Triacastela Stories and Tips

Down and up and Down - Camino from Fonfria

At 7am I headed out in the grey early morning light from the albergue in Fonfria. The sun slowly rose but as looking down the hill the valley was filled with cloud, while we had clear skies. The backdrop of the scenery changed from yesterday, which had been at a higher height and much more open, here we were dropping down into farmland, and so much more green. The spring green was dramatically enhanced with stunning bright yellow of gorse. The path had some really rough and stoney sections, but nowhere as near difficult as the descent two days earlier after Cruz de Ferro. I came to the tiny hamlet of Biduedo, which the only sign of life was cows on a farm. There was a tiny stone chapel to San Pedro, and while the main part of the church was locked behind a door the porch was open.
I dropped down into the cloud, as the path continued to descend. I was glad to have some layers on as it was cold and damp. After a while I started to get tired, I could see a village ahead, and was hoping for a bar as it was cold and damp, but no such luck. I sat on a stone wall just after the village and had something to eat from my pack. The path was a laneway under trees. Then I came to a farm with some loud barking dogs. I was glad to see Triacastela ahead and I knew I could get the first coffee of the day.
There was a bar just before I got to the town proper, and I joined two of the guys who had been in the same albergue the night before. The waitress was worried about her boss when we took our boots off and suggested we hide this so she would not get into trouble if he came in. A cafe con leche was definitely warming and a piece of tortilla made with eggs, potato and onions gave some sustenance, though as usual I only ate half as it was too much and bagged the rest up to eat later. I carried on through the village, and saw a sign the church was open. The church had provided a leaflet in several languages for pilgrims as well as a stamp for my pilgrim credential. It has a relief on the tower of three castles that were supposed to give the town its name but no longer exist. I could hear singing, it was two of the German ladies I had met as part of a German group on the other side of the mountain. In charades and broken english and german I discovered one of them had decided the mountain was too much due to injury and they had taken a taxi across and were waiting for the rest of the group before they continued. But their singing was a real treat!.
At Triacastela there are two route options, one that goes through Samos and another through San Xil. I decided that the only reason to go to Samos was if I was planning to stay their for the night, but I wanted to keep moving to reach Santiago for Sunday so wanted to reach Sarria that night. So I went for the shorter route through San Xil, a choice I probably came to regret, as it was another good climb and descent. The first bit was lovely, and I came to an area with a scallop shell fountain having just climbed a steep section of a path that had a stream running down it. The rest area was not well maintained but it was nice to listen to the running water and sit in the shade as the day had changed from overcast to sunshine.
Then I walked along a road for a long time up into the small vilage of San Xil, the views down into the valley were lovely. But as I kept climbing I was getting hotter and hotter. I was glad to reach the alto at the top where the camino veered off the road and onto a path through woods. I found some good shade under some pine trees, and sat down for lunch. The path continued down. But I knew that the tough day through the mountains was lingering on me, and the descent in the heat seemed tough and my feet felt like lead. I ran into another group of Germans-by Santiago the other English speaking pilgrims thought it slightly odd that I knew so many Germans who spoke little English, but on the camino there is this odd comradery even when language fails. They passed me just as I had finished lunch and checked I was okay as I was sitting on the ground lacing up boots, then I overtook them, they caught up when I had found a bench in the shade and they joined me in the cool, and then they caught up at the next village were there was a bar. I didn't see them again until Santiago but we all remember that long day over San Xil. I have to say I was so glad to reach the bar - it was a hot day, and a cold drink and ice cream were perfect.
By this stage my knee was giving me some bother, I think because I was compensating for the ankle that had been hurting. At this stage the camino was up and down some little hills and through some small villages and lots of farms with sheep and lambs, cows. The green hills and stone walls were feeling a little bit Ireland like for me. The guidebook told me there was a bar in one village, but arriving there, the bar was closed and they were busy renovating seemingly to be ready for the height of the pilgrim season in the summer. Reading the guide I knew there was an albergue just a few kilometres ahead before Sarria and decided to abandon the plan to get to Sarria that day as I was feeling too hot. The camino was along a path beside the road and I saw the L-shaped bungalow of the albergue right on the side of the road. There was a large lawn area with loungers, tables, chairs and paraols, there was a covered verandah with more seats in the shade, and plants brought colour especially blue irises. I went into the office, and was warmly welcomed, and was told why not have a shower get a free cup of tea or coffee (and biscuits) from the lounge before coming to pay and properly check in. That was a treat - I got my bed- in an 8-bed dorm with an ensuite bathroom with two showers and two toilets, all clean and little touches to make it colourfully and welcoming. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in a reclining deck-chair lounger in the shade. I spotted three Korean pilgrims I knew, I was surprised as when I had seen them in Triacastela earlier they were thinking of going to Samos for the night to have a short day to recover after the mountains - and going out to the road to talk to them they decided to stay here too rather than 4 more kilometres into Sarria. The albergue also provided a vegetarian dinner- we had a lentil stew with rice, salad with tortilla and a quiche and then tarta de Santiago which is an almond cake, and water and wine. It was very tasty and lots of food. There were only five of us staying that night - 5 women so we had a lovely relaxed dinner, and then talked about plans for the next days, comparing what each guide book said as we had three different ones between us. But despite the nice lounge, none stayed up late, and I headed to bed early enjoying the peace and quiet.

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