Day Thirty-One: Fonfría to Sarria

Eva was the first to be awake and went for coffee in the common rooms, Inga followed, while I slept, happily, until woken by both, a third person in tow. “This is Gina,” introduced Eva the short peregrina with the massive appetite from last night. “Ginny,” the person behind the haze in my eyes corrected, “Ginny,” and she’ll walk with us today.

I managed to collect my things quickly, grab Java to go, and we left the albergue. “Sarria today,” Inga started, “it’ll be full of pilgrims, few beds free, we should walk fast.” “And maybe call ahead,” Ginny added.

Ginny was short. Shorter than even Eva, who wasn’t a tall person by any stretch of the imagination. Her backpack looked huge on her, though she insisted that it truly only weighed ten percent of her body weight. She had flowing curly blonde hair, tied into a ponytail most of the time, and wore a flowery skirt and flip flops.

She’d been walking for a while, she explained, from Munich, roughly 3000 kilometers so far. “Munich,” I echoed, “that’s where I am from, but I rode most of the distance on a train.” I could not imagine crossing the Swiss Alps and France and still be going.

Her long distance trained body helped drag us along, even Eva put a spring in her step as we walked the relatively easy stage to Triacastela. Right before we arrived there for lunch, we stopped at an ancient chestnut tree to take pictures, with Ginny realizing the nature of our Camino friendship. “That’s so cute,” she found. And that was that, a refreshing simplistic take after weeks of judging looks and Lilly’s messages.

A very old chestnut tree.

After lunch in Triacastela, we had a choice to make: a longer, flatter, way or a shorter, slightly steeper, one. We chose the steeper version, figuring it would be the lesser traveled and, with that, the last day of quiet before entering the 100km zone from Sarria, infamous for its hordes of pligrims.

We chose right and, in time to get a good accommodation, arrived in Sarria.

Ginny and Eva decided to spend the evening in the albergue’s yard, while Inga and I went to explore the town. Even compared to Leon, this was a culture shock… hundreds of pilgrims lined the streets, many wearing ordinary street clothes and small backpacks. Their three to four day pilgrimage would be all that was really needed to receive the Compostela in Santiago, and many Spanish pilgrims walked and partied it multiple times in a lifetime.

My old shoes

On a whim, I made the decision to jettison my shoes. Blisters had never been a problem of mine, and I hoped new shoes would not change that, and my old ones, ragged already when I started the Camino, had begun to come apart at the seams. We found a shoe shop selling the exact model I was wearing, and I traded right in the store.

After shopping some more smaller things, we bought ice cream and returned to our albergue to share. Ginny and Eva still sat in the yard, reading, and happily accepted our offers.

We ate dinner at the pilgrim’s meal, but it soon became clear that this was a different kind of Camino — the food tasted bland and was almost twice as expensive.

Throughout the rest of the evening and most of the night, we heard parties outside, but our minds, trained by weeks of snoring pilgrims, managed to turn all of it off, falling asleep quickly and only waking when, until four in the morning, pilgrims returned to their beds.