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I woke up early this morning with Dom, and Caroline to say goodbye. Today, I was going to skip ahead on a bus to Sarria so I could get to Santiago and Finisterre before I caught my flight back home. I walked out of the albergue with Dom, Caroline, and another friend of mine Jo. We hugged each other and wished each other a good trip and then they started hiking for the day. I headed back inside and relaxed, wrote in my journal, and read for a bit. Eventually, my friend Sally came downstairs ready to go as well. I was lucky enough to have a new traveling companion for the day. Sally had had a few problems with her knees and decided that it was probably best to have a skip day as well. I was glad to have the company.
The first order of business for the day was to stop by the post office to pick up some mail from my family and friends back home. The bus station was located about a mile away from the hostel and just off of the main square, so it was easy to find. I picked up the mail from my parents but sadly there was no mail from my friends back home. No matter, one of the stops the bus made was in Ponferrada where I had more mail waiting for me. After picking my mail, Sally and I went and grabbed breakfast with a couple of her friends and saw them off for the day as well.
The second order of business for the day was to find our way to the bus station and get our tickets squared away. As a side note, it’s probably a good idea to go to the bus station the day before and figure out the timetables, cost, and destinations so you’re ready to go the next morning. It just makes things move a little easier.
Traveling to Sarria turned out to be a more difficult task than originally anticipated. First off, because of the limited time we had between the bus arriving and leaving from Ponferrada, I wasn’t able to pick up my mail so I just counted it as a loss and decided to jump on the next bus to Sarria. Only one problem, there wasn’t a bus directly to Sarria from Ponferrada, we had to stop in Lugo and switch buses again. Well, with the running around from one bus to the next, Sally started to get a little nervous and panic-y. At one point we made a short stop to let people off and she decided that she’d had enough of buses and tried to get off at that stop. She walked up and tried to speak with the bus driver, telling him that she wanted to get off. As she got up to go up to him, all I could think to say was “But we’re not there yet. Why are you getting off?” I couldn’t help but kinda laugh a little as well because I didn’t understand why she was so panicked. While trying to communicate with the bus driver that she wanted to get off and get her bag from underneath the bus, the frustrated driver shut the doors and started driving. She turned around with this look of shock on her face and came and sat back down next to me. I don’t remember a lot about what happened for the rest of the bus trip, but I don’t think a lot was said.
After a long day traveling on buses, Sally and I made the (luckily) short trek to the albergue I picked out from my guide. It was only about a 15-20 minute walk. The albergue I picked out was called the Don Alvaro, a private albergue. This place was worth the 9 euros, in fact I would have paid double. Sally and I were given a tour of the place by the hospitalero which showed: the back courtyard, fireplace/reading room, t.v./media room, 2nd floor lounging/tanning area (with more rooms attached as well), 3rd floor clothes line, newly refinished bathrooms, and quaint bedrooms with about 8 bunk beds. This place was definitely the best bang for my buck as far as albergues went for the whole trip! We set our stuff down in the room and she grabbed me and hugged me, thanking me for being with her throughout the stressful bus trip.
I was a little stressed from the trip as well. I only spoke enough Spanish to order my food, which makes it hard to purchase bus tickets and read bus schedules as well. I settled down at an outside bar just down the street and picked up my book to read (at this point, almost finishing The Great Gatsby for the 3rd time) and have a glass of wine. I went to a nearby outdoors store to just look around a bit to kill some time before grabbing dinner. I ran into an American couple getting ready to begin their Camino the next day. They were purchasing boots for the next day, so I helped them out a bit since I’m an expert in hiking footwear back home at the REI I work at. DO NOT BUY YOUR BOOTS THE DAY BEFORE YOU GO ON ANY BACKPACKING TRIP! I cannot stress this enough.
For those of you not familiar with the city of Sarria, this city is very significant along the Camino de Santiago. In order to receive your Compostela at the end of the Camino, you have to show on your pilgrim passport that you walked, biked, or rode horse back for at least the last 100 km. Sarria has been a popular spot for several people to begin their Camino because you can travel it in roughly 5 days. This makes it more convenient for people who have a limited amount of time off from work to make the trip and still get a Compostela. Luckily, we were there in what was still considered the early season for most people, so it wasn’t too crowded.
Sally and I ended up going to an Italian restaurant (needed a little change of cuisine) just down the road from our albergue (walk out the door and turn left going up the street). All up and down the street from our albergue were small restaurants with pilgrim menus available. If you walk further up the street to the small cathedral, there’s a beautiful overlook of the entire city which, of course, looks particularly beautiful at sunset.
After grabbing a shower in the cleanest bathroom I’ve encountered the entire trip (seriously, I didn’t even feel like I had to wear my sandals in the shower), I pulled up a chair in the courtyard and started reading. The albergue was owned by a family which lived there, so they were out in the courtyard with their little boy playing in the fountain. It turned out to be a pretty peaceful evening till I laid down to go to sleep that night and the 3 or 4 older men that checked in after Sally and I began snoring loud and in sync next to me. Almost a great end to a slightly stressful day.
Distance: 130.2 km (by bus)
Accommodation: Don Alvero Private Albergue- Stay here, no questions asked. Your welcome. Oh, and here’s a link showing you how awesome this place was. http://www.alberguedonalvaro.com
Sorry, didn’t take that many pictures that day…