Camino 9b – 28 September 2014
By Parson Thru
Triacastela to Sarria (continued)
The rain hit us sideways from across the fields as we walked the last kilometre into Sarria. We tried to protect the guidebook and map from the worst of it and kept moving, heads down.
Soon, we were in the shelter of commercial buildings. The darkened streets were deserted. We pulled out the map as rain hammered down and ran from roofs onto the pavement. Another couple ran across the road to us. Like us, they were looking for their pension.
The maps didn’t really help from our restricted position and there were no street signs on the buildings around us. The couple were from New Zealand. They reckoned they knew where we needed to be, so we braced ourselves and plunged into the rain after them scurrying along street after street with cold storm-water running past. At the end of each block we ducked under cover and looked at the map again. It still didn’t look right.
After a few more minutes, N and I stopped under a canopy for a conference. We let the others go on ahead and re-traced our steps. We found ourselves sheltering with a small family – drowned-rats together. We reorientated ourselves and tried again as the rain eased.
We crossed a street and came to where the map showed a bridge. The bridge was closed for repair. Someone spotted a track that looked like a detour and we followed it to another crossing. Things were looking up. The rain had almost stopped.
The map was beginning to make sense. Up on the side of a building we spotted a street name: “rua Benigno Quiroga”. We were looking for the O Camino pension somewhere along here. We turned left and walked along. Our feet were soaked and sore. My thighs burned. All we wanted to do was stop.
After a few hundred metres, we realised we were walking the wrong way. We turned around and walked all the way back. On a corner opposite was a shop selling walking equipment. We went in to ask the way, taking the time to look at shoes and warm up a little. The shop was cramped and busy with pilgrims trying on clothing.
We hung around the counter and waited to catch the assistant’s eye. He told us the pension was right next-door – just a doorway with a couple of bell-buttons.
The door buzzer was answered by the friendly voice of a woman. Pretty soon, we were dripping in the hallway waiting for the lift. A heavy wooden door stood open on the top-floor landing.
We walked in to one of the warmest of greetings ever. The warden booked us in as we got out of our wet waterproofs and boots. Once again, the warmth of the people along this route was a real tonic.
Before showering I inspected my feet. I peeled the Compeed plaster from under my right foot and the skin lifted with it. I used my other hand to hold it down. The earlier soreness in Triacastela had blistered and burst. A semi-transparent flap of thick skin was loose, but nowhere near coming off. There was a second blister on my left foot. The skin hadn’t yet broken but I could feel the fluid under the layer of tough skin.
I headed across the hall to shower. The only other person in the pension was a Korean woman travelling alone. So tired and dazed was I that I accidentally walked into her room instead of the bathroom. Hopefully I didn’t traumatise her.
Back in the room, I dripped Betadine onto the open blister and applied a fresh Compeed, smoothing another one over the soreness on my left foot. Then I eased back on the bed and crashed for a while. I was probably asleep by the time N returned from the shower.
Later, we washed some clothes and hung them to dry along with everything that was soaked by the storm. We chatted with the warden, who was about to go off duty. It was sad that we wouldn’t see her again before leaving in the morning. She had to collect her daughter from university and wouldn’t be working.
When we re-emerged onto the streets of Sarria, the rain had completely stopped and the streets glistened in the darkness. Sarria is a key regional city. The O Camino pension is in the “new” town, but right at the foot of the lane leading up the hill to the old city. We hadn’t realised that it's the Camino route cutting south to north, so disoriented were we when we arrived.
The lane is steep and lined with bars and albergues, giving life to the place – also the churches of Santa Marina and El Salvadore.
We were too tired to explore far for food. There was an Italian restaurant, which didn’t seem right somehow, so we ate in very commercial Spanish restaurant. Maybe that’s the way it is from here – the last hundred kilometres.
The food and service were ok, but all we really wanted was bed. We found out later that we missed quite a party in the Italian place.
On the way to the pension, we called back in the outdoor shop where N bought a walking stick - the modern, telescopic kind. Neither of us would previously have considered owning one.
Back at the O Camino we checked on our clothes in the drying room. Mine were covered with a residue of washing powder from the machine. I picked at it for a while then gave up, favouring sleep.