Thursday, July 2, 2015

Amigos on Camino -- Day 5 Portomarin to Ventas de Naron

Our Camino travel planners,  had furnished us with daily walking notes which had detailed descriptions of the route we would take i.e. villages, points of interest, rest stops, etc.
The Amigos thus had a daily ritual at breakfast -- we'd read the  notes for the day to get an idea of the length and difficulty of the walk we were about to face.
Day 5's walking notes ominously mentioned lengthy uphill climbs through the course of a 12 kilometre walk.  
Time to talk like a drill sergeant  to the calf muscles and hamstrings ... "You can do this guys!"

To rejoin the Camino from Portomarin, we followed the main road out of town and descended to cross the Rio Mino via a different bridge from the one we had used to enter the town the day before.

This is the start of the uphill climb with a marker that states that we are just passing the 89 kilometre point.  Can you see how the road starts to climb just after the trees?  While this was not as steep or rocky as Day 3's climb (forever etched in my mind as "Spain's Revenge") it was challenging because of its length -- over seven kilometres of steady and ceaseless climbing.

 We finally got a break from walking uphill by leaving the forest and moving on to the dirt "sidewalk" right beside the national highway.  We would be meeting up with this cemented road throughout the course of today's walk.  I did not like walking by the national highway -- it felt artificial and completely off the Camino environment.

I did love walking through the forest paths.   The trees provided shade, the air was cool and fragrant and there was time for quiet reflection as I slowly made my way.

We passed through a picnic area where benches and tables were ready for pilgrims who wanted to stop and take a snack.  During today's walk, there were no cafes or albergues for a stretch of seven kilometres -- quite a distance to go without any reviving cup of hot cafe con leche.

We finally made it to Gonzar,  where there was an albergue -- ole'!  Since it was past noon when we straggled in, we had quite a filling meal.  Hamburguesa, huevos con jamon and yes, sausages too.  
We needed all that oil and grease to fuel us for the five more kilometres we had to go through.

We did a quick detour to check out Gonzar's church of Santa Maria but it was closed for the day.

Pilgrims leave many mementos on the Camino.  Some of them are just graffiti, some  are messages to friends e.g. "Hans, meet me in Palas do Rei!" and there are some that are so interesting you just have to stop and look.  This one was a heartfelt and sincere thank you letter to the Camino -- for blessings received.

Just a kilometre out of Gonzar we faced a straight and steep uphill climb through the village of Castromaior.  Just as we were about to walk up the incline, we saw this little arrow on the road, carefully made of stones,  pointing the way.  A sign from San Santiago to his Amigos -- vamos!

Midway up the steep road,  I looked back to see how far we had gone.  It had been a cloudy afternoon but at that moment I saw this giant hole in the clouds --  I half expected to hear a booming voice say "What are you doing, just standing there?! Walk!!!"

And so,  walk on we did.  Towards the top of the slope, we saw this sign written on the road -- "Animo" -- a perfect excuse to stop and take a celebratory photo for finishing this challenging stretch of the Camino.

Dark rain clouds had started to follow us -- and even the air smelled of impending rain.   Would we make it dry to Ventas de Naron?  We were back on the hated highway paths -- the only good thing about this was that it was level, and thus relatively easy to walk on.

Along the highway, some lovestruck peregrino had risked life and limb by spelling out, in almost same sized and same coloured stones the message  "Tina Te Amo".  I hope that a passing bus did not flatten him as he worked.

The end destination was near!  We passed the 78.5 marker along the town of Hospital da Cruz.  We  had merely  a kilometre and a half to go.

Raindrops started to fall and ponchos had to be taken out.  But one last group photo before we crossed the highway via the  overpass at Hospital de Cruz.
If you are interested in how this walk turned out -- the rain started to fall in earnest and we certainly got drenched -- just 300 meters from Ventas de Naron.
I like to think of it as a baptism of water and blessings from  San Tiago!

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