The albergue was deserted by the time I left.
My hand-washed clothes from the night before were still damp so I used the dryer for 20 minutes before I packed out. Most of the people had sent their bags ahead (yes, they transported their bags). A few were waiting for vans to get their bags before they headed out.
The dining room was empty – the hospitaleros were not there. But they left hot pots, toasters and coolers with items for breakfast such as cereal, coffee, and pastry and pilgrims simply helped themselves. I had a simple breakfast while waiting for my clothes to dry and charging my phone and iPad.
The road was easy and flat and a short 3 kilometers to that final landmark city before the end, Sarria.
Sarria is a little more than 100 kilometers from Santiago. Since one must have walked at least 100 kilometers from Santiago in order to earn a Campostella, Sarria is the place where you find an influx of pilgrims whose goal it is to get the piece of paper that proves they’ve been on a “pilgrimage.” They start their Camino in Sarria, getting two stamps each day, and present it to the Pilgrim Office at the Cathedral in Santiago. Then they get their Campostella.
I have my guidebook with me and re-read the words of the author – “. . . remember that many of the new arrivals may be nervous starting out and the last thing such a person needs is aloofness built on a false sense of superiority. A loving pilgrim welcomes all they meet along the path – without judgement.”
It is early morning and Sarria is just waking up. It is too early for me to stop for breakfast so I easily climb up, up, up, past the mural near the castle at the top. I drink in the sunshine and wish a sincere “Buen Camino” to the new pilgrims huffing their way up to the top of the hill.
And, then, as I gaze down at the city I have just passed through, relishing the view and the early start I had on the day, I get a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach.
I still have no cash. I had to use plastic the night before in order to stay at the albergue. I need to find a cash machine.
I ask a few locals briskly trotting to work where the nearest cash machine is and they point back down into the city. Down, down.
Which Saint shall I thank for keeping me humble? I want to blame all of them. Couldn’t they have made me think of this 15 minutes earlier? This is going to cost me alot of time.
I have no choice but to head back down into the city. I run into many pilgrims heading up as I head down, some of them people I had briskly passed an hour earlier on the Camino. I have to keep asking locals for the nearest ATM. I feel like an idiot when the cab drivers point across the narrow street we are standing on and the bank is right in front of me. I am one of the first on line. But I am the only one with a backpack and hiking poles.
I fill up with enough cash to last to the next large town and retrace my steps up. This time I pass no one. All the morning pilgrims have gone. I am the last one.
However, I am jubilant to see my Camino companion, Christine, when I stop to get breakfast. She had gone the other way with the boys up the ridge. She said the views were great but the route was challenging. It was shorter than the way I had gone through Samos so they were quite a distance ahead of us, close to a day. The two routes had joined again at San Mahmed. She had slowed down and was now with me.
If I hadn’t gone back for cash, I wouldn’t have run into her.
Sorry, saints. I should have trusted you.
We walk together the rest of the day. We pass the 100 kilometer marker, an important photo-op for pilgrims.
A group of new pilgrims pass us as we walk up a wooded trail. They are family and friends from the U.S, Canada and Australia who are doing this as a reunion. They are chatting happily and loudly and rambling up the trail, toting tiny packs with just enough room for the paper map given them by their tour arranger. They carry bottles of water in their hands.
I am slowly going up the trail, which is much steeper to me than to them. I smile and wish them a “Buen Camino.” I realize I may be the first person to give them that particular Camino experience.
“Where did you start?” “How long have you been walking?” “Did you walk the whole way?” I don’t have to ask them these questions because I know what their answers would be. But they ask me and I answer amiably, remembering the author’s words. Their joy at being on the Camino is infectious.
However, they do catch me off guard when they ask, “Wow. Are you carrying everything in your backpack?”
Dear Reader, you have seen the photos. Does this look like a daypack to you?
God bless them. They sent their “luggage” ahead because, they explained, they “didn’t have time.”
Christine and I get to the albergue, only to find it full. This is not good. We had forgotten that we would be meeting this problem from now on because of all the new pilgrims joining at Sarria.
Fortunately, we are among the first to arrive at the next albergue, which is clean, quiet and one of the ones operated by the municipality. There is no store to buy food, the only store in town having turned itself into a private albergue (the one that was already full). So we go to the bar next door and have a great meal. We catch up on e-mail, I catch up on blogging, and we have a quiet, restful night.