Chapter Eight: The Camino Part I

I say part one because it’s important to first establish that there will be a part two one day. However it will have to wait as I unfortunately sprained my ankle (again – did I mention I sprained it in France?) as I headed out to start day two of the 115 km hike to the holy city where Saint James the Apostle is allegedly burried.

Let me back up. I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on a beautiful Tuesday morning after a less beautiful Monday night spent in El Prat airport. The fact that I found a broken bench with missing armrests in between them told me I might be lucky enough to sleep a bit. The jackhammering that began at midnight and went on through 4:00 a.m., however, told me otherwise. In any case, I did make it to my final destination, albeit somewhat sleepy. I dropped off some excess baggage (which is also allegorical to my life at the present moment) to store during my hike, received my first ‘buen camino’ and avoided looking around as I did not want to ‘spoil the surprise.’ From Santiago I took a bus to Lugo, and from Lugo to Sarria, where I collected my camino passport and hunkered down for the night, excited to start the next day at the crack of dawn… er, 9:00 a.m.

Sarria begins roughly at kilometer 115 of the trail and the route is broken down into approximately five days of 20-25 km each. According to my weather app, day one was the only day with under 90% chance of rain so I was eager to clock at least 20 of those km in the nice weather and perhaps break down the rest of the trip into shorter distances as I was in no rush.

Day one was magical. The trail was breathtaking. Rolling hills, farms, fields, tiny villages and small forests were some of the things I passed. I stopped after my first hour at a small trailside albergue to have a coffee and pick up a ‘shell’ to strap onto my backpack, as is custom. I stopped in an open field of wildflowers to do some yoga and stretch out. And I walked. It was about 5.5 hours and 22 km, plus a few rest breaks. I was not for one second bored. When I strolled (read: stumbled in, huffing and puffing) into Portomarin around 3:30 p.m., one thing was certain: I needed a victory beer. I felt elated and also exhausted. After my beer I checked into a hostel and napped before dragging myself up for some food. I saw a friend I had met at  my first albergue, Fernando; a fifty-something man from a town in central Spain which I cannot pronounce. We chatted a bit about soccer, bulls and ancient American cultures. And I went to sleep.

I woke up feeling good on morning two and left to begin my hike at a whopping 7:45 a.m. (eager to beat the rain). However, destiny had another plan for me as I felt a familiar roll and snap of my ankle about 100 meters from the hostel. I hobbled back, trying to be optimistic that I could just rest for one day and then return but it soon became clear to me that this was the end of my camino… for now.

The pain wasn’t too bad but the disappointment was fierce. I realized I needed to come up with a plan B that required little walking so I could finally heal and get on with my trip in one solid piece. So currently I am on a urine-scented bus to collect my things in Santiago and will by flying out tomorrow morning to stay with Jasper’s parents for a week in Belgium. I am lucky to have such wonderful family close by to stay with, even if I cannot complete the trail. I guess it will have to wait.

Some photos below from my one beautiful day (and what I ate). ❤


ADDENDUM: The rest of the day had some highlights that I wanted to share so you don’t feel sorry for me. I drowned my sorrows in some churros and chocolate, I got a local Santiago almond cake and met some new friends at my hostel who cooked me a lovely pasta dinner with black squid in ink and pulpa, which is tenderized octopus. That they came in a can only added to the experience.

I also made it into the city just in time to attend the noon ceremony at the famous cathedral where eight men in robes (tirabuleiros) pull the botfumeiro; a giant canister with incense which swings like a giant hippy-scented pendulum. It was beautiful.


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