Today, the character of the Camino changed. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective. More on that shortly.
The forecast for today originally called for a nice day. This morning a revised forecast called for showers between 11 and 2. So I threw the backpack cover in and headed out before 7:30 to find the town in a deep fog. First foggy day this trip.
I also found the restaurant nearest the apartment to be open, despite the sign about opening at 8. So I got my breakfast and was walking by about 7:45.
And when I got on the Camino it looked like a scramble-start. All those folks that started in Sarria and I didn’t see yesterday? Well, they hit the trail between 7:30 and 8 this morning. I made my way past some of them, stopped for a few seconds to admire the landscape and found myself in a pack of 50 or so. About 3 km after leaving we got on top of the hill and the sun appeared. I took off my jacket and about 100 people passed me. It was like a swarm of gnats.
Aside from the sheer number of folks, most were traveling in groups or were paired off and were not particularly interested in conversation with other Pilgrims. A definite change from earlier.
As an example, I chatted for a few minutes with a guy from NC in the US. He hurried along, as did I, and as we approached a cafe, I indicated that I planned to stop. Without breaking stride we exchanged names and he said this was like speed dating. Not even shaking hands. I stopped, he continued. We hadn’t even finished a sentence. In earlier stages, we both would have stopped for a few seconds, shaken hands, finished the introduction, and then parted ways. I much prefer the way it was in earlier stages; but to him, this was perfectly fine.
At about 11 km in, I found a place to stop for lunch – and was a bit surprised at the number of folks around. I grabbed a sandwich and along came my fellow pilgrim from NJ. We chatted a bit, I got my stamp, and went to head out… just as wind, cold, and drizzle hit. Poncho on and I recommenced walking. We were out of the drizzle in 20 minutes or so.
I am liking the Galician countryside. More forests and pastureland than through Leon Y Castile. But the number of folks in the Camino and change in attitude make it starkly different than before. I suppose if I started from Sarria that I’d want to do it with a group of others that I knew because it doesn’t seem like one will form the same bonds over this last stretch. At no time today did I walk where there were less than 6 others in sight. And that makes it a bit harder to contemplate.
Where the apartment last night was really nice, the pension tonight in Palas De Rei is basic and just Ok. There is a list of rules a page long starting with no smoking, continuing to no drying of clothes in the rooms (despite the terrace snd laundry facility being closed) and more, including no alcohol in the rooms. Yet it was ok, apparently, for one group to have their doors open and converse between rooms. And again, no sink stopper (I figured out that foam ear plugs work pretty well to stop the sink). Willing to ask for forgiveness, I went ahead and washed clothes in the sink… I hope they dry. Had I known about the rules in advance, if have stayed elsewhere.
Compared to Portomarin, I’m not much impressed with this town. It may be the first town that I’m really glad to leave. The “why” is a bit nebulous, mostly a feeling. It just doesn’t seem welcoming and attuned to the attitude of the Camino.
Decent dinner at a Galician restaurant last night, but it was crowded and there was a line waiting when I was done. Glad I got there early!
Tomorrow is the last long stage of the Camino. 29 km. I’ve got something to eat in the room and hope to be out early. And I hope for good weather.