June 10, 2011 O Cebreiro to Samos

Out the door of my room at a private home at 07:30; had breakfast at the same restaurant as last night’s dinner, and off on long walk to Samos. Walked down to Triacastela by myself. This downhill stretch is definitely a challenge. Then met Rosemary of San Diego and walked with her part of way to Samos. Met Karl of Ventura CA at Alto de Poio and revealed my new plan to follow through on my idea to write a camino murder mystery. Central figure would be a Catholic priest struggling with his vocation who walks the camino. First day out of St. Jean 2 Israeli hikers killed by hanging — using sailing knots. Group including priest and German firefighter and German school teacher try to solve mystery that hinges on who among 10 people that passed through cabin at top of Route Napoleon is the actual killer. Thought long through the day of Catholic priests’ inner struggles made harder when he meets his alter ego — a good looking Methodist minister/camino regular who seems to have it all under control.

Arrived Samos to stay at albergue in monastery. Albergue 1/2 full in basement of monastery. Spanish tour of the monastery at 17:30 then Vespers with loud pipe organ at 19:30. Kurt from Ventura there as well as Mishael — otherwise no one I knew. So no need to socialize which is a little bit of a relief after so much visiting over so many days. Instead checked email and got an early start to bed. Cold showers as the albergue had run out of water some time, maybe years ago. Paintings on the wall are primitive, but somehow it feels nice to fall asleep in a monastery.

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.

August 19, 2008 O Cebreiro to Triacastela

Since we’d made the climb to O Cebreiro I was pretty certain the most difficult part of our camino together was now behind us. I was wrong for two reasons.

First, the walk after O Cebreiro continues down, then up again to Alto de Poio. The last km or so is just as steep as anything we’d experienced the day before. We were rewarded by a bar/cafe at the top where we grabbed a cafe con leche and a croissant, then we headed to the pilgrim statue at the summit and enjoyed the beautiful views under bright blue skies.

Second, the walk down to Triacastela is a hardcore descent. The endless pounding of foothold to foothold was merciless and now Gail faced a new challenge using a completely different set of muscles. Our 21 km goal to Triacastela was a light day for a pilgrim accustomed to walking, and I assured Gail this walk would get a lot easier after the first week. This cheered her up and, after several hours we arrived at the outskirts of Triacastela. Gail waited at a bar/cafe as I searched out a hotel.

It took me some time to find a place for us and while I was gone Gail delighted both in the rest and in the sights of the pilgrim river flowing before her. She recounted odd stories about a pair of girls pulling a trailer with an umbrella and a small dog on it. She told me later about a man walking backwards in a kilt. And she described a pleasant conversation she’d had with an Austria named Christian.

I brought her back to the hotel I’d found, which came equipped with a washer and dryer in the basement. Gail rested as I did our laundry and then we found a quiet restaurant for dinner after which we put ourselves to bed, Gail hoping the walk would become more fun and I hoping Gail would have patience with me, the one who’d dragged her halfway across the world for a painful and difficult hike.