August 20, 2008 Triacastela to Sarria

If I’d been smart I would’ve chosen the shortest route possible to the next town, Sarria. Instead I remembered Stefan of South Africa’s words about how I must go to the monastery at Samos because it’s one of the great experiences of the camino. This adds about 6 km to the day’s total distance and Gail’s was exhausted and discouraged after three tough days of walking. This day would not be a hard uphill or downhill, but it would be long.

As we left Triacastela for Samos I noticed someone had written in French on the back of a road sign, “Don’t forget to smile!” I pointed the graffiti out to Gail and translated it for her. She was not amused. This was no vacation for her — just a long walk in a foreign country trying to keep her husband happy. I was sad that Gail hadn’t started to enjoy herself yet, but I knew, I just knew, that as her body caught her up to the physical challenge she would find the great spiritual rewards of the walk.

The walk from Triacastela begins along the roadway, with timbered parks and a creek off to the left side. Soon it veers into the forest for the long, shady walk to Samos. After a few hours we saw the large monastery in the valley below. I was thrilled to see this important building, rebuilt from its original medieval structure after a fire. It was clear that the monastery was the primary institution of the little village of Samos and I had images of the idyllic life of a monk, copying manuscripts in the morning and working in the fields in the afternoon.

Gail and I came down the long, narrow, curving road into town, stopping at a produce store to pick up delicious fruit. We came into town, had lunch at a roadside cafe (where unfortunately a detour had caused large trucks to constantly roar past us), then headed a few blocks toward the monastery itself. We discovered the monastery door was unlocked and its gift shop was open, but unfortunately the monastery itself was closed until its guided tour hours, much later in the evening. Intrigued, but disappointed we left Samos for the day’s goal of Sarria.

The quickest way to Sarria is by the road, so we walked out of Samos along the highway, rejoining the main camino some miles out of town. The long walk left us both tired and grumpy and as we walked into town we looked immediately for a hotel that could put us up for the night. A hotel of 12-15 stories in height appeared before us and we arranged a room for the evening, the two of us dropping in exhaustion on the hard single beds.

After showers I convinced Gail to walk out of the hotel with me to find a place to eat and to look for other pilgrims to enjoy. She gingerly walked on her pain-filled feet over the nearby pedestrian bridge across the river and as we hunted for a table among the many sidewalk cafes there we saw the familiar faces of Carol and Jake, the Americans we’d met back at Villafranca. This cheered us both up and we enjoyed a fun evening of camino stories and conversation over Menu del Peregrino and ample red wine. I was glad to see our friends — both to enjoy their company and to show Gail the joys of pilgrim companionship. Our meeting was definitely a bright spot in a day that had been a long slog for my beloved wife.

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