While we were at the Hotel Roma, we laughed about the elevator installation because it certainly seemed that it would be a few weeks before any patrons were going to be riding in the elevator, at least based on the way things looked as we walked by on the first floor. The woman at the reception desk had said that if we were lucky, it might even be working later that afternoon. She must have a good sense of humor. Because of the lack of elevator, Dave ended up helping a group of English pilgrim women with their very heavy suitcases. They thanked him profusely and promised to buy him a beer for his trouble. Since then we have not seen them. We don’t think he’s going to get that beer.
We needed to make a couple phone calls home and asked about the cost of calling the local access number. The very honest man at the reception desk that night said that due to the elevator installation, not only was the WIFI reception experiencing problems, but the program that automatically charges for calls was “down,” but normally there would be a charge.
We slept well at the Hotel Roma, even with the train next to us. Early in the morning, we looked out the window when we heard a group of people talking. What a surprise to see 20-30 young people strolling down the middle of the street with backpacks and walking sticks. Turns out that many people start their pilgrimage to Santiago in Sarria. They take the train to Sarria, then walk to the other end of the town, get their passports stamped and walk out toward Portomarin.
As we began our walk out of town, we realized that the Camino was going to be crowded from now on. We had been warned that it would be, but I don’t think we were really ready for the number of people who were hiking with us. There were a couple group of young people, one of which was a school group of teenagers. They were excited to be on the trip and loud. They started out great guns on the Camino, but the following day they did not seem to be walking as fast… This is true of most of the people who started in Sarria. Many of them said that they had not trained at all and it was pretty apparent.
The hike from Sarria to Portomarin was once again through rolling hills. It was warmer and sunnier than any other day of the Camino. It seemed a bit long to us, but not difficult. We saw lots of slate fences since we arrived in Galicia.
A couple kilometers outside of town, we could see the Mino River. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s a damn was built, covering the original medieval town of Portomarin. The town was moved higher up the bank of the river. As we were crossing the river via the bridge, truly looked like a lake rather than a river.
As we began our walk across the bridge, we could see a very old large staircase at the end of the bridge. When we stepped off the bridge, we learned that we had two choices to get to the center of town – climb the steep staircase or walk a half kilometer up a steep street. We chose the stairs.
Fortunately, our hotel was not far away from the top of the stairs. It was the VillaJardin and looked out over a park on the river. Our rooms had very small, very public terraces. The best thing about the terraces was that we could put our clothing on chairs in the sun and dry them faster. The view of the river was beautiful from the terrace, but we spent most of our time on the bed or in the town square, 200 feet from our hotel. Although the hotel was relatively new and originally had a discotecque on the ground floor, the walls were really thin and we could hear everything. There were no rugs anywhere to muffle the noise.
We asked for a wake-up call, but apparently the reception desk is not manned from midnight to 6:30am. So, we set our watch. The walls were so thin we could have just called out “wake up” and everybody on our floor would have heard us.
The old church from the old Portomarin was taken apart, moved and put back together stone by stone in the center of town. Most of the other buildings were from the 1960’s and newer. The church was very plain and the town was focused on the pilgrim, trinkets, etc. We’ve been watching the soccer game most evenings and really weren’t interested in the town. I would go back again to boat and spend a weekend.
We’ve decided that instead of stopping at 10am every morning nad having a slice of tortilla or a huge bocadillo at a café, we will buy ham, cheese, bread, olives, peppers, wine, etc. Oh, and fruit! Today instead of sandwich material, we will eat empanada gallega and some fruit.