Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My week walking The Way of St. James: days 1 and 2

Day 1 of my El Camino pilgrimage began with the group leaving the small town of Sarria after having a light breakfast. When we began our walk, it was cloudy and a little rainy. I was so glad to have remembered to pack a pair of leggings and a light rain jacket/windbreaker. It has really come in handy. It was not a very hot day, which we were grateful for, but the sun came out later on and the breeze kept the temperature comfortable. 
We walked 23 kilometers total, and we went through many different types of terrain, including woodlands, rocky paths, cobblestones, and dirt roads. The path led us uphill, downhill, near streams, along roads, and across bridges. Every moment was an adventure and every twist in the path brought a brand new view. 
Above is the Kilometer marker where we began our pilgrimage. Each kilometer that we passed, counted down. Eventually, we will get to Santiago de Compostela!

The scenery was really beautiful this day. There was always something lovely to look at. The path that we were on was almost always along an ancient-looking, layered stone border hedge... does that make sense? 
Where we walked, it was also very green and lush. It reminded me a lot of Ireland and Scotland. The path was also surrounded by beautiful wildflowers. 
We stopped at a few places along the way, just to grab a snack, rest our feet, and use the restroom. My family and I had packed some snacks to carry with us, but we did not need them today because there were plenty of places to stop at. 
In order to keep pilgrims on the right trail, the path is marked with yellow arrows and scallop shells, which decorate markers and signs. The scallop shell is a symbol of El Camino, since the ridges on the shell all end in one place, just as all the different routes of the pilgrimage end in Santiago de Compostela. Each pilgrim carries a scallop shell with them while they walk. Mine hangs off the back of my backpack. 

We ended our day by crossing the bridge over the reservoir and heading into Portomarin. This little town greeted us with a long stair climb to get to our hotel. We were so relieved to be in town, and we rewarded ourselves with long showers and a nice dinner of lamb and potatoes.

Day 2:
We woke up this morning and had a very European breakfast of bread, brie cheese, jam, and fresh squeezed orange juice. We then headed out into the fog and left Portomarin behind. Today's walk was about 21 km and we ended up in Palas de Rei. 

It was a bit warmer today than yesterday, but I started out wearing my jacket and leggings. I later changed into shorts and was very glad to have brought my hat and some sunscreen. We had our backs to the sun the entire day, so I was also glad to have packed a bandana to tie around my neck to keep the sun off of it. I felt like a Boy Scout.
Today's trek was much different from yesterday's, which really surprised me. It was still beautiful, but we passed through many small, industrial towns and the path was very hilly. We also spent a lot of time walking on and along somewhat busy roads, as seen below:

We were able to start out a bit earlier than our first day, which meant that we were around a lot more people during our walk. We were able to make some new friends from all over the world: Australia, the US, Switzerland, Germany, and parts of Spain. It is just incredible how El Camino brings all different kinds of people together. 
When walking or biking along The Way, pilgrims greet each other by saying "buen Camino," which means "have a good walk," or "blessed walk." It is a wish that everything goes well for each pilgrim while on the Camino. 

With my feet very dusty and silly keen tan-lines, I ended the day really looking forward to a shower.

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