Triacastela – Barbadelo

The cloud lifts to reveal a house perched on the hill

The cloud lifts to reveal a house perched on the hill

Sleeping outside invariably means waking up early with the dawn. The two Serenas had already left before sunrise keen to cover the kilometres and to avoid the heat of the day. Ray was more relaxed and set off later while I stopped to admire the Church of Santiago and its iron scallop designs. Triacastela was the end of the eleventh stage of Aymery Picaud’s guide and with only two more stages to go, I was soon to be within 100km of Santiago de Compostela. I wanted to get there but still wanted to enjoy the slow pace of the long walk.

The Belgian scouts camped by the albergue in Triacastela

The Belgian scouts camped by the albergue in Triacastela

Church of Santiago in Triacastela

Church of Santiago in Triacastela

I took some breakfast at a small cafe. Ray joined me before we set off – he had been looking round town. Outside Triacastela there was a choice of routes. Many took the slightly longer route that curved to the South via Samos. In Samos there was a very large Benedictine Monastery, now a Spanish national monument. There used to be over five hundred monks based at the monastery. Only a few remained today.

For a while we could not decide whether to take that route. The other route was a slightly shorter, more strenuous and hilly route via Saint Xil and other small villages. Eventually we opted for the latter. The climb was on a good path through dappled shaded woods. The heat was slowly building and the shade protected us from the strong sun. I was however very humid under the canopy.

Scallop iron work at the Church of Santiago in Triacastela

Scallop iron work at the Church of Santiago in Triacastela

The Way climbed steeply on leaving town. Just before Saint Xil there was a fascinating fountain and seating area where some time was spent sampling the fresh spring water flowing enthusiastically from the hillside. Ray and I continued walking and chatting together for some time. The country was wonderful and I was glad to have taken the higher route as the views down and along the valley towards Sarria were superb. It was easy walking as the whole way after Saint Xil was downhill. It was a very long descent of many kilometres before we reached Sarria.

An alternative path is marked on the Camino

An alternative path is marked on the Camino

Stocking up on some lunch, I searched around for a camera shop to purchase another memory card for the camera. All the camera shops were closed until 4pm so we waited at the foot of the steps leading to the centre of old Sarria. After lunch Ray decided to continue while I waited for the shops to open. On the corner there was a small shop that specialised in selling all sorts of useful clothing and supplies for pilgrims, including memory cards. Happy to be able to take photos again I continued on. Soon I passed a strange self-service room full of vending machines selling food and drink. Galician music was blaring out and there was no one around. CCTV cameras surveyed the room, and I was endlessly amused that a separate vending machine was selling Saint James scallop shells!

A cyclist leaves the fountain before Saint Xil

A cyclist leaves the fountain before Saint Xil

The albergue in Barbadelo was basic and clean. The lady there was a little officious as she read out the rules. She advised that I could use the kitchen but that there were no plates, cutlery or pans. When I enquired why there was a kitchen but no utensils, she simply said that ‘those were the rules’ as she impatiently pointed to the wall poster detailing the Albergue Rules of the Junta of Galicia.

Instead I sat on the steps with my gas stove and cooked up some chicken soup. Eva, Ray and others were there and we all chatted and shared what food we had. In a field opposite the albergue was a caravan selling beers and snacks. They had even set up a huge tent with a television for the World Cup final in a few days. Again I reflected on the contrast of the traditional Camino with today’s modern world.

Junta rules dictated a strict 10pm lights out at this albergue so there was no choice but to take a welcomed early night.

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