Monday, June 29, 2015

Amigos de Santiago on Camino -- Day 4 Morgade to Portomarin

On our fourth day of the Camino, I felt that I had gotten into my natural groove of walking -- slow but very  steady.  After three days of daily 10 kilometre walks, I felt that my body had started to get used to this pace -- however it sometimes asked me "What, where are the malls? Why aren't we stopping to shop?"

But I did stop -- and quite frequently too.  I stopped to catch my breath (particularly when going uphill), I stopped to take a drink of water and yes, I most often stopped to take pictures -- of the scenery, but once in a while of myself.

Today's  walk would take us 10 kilometres, from Morgade to Portomarin.  We started by following  this winding country path that slowly and gently sloped uphill.  We saw another quaint stone chapel by the roadside but like some of the others I had seen, this was closed and seemed to have been unused for quite some time.  

I would have wanted a sello from this charming stone church surrounded by the village cemetery.  This is the very well preserved Romanesque church of Santa Maria de Ferreiros which dates back to the 12th century.

The gate was open so we walked through the cemetery, peering at and reading the names on the graves and the tombstones.

While the Camino is certainly vibrant and very much alive -- death is also present along the way.  Aside from the roadside cemeteries there are instances where I saw small memorials to people who had passed away.  I do not know  if they died doing the Camino or if a pilgrim  was walking in their memory.  
This cross was a shrine to a young man named Thomas whom someone must have loved very much.  Other pilgrims continue to keep this shrine alive by placing fresh leaves, flowers and even stones on the cross, in Thomas' memory.

You will never get lost along the Camino.  Aside from following other pilgrims, you will see these omnipresent yellow arrows which are found just about anywhere, even painted on stones on the ground.  They can be very useful particularly when you come to a junction.

We had started the day's walk at 99.5 at Morgade and at the hamlet of Pena dos Gorvos my henro
and I stopped at the 96 km mark.  While we had walked more than 3 kilometres, there were still 7 kilometres to go.  
Sometimes I try not to look at these markers -- on particularly challenging days, my muscles 
would scream at me "What?!  We aren't even halfway there yet?!"

Thankfully,  we caught up with the rest of the Amigos when they stopped at this most welcoming  albergue in the village of Mercadoiro.  I  would have wanted to try  the hammock but another peregrino had beaten me to it.

The resident cat looked at us calmly and did not even  budge from his comfortable perch.

The view from this albergue was gorgeous -- lots of trees, gently sloping green hills -- so idyllic.
The cool air revived and rejuvenated me.

This was really a lovely and much appreciated break for this peregrina and this henro.

The albergue served "real" food  --  and it was not limited to the usual bocadillo, empanada or chips.  We shared an order of chorizos al vinagre or chorizos cooked in vinegar.  With large chunks of bread to sop up the delicious tart sauce with, it was a most delicious mid-Camino snack, in the midst of a
breezy al fresco setting.

 With the chorizos properly disposed of, it was time to move along.   Passing through another small village with old stone farmhouses, I was surprised to see this dog followed by a herd of cows, walking stolidly behind him.

While cows are fixtures along the Camino, this was the first time I saw them herded along by a dog.  This dog was just so smart -- he shepherded his flock through, passing by excited pilgrims, all snapping their cameras, without even a glance nor a woof.
He was so focused on his herd and ran from front to back, making sure not one cow was left behind.  He was truly an example of the "Good shepherd" taking care of his "flock". 

Uplifted by that little gift of "grace", my steps became lighter as the Camino continued through straight country roads.  We passed by scenic farms enclosed by low stone walls,  overgrown with weeds and wild flowers.

The Camino gently wound its way through meadows and grasslands.  Farm houses were few and far in between.  Most of the day, I walked without seeing any one other than fellow pilgrims.
And since I walked so slow,  we would just exchange a "Buen camino" before they quickly disappeared from my view.

We finally came to this wide open field where we could see Portomarin in the horizon.  So near yet still so far.

It was a long and steep downhill descent over a cement road -- I was so relieved when we finally caught sight of the bridge leading to Portomarin.

The approach to the bridge is well signposted.  Arrows point to Portomarin,  an important stop along  the Camino de Santiago.

The bridge into town is long, wide and high above the river.  It was a pleasant walk from end to end - the Rio Mino flowed green and clean below us.

At the end of the bridge is a tall stairway that was part of the original medieval bridge that used to cross the river.  The Portomarin we see today is a relatively new town as the old one was submerged under water when the Rio Mino Dam was created in 1962.
Everyone had to move to higher ground and all the old houses and buildings were completely submerged.

While one can go to the centre of town using the roadway, it is traditional for pilgrims to climb these steep steps called the Stairs of the Lady of the Snows.   The view from the top is exhilarating -- specially as it signals that we have all arrived safe and the day's walk is done.

This is the ancient church of Portomarin, the Iglesia de San Nicolas. It is one of the most unique churches I have seen -- appealing in its compact simplicity.
This church is the original structure, dating back to the 12th century.   Each piece of brick and stone was painstakingly and lovingly taken apart and rebuilt on this spot, when they submerged the old town in 1962.

Later on we would have the chance to hear mass at this church.  But for now, it was time for the Amigos to again celebrate the end of another day's walk.

There was a platter of pulpo Gallega to be shared with the Amigos and just for me, an ice cold bottle of cerveza Mahou.    Vale'!  I am ready for Day 5!

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