Leaving Mercadoiro, there was more downhill, from roughly 600 meters to 350 over about 4 kilometers. And although the path was rocky, it was also forested, wending its way through a few hamlets. At one point, there was a choice to be made – going down another very steep path that, thankfully, carried a warning that it was treacherous or continuing along the roads. Before coming to this point, I came upon a raised pasture with cows, with one cow who was close to the path. I took a few photos of her, which got 3 other people to stop briefly and do the same.
These same 3 people were stopped at the sign. The young woman decided to go or the challenge. The two older men decided to follow me and take the road. They soon passed me, but that’s because I had become snail-like in my pace by this time.
This road brought me out to the outskirts of Portomarin, which is west of the Rio Miño. This was a remarkable sight, as the old town was flooded in 1962 when a dam was built. So you could see parts of this medieval town in the river. Perhaps more remarkably, the important structures of the town were removed to higher ground and reconstructed.
The new town is reached by a very steep staircase leading to an arch. Now, the town itself is off the Camino, but I trudged up that staircase anyway. I was in need of some breakfast (which I was very glad in hingsight I stopped for ) as well as a visit to an ATM.
Visit this site for professional photos of this area: http://www.caminoadventures.com/sarria-to-portomarin/
Leaving the town, I had to walk down to the road in order to get back on another steep forested path. That was always the way: descend to a river then climb back up again. So, I went essentially back up to 600+ meters again before stopping for the night in the town of Hospital.
Before Hospital, before Gozar, I stopped along the side of a road at a picnic spot. I met two women there from New Mexico, Holly and Barbara. We sat and chatted for a while, talking about the tour groups that were now along our paths. I saw this particular group numerous times, and they were very demanding people. They would load into a small bus in the mornings and be let out to walk the nicest parts of the Camino, if they wished. After walking for a short distance, they would again meet the bus, and the driver would have laid out a feast for them. This day they had two large picnic tables laden with food and wine. The three of us were, frankly, jealous. it was past lunch and we were hungry. After our chat, I foolishly chose the longer alternative skirting the south side of Gozar. Holly and Barbara were smart and chose the road. I disliked Gozar, as the village had no directional arrows. I wandered a bit before I found a place for lunch. As I left the village, I realized I would have come to a much better stop, sooner, if I had taken the shorter path on the northern edge of this village. Ah, well, it was only one meal and only a few kilometers out of my way.
Carrying on, I was insulted to see another steep ascent to Hospital, where I planned to spend the night. It was not a big deal, but I was getting tired, and I don’t like having to put forth this effort at the end of a day. I came to Hospital in due time and was again surprised by the rundown condition of the Inn, and the lack of hospitality by the staff. This was El Labrador, and the guidebook promised me hospitality!
No worries, though. I saw a husband and wife couple I had met weeks earlier, Holly and Barbara, the two men who admired the cow, and a few pilgrims new to me. Everyone in my age group were feeling like I was, i.e., as much as we loved the journey, our bodies were wearing out and we were glad we were getting close to Santiago. Dinner was ok; the conversations were wonderful. And – I figured out how to turn on the heater in my room, so I was warm through the night and I was able to wash my socks and have them dry by morning !
The next morning I was anxious to get on the road.