Day 39 – Portomarin to Castromaior

It’s a really short walk of 9km, to see how my knee behaves. We leave the absolutely beautiful town of Portomarin and get onto the scenic path through enchanted forests. We left only at 7am and leaving with us, are hundreds of pilgrims, all of us headed in one direction.

It feels strange! On the one hand, we’re in awe of how many people are on the St James Way, some for adventure, others for the exercise and others for the spiritual experience! There are many, many young ones, average age of 17 possibly! Maybe it has something to do with the time of year. Some have music playing loudly, so their friends can listen too, others are chatting or singing loudly. They’re having a good time! It’s a different atmosphere!

On the other hand, we miss the quiet, peace and solitude of the last 690km, when it was just us on the path and we could hear the crunch of our footsteps, the chirping of the birds, walk carefully to avoid stepping on the hundreds of snails that crossed the path with their little houses on their backs. It’s different now, but we’ll come to love this too!

It’s easy to distinguish between the fresh legs and the long haul walkers. There’s noticeable weariness in the later.

There are more dogs and children (all ages) in this last 100k stretch. There’s even a parrot that has its own back pack, worn by it’s pet mom!

In the last 680km it was customary to wish everyone you passed a ‘Buen Camino’. The greeting had come to mean more than just a good wish. When someone said it to you, especially the locals, you felt encouraged, you felt recognised, you felt included! Sometimes we’d stop to chat and figure out which countries we were from, or which town we were headed to for the night! Familiar faces were seen frequently as we were probably less than a 100 walking through the villages any given day. Today, we had to search for familiar faces and when we did see one, there was immense joy! Also, it was rare to hear Buen Camino! Maybe as old timers the onus was on us to welcome and include the new walkers with the greeting!

The Pension we’re staying at is lovely, in a tiny village called Castromaior. It’s going to be a peaceful rest day! My knee seems ok! Not perfect! Tomorrow we head to OCoto. Maybe we’ll download some podcasts and put our earphones in our ears!

In the evening we walked down to the Castro de Castromaior. Recent excavations discovered this 4th Century BC site.

This partially excavated hill fort is next to the Way of Saint James and it is believed that it was occupied until more or less the 1st century A.D.

An intricate system of ditches, walls, embankments and palisades surrounds the entrance to the settlement, where the houses have straight, regular walls and are grouped into neighbourhoods.

After the visit to the excavation site, we went for dinner to the only restaurant in the village. It was bustling with activity in the morning with many pilgrims on the way stopping for bocadillas and coffee. It is quiet now with just the seven pilgrims staying in the 2 albergues in the village. Joining us for dinner are a Brazilian couple and a retired Polish gentleman. A good meal with lots of red wine, the conversation is interesting. The Polish gentleman is a mountaineer having scaled many heights. An accident in the Arctic resulting in him being airlifted to the US o save his life, had kept him from climbing for a while. St Pope John Paul IIs visit to Santiago in 1982 and a few years later, again, to address the world youth meet there, had made the Camino popular among Polish catholics. Henrik remembers seeing it on the news and had vowed to do the Camino when he could.

The Brazilian couple Michelle and Antonio were Catholic too and very devout. They related many events during their walk from Leon onwards that couldn’t be called ‘happy coincidences’ but miracles! The conversation was beautiful and helped us to dwell on the meaning of the Camino for each of us! Feeling blessed that we had this wonderful meal with these wonderful people!

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