Up to Spain: Camino de Santiago Trip, 2020 main page

Sunday May 8: Portomarin

Tuesday May 10: Arzua

Monday May 9: Palas de Rei / Vilamaior

Disappointing Lodging

I had one sleep incident in middle of night. Unfortunately, Samís alarm went off at 6am, although we were planning to get up at 7. After Sam's alarm, with the noise of people getting up and getting ready in nearby rooms, I couldn't fall asleep again.

I got a bit more used to the breakfast over here. We ate at 7:00, then got ourselves organized, gooped up, and left. While we were eating, we saw various numbers of people crossing a bridge below town. When we left the hotel, we joined a large exodus heading downhill and over the bridge.

People Starting Out Across Bridge
Pilgrims Heading Out of Portomarin Behind Us

The weather was pleasantly cool, full of the usual morning fog. I wore a sweatshirt over my tee shirt, and I was sure that I wouldn't be keeping it on for very long.

As I watched the people over breakfast, I saw a number of people stop at the end of the bridge, look at something, appear confused, and then walk off to the right. When we got to the end of the bridge, we saw signs for the Camino, one pointing left, and one pointing right. Apparently you could go either way, but there was no sign saying what the pros and cons were with each path.

Most of the people went to the right, so we went to the right also.

We went up through a forested area. There was a significant climb out of the river valley. At this stage of the walk, there were lots of people around us, as this was the typical time to be starting out.

Ahead of us, there was a large group of perhaps High School students--maybe 50 or 100. It was strange. On the flats they seemed to walk slower than us, and it was a pain because it was hard to pass them, as they filled the space. The strange part was that on the uphill sections, they seemed to speed up and go faster than we were. Of course, it is possible that they were going at a constant pace and we were slowing down on the up-hills.

At one point they stopped for a break and we got past them. For the rest of the morning, it was a game to stay ahead of that group.

High School Mob Right Behind Us

The way overall was maybe 2/3 along a road, and 1/3 away from the road. The first portion in the morning was away from the road. We climbed up steadily through a forest, and it was somewhat picturesque. About the time we came out on top, the sun broke through the fog. Then we had a scene of undercast. We could look behind us and see the valley still filled with low clouds. I don't know if the sun came out at that point more from the time or more from us gaining elevation.

Trail Along Road in Fog
Undercast in Valley Behind Us

At one point, we stopped where there were some picnic tables off to the side. I wanted to check my feet. I had put moleskin on the backs of my feet, and I wanted to make sure that it hadn't bunched up or become loose. I also took that opportunity to remove my pant legs (to make shorts) and to put sun goop on my legs. We managed to get going before that school group caught us.

Path through the Woods

Further on, there was a split, where one path went along the road, and the other turned away. We opted to go on the path away from the road. This led past some fields and barns/buildings. At one point, it seemed we were walking through the middle of a farmer's land, but there were the signs indicating that this was the correct way.

Along this stretch, we were mostly by ourselves. We couldn't see anyone ahead of us, and there were few people behind us. I was marveling at how spread out the pack had become. But that was not what was going on.

When we rejoined the other route along the road, it became apparent that most of the people had opted for the shorter route along the road, and only a few people had taken the scenic route that we had taken. We were now back among many more pilgrims, and not that far ahead of the school group.

On the first day, we had passed many small "stores", where they sold Camino-related trinkets, food, and so forth. Here, there was much fewer food places, and no place selling trinkets. That was too bad, because a lot of people had a sea shell attached to their pack. I didn't get one on the first day, and I thought I should get one on the second, but I couldn't find any. I think they figured that most people would start in Sarria, and most would buy such things on the first day--by the second day, if they hadn't already bought such stuff, they were unlikely to do so now.

We came out on top of the hill and had some reasonable, but not spectacular views. Looking back, we could see the valley that we climbed out of, still filled to the brim with fog.

Top of the Hill
Pooh sees that we have 81km to go

The path wound its way along the top of the hill. For the most part, it was away from the road but paralleling it. On a few occasions we crossed the road and went along it. We saw some bicyclists grinding up the hill. That didn't look like fun, but it was probably much more fun on the other side.

Fields on the Side of the Road

About 11 or so, we figured that we should start looking for someplace for lunch. We had passed some places earlier, but we thought it was too early.

At the top of the hill, there was a place that was doing a brisk business, so we stopped there for lunch. We got a pair of empenadas. Sam got a coke and I got some orange soda. I'm not exactly sure what an empenada is. I thought it was a small pie, sort of like the Polish pierogi, but this was more like a thin pie, filled with meat stuff, that was then cut into wedges. After we ate that, I was still hungry, so I went in and ordered an omelet. I was somewhat surprised that I got basically a fried egg sandwich. I ended up eating the egg, but saving the bread in case I wanted to eat it afterwards. I never did.

Place Where We Stopped For Lunch
Taberna Do Camino: Lunch Place
Pooh Ready for his Empenada

After lunch, I waited in line and used the bathroom. It seems that the convention there was that all of the toilets were gender-neutral. I waited in a line of all women, who were using the men's bathroom or the woman's, as each came open.

I got some tap water from the guy at the counter, we put on more sun goop, and continued on.

It turns out that we were not quite halfway--we had walked for 3 hours in the morning, but we walked for about 3 1/2 hours in the afternoon. OTOH, we were slower in the afternoon, so perhaps we did have lunch at the halfway point.

As seems typical, Sam was much more draggy in the afternoon. The adventure of the day had worn off, Sam was more tired, her feet and legs hurt more, and it was hotter. As a result, she went at a slower pace.

At one point, we passed the school group, which was stopped off the side eating lunch. Apparently they passed us while we were inside ordering lunch.

We stopped and I checked Sam's feet. They did not seem to be forming any blisters. Sam was in pain and unhappy, but a bit later, she remembered the hiking poles, so she took those out and started using them. They seemed to help.

A Giant Ant Infestation

After lunch, I would guess that 3/4 of the time or perhaps a bit more we were along roads or on a rarely used road. Despite thinking that we had passed the summit, we actually went up for a short ways before we started descending. During the afternoon's descent, there were a number of bicyclists who zoomed past us. The bikes were probably a pain when grinding up the hills, but they were probably great on the descent.

We seemed to be making slightly better time than the previous day. We were passed by some people, and we passed others, so we were probably going at an "average" rate. The previous day was estimated at 5-6 hours, and we took a bit more than 6, but this day was estimated at 6-8 hours, and it took us about 6-1/2 hours.† We were certainly feeling some time pressure, because we're to be picked up by a taxi to take us to our hotel at 5, and we didn't want to be late.

We actually got to Palas de Rei at around 4:10, but we had trouble finding the pickup location. A local gave us some directions, but he didn't speak any English. We got about halfway there, and then turned to Google maps. We went back up the hill in the wrong direction, then retraced our steps, went the right way, and found the place by about 4:30.

I called the local travel company. I noticed that our schedule had a taxi to the train station on the last day for a 10:20 pick-up, but that is the time that the train is scheduled to leave. So I had to call them to move the time earlier.

There were some women ahead of us who had some small cups of ice-cream. That looked really good, so I asked them where they got it. I got back a pantomimed answer, as they didn't speak English. The place was easy to find, however, and Sam and I each got a small cup. With the heat (it was probably about 85), the ice-cream was wonderful.

Shortly after we had finished, a taxi drove up to the meeting point, so we went over, introduced ourselves, and found out that it was indeed our driver. He drove us to the fancy-smansy place where we were spending the night.

I have to say that the place was for us rather a disappointment. It was a renovated 300 year-old building, and it looked gorgeous. I feel like I'm living in an updated medieval cloister. There was great service, e.g. a guy meeting us at the front and bringing our luggage in for us.

Fancy Place Where We Stayed
Our Bedroom

The problems were that no one there spoke English, and despite Google Translate, it was rather difficult to communicate. The room was a bit warm and apparently didn't have A/C. There seemed to be a control for it, but I couldn't seem to get it to work. I went down to the front desk and asked how to turn the A/C on (via Google Translate). He said in broken English that he would bring some air to the room. Then he went into a back room. I thought that maybe they needed to enable the A/C from a central location, but he came out a few moments later with a fan! He brought that up, and then did something with the heating/cooling control. I'm not sure what he did, and I really couldn't ask. Whatever he did, didn't seem to turn any A/C on. Maybe he just made sure that the heat was off?

I took a shower in the gorgeous bathroom, and then changed into some clean clothes. I had arranged for breakfast at 8, and then I had decided that 7 would be better. I went down to ask the guy at the front desk to change the time, but he was nowhere to be found. I think that after we arrived, he had gone home as no new guests were expected.

Our Bathroom
Pooh Admiring Himself in the Bathroom

I wanted to take some pictures, but the front door baffled me. It turns out that I could get in but I couldn't get out. The door was locked, and there was a card reader on the outside that I could use my room card to unlock the door, but I couldn't find any card reader on the inside. both then and later on for dinner, I had to go out the back door by the lounge, and then later come back in through the front door.


I took some pictures and then returned to the room. I got a few things done, but then it was time for an earlier than normal dinner (7pm). We put on some half decent clothes and went over to the restaurant, not knowing what to expect.

Empty Restaurant

This continued the fish-out-of-water experience. The guy there spoke no English as well. Our "conversations" were very haphazard. He showed us a normal menu (in English) which contained prices. We were not sure what we could order, and whether it would be covered by the tour company or if we were getting the bill. Given the language barrier, it was hard to ask how it was going to work out.

The service was impeccable, something that we were not used to,

I ordered an appetizer and a main course, but Sam just ordered the main course. I tried to order a glass of wine, but when he brought it out, he left the bottle, so apparently I ordered a bottle of wine. (I only drank one cup despite that.) Sam had an orange soda.

They brought out two small appetizers. Sam had one and I had the other, although we really didn't know what we were eating. It was good though. Apparently it was a freebie from the chef, as a while later he brought out my appetizer (mushrooms stuffed with cheese). I shared it with Sam.

Despite the meager breakfast and all the walking we had done, I really wasn't very hungry, so I was glad I didn't have to eat all of the appetizer myself.

He brought out Sam's meal, which was a leg of something that apparently had a very tough crust. Sam had great difficulty cutting and eating it. Sam ended up eating more vegetables that meat.

Mine came out and was much better. The meat was very tender--it almost but not quite had the texture of cooked ground beef. I was happy that there wasn't a lot of it. I ended up giving Sam some of mine because she wasn't having much success with her own. Mine included some applesauce, which was good, but I think there was only a tablespoon of it.

Both because I wasn't very hungry, and because I wasn't sure if I was paying for it, we declined dessert and coffee. The waiter seemed surprised that we didn't want any more. That left us in an awkward spot. I didn't know if I should be asking for a bill or just walking out the door. I was sort of afraid to walk out the door if he was planning to give us a bill, but I didn't want to sit there doing nothing after we had said that we didn't want anything more.

Eventually, I asked him if everything was good, and he said yes, which I took as meaning it was OK to skip out without paying.

Overall, despite the service and the fancy setting, I think we liked the previous dayís accommodations better. Here we felt very uncomfortable, particularly not knowing what to expect and having great difficulty communicating.

We returned to our room. It was a strange layout. The door was on the first floor, but it opened up to a staircase to the real room on the second floor. The lobby and the bottom of the stairs were pleasantly cool, but about the time we got to the actual living space, the temperature climbed suddenly. We opened all of the windows. There was a cool breeze coming through, so perhaps sleeping under the comforter won't be so bad.

I spent the next while typing this up. I couldn't change tomorrow's breakfast as I never found the guy. In theory I could call the "front desk", but since I don't speak much Spanish, and he spoke even less English, talking over the phone seemed like a waste of effort. So I think we'll have to get up, get ourselves organized for the day, and then go to breakfast. That is scheduled for 8, and the taxi for 9.

Tomorrow should be interesting from a timing point of view. It was estimated at 6-7 hours, and we took about 6-1/2. Tomorrow is longer, and it is estimated at 6-8 hours. We again have a taxi scheduled at 5, but this time we'll be starting later, so it is going to be much closer for timing.

I really hope I can sleep tonight. It is rather strange. It is currently 9:30 at night, and the sun is just setting now.

- -

Not a good night. I closed all but one window, but around 12 or 1 I found that it was too warm, so I got up and opened another to get a cross breeze. That seemed to work better. With the windows open, the comforter was OK.

I had three or four incidents overnight. The first two had no real triggers. I didn't know that they were coming until I woke up feeling warm and sweaty. The fourth incident happened just before the alarm went off. There, I think a stressful dream might have been the trigger.

Up to Spain: Camino de Santiago Trip, 2020 main page

Sunday May 8: Portomarin

Tuesday May 10: Arzua