August 21, 2008 Sarria to Portomarín

By this time the effects of the walking were taking a toll on Gail and I was puzzled about why she wasn’t feeling stronger the farther we walked. Gail was complaining of extreme pain in her foot and she was walking very slowly with a barely noticeable limp. I offered to call a taxi and meet her at the next day’s goal, Portomarin, but Gail was insistent she would walk it — and a little insulted that I’d consider calling her a cab. We both recognized, too, that, if Gail didn’t walk the last 100 km from this point on, she would not qualify for the compostela, the completion certificate at the arrival to Santiago.

So we set off from Sarria, stopping regularly at sites along the way to take photos. Over the next km we saw a Dutch man whom we’d met climbing to O Cebreiro, and we spent a lot of time with Christian, an Austrian man who wanted to practice his English and who was delightful company. We also met an Austrian woman who spoke only German and her daughter who spoke English well. Also we met two young Swedish men who wanted to celebrate the birthday of one, so they’d bought two boxes of wine and were carrying them to share with pilgrims along the way.

I usually walked with Christian, pausing each time Gail was out of sight behind us and then allowing her to catch up. At one point just before Portomarin Christian and I were deep in conversation and missed a yellow arrow. Gail called to us from behind and let us know we’d missed the turn.

We walked down into the valley where the town of Portomarin had originally been — it had been moved in the 20th century when a dam had been built, creating a reservoir over the town’s ancient site. We crossed the new highway bridge high above the lake and climbed up into the new town on the hillside above, noting the Romanesque church that had been moved stone-by-stone from below to the new town. Gail sat on a bench in the square while I hunted with Christian for a hotel room. When we got to the room Gail collapsed on the bed. I told her to stay put and I would bring her dinner. I found a restaurant, explained in Spanish that I wanted a dinner to go, brought it to her, then returned to the restaurant for a meal with Christian, Jake and Carol who’d by now met each other. When I returned to our room Gail had fallen asleep with the dinner half finished beside her. I lay down next to her, hoping her camino would become more joyful in the days ahead, but thankful that we could be here together to experience these days of walking the Camino de Santiago.

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