Edging ever closer to Santiago (only 3 days away on our current schedule), we departed from Portomarin yesterday under cold but clear skies. During the day there wasn’t even a wisp of clouds in the sky – a welcome change from the rain we endured yesterday. The countryside continues to be astonishingly beautiful. You wonder when the less beautiful scenery will appear, but the Camino continues to deliver.
We saw many more pilgrims on the way than previously. A large group were students apparently from a Catholic school who were hiking the last 100 kilometers to Santiago. There were perhaps as many as 50 of them (maybe more) – mostly boys, but a few girls with the older groups. One thing that impressed us was how well behaved they were. Plus, there was very little apparent adult supervision. We only could identify 2 or 3 adults traveling with the students. One was obviously a parish priest since he was addressed with the honorific “Padre,” while the others were most likely teachers. But, the kids seemed to be having a great time and we didn’t see any sorts of problems with them at all.
We have decided to change our planned itinerary a bit as we near Santiago. We are trying to limit our daily hiking distance to about 20 kilometers (about 13 miles) and selecting our albergues in less frequented places to avoid the large number of new pilgrims and help ensure we will have a place to sleep. We have also chosen a schedule that will allow us to sleep on the final night only about 4 kilometers from Santiago, thereby ensuring that we will be at the Cathedral in time for the noon pilgrim mass on Saturday.
So, our stopping point for last night was pretty much in the middle of nowhere – a place on the map identified as A Calzada. The only thing there was the albergue, 20 kilometers from Portomarin – a small establishment with only 10 beds. As hoped, most pilgrims passed this place by, heading for the next bigger town, about 5 kilometers away. This was fine with us. As it turned out, we were the only pilgrims staying at this perfectly adequate albergue. This means it was a quiet night and we weren’t disturbed by any other early rising pilgrims. Plus, we had the bathroom to ourselves (didn’t have to share with anyone) and the proprietor’s wife cooked dinner for just the two of us. It was sublimely wonderful.Today we continued on to the town of Melide (population of about 8,000) which is an in-between stop for most pilgrims but has a lot of available beds. The day’s hike was pretty miserable since we had rain all day long – some of it was the heaviest we have seen to date. Portions of the trail were especially wet and muddy during the heavier downpours, but we arrived in Melide and are now warmly ensconced in a newly built albergue with all the amenities. And, we believe the worst is over. Weather.com promises us that it will be sunny and warm in Santiago on Saturday when we plan to arrive. That will only be three days from now. The excitement and anticipation is mounting as we come to the denouement of our 6-week long pilgrimage.