulders and sand. It was very slippery. We found we were worrying about the tour group.
The highlight for us was coming up a hill in the woods and hearing distant strains of a bagpipe. When we neared the 100 km marker there was a young Galician fellow dressed in a folk outfit playing the gaita. We stayed to listen for several minutes. It was a beautiful acknowledgement of how far we had come. With renewed energy we continued for our last 12 kilometres.
After a considerable climb we reached Portomarin crossed the bridge and were met with about 50 steep stone stairs leading into town. Old Portomarin, dates from Roman times but no longer exists—well it does exist but it is under water. In the 60’s a dam was built on the Mino River and flooded Portomarin. Cherished churches were dismantled and rebuilt rock by rock on the high ground where Portomarin stands today. In the autumn when the reservoir waters are low the old Roman bridge and the remains of the old town can be seen above water. This must be a strange feeling to those who lived there.
Our casa rural is delightful with the most accommodating posadero. As it is out of town, they came to pick us up in an open jeep type of affair. ( By the way, seat belts do not seem to be mandatory in Spain—at least no one wears them.) Hanging on as best we could ( and with our seat belts on) we careened down the valley, with our driver talking and gesticulating. We were very glad we have been spending so much time in churches lately.
At our casa rural there was a group of young people from the US on a bible study tour.
We could hear their laughter amidst CD’s of Galician music far into the night and it was good.

Our friend and good luck charm
Our friend and good luck charm ” Martin” – what a donkey, he keeps showing up!
At the 100 km to Santiago marker. A total of about 850 km of walking behind us.
At the 100 km to Santiago marker. A total of about 850 km of walking behind us.
A Galician piper, playing the Gaita Gallega - a Galician bagpipe.
A Galician piper, playing the Gaita Gallega – a Galician bagpipe.
These are corn storage buildings called Horreos. At first we could not understand, they are small by Canadian farm storage standards but then we realized that many of  these farms are only a few acres. They don't need a 1000 bushel silo.
These are corn storage buildings called Horreos. At first we could not understand, they are small by Canadian farm storage standards but then we realized that many of these farms are only a few acres. They don’t need a 1000 bushel silo.
The Galician farm landscape is so reminiscent of Ireland. Stone hedges dividing small parcels of land.
The Galician farm landscape is so reminiscent of Ireland. Stone hedges dividing small parcels of land.
This picture is here just to show you how beautiful the walk was. Filtered sunlight on an ancient stone fence, trees after a century or two of pruning now looking like old veterans that they are.  The accent wooden post fence looks like one from my great grandfather's farm and the colours make everything seem so fresh.
This picture is here just to show you how beautiful the walk was. Filtered sunlight on an ancient stone fence, trees after a century or two of pruning now looking like old veterans that they are. The accent wooden post fence looks like one from my great grandfather’s farm yet the colours make everything seem so fresh.
The solution to obstacles along the Camino is not always easy: here, huge stones - I am talking big: up to 3 feet x 1.5 by a foot deep have been placed over almost a hundred yards of river bottom.
This should excite all the engineers: The solution to obstacles along the Camino is not always easy: here, huge stones – I am talking big: up to 3 feet x 1.5 by a foot deep have been placed over almost a hundred yards of river bottom. All done by hand labour.
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