May 27: Laguna de Castilla to Triacastela
We got off to a bad start. Last night, it turned out that one of the perigrinos in our dormitory was a fierce snorer and his antisocial sleeping habits severely disrupted the sleep of the other 8 in the room. Snoring and blisters are the blackflies of Camino life, it seems.
Regardless, we got up and headed out and in no time we were at the summit, viewing the monument to perigrinos, at 1300 m. This height of land marks the border into Galicia which is a damp, lush, and Celtic-flavoured province in northwest Spain. We had hoped, given the long climb of yesterday, that it would all be an easy downhill from here but that wasn't quite true. Our descent was really steep in places, hard on the knees and shoulders with the pack-weight pushing forward I suppose. And of course we were all tired to begin with.
Probably because we were so tired and because the day was cool and damp we took time out, perhaps more than usual, for refreshment breaks. It gave us a good opportunity to start soaking up the culture of Galicia. Did I mention that Galician culture is rooted in a Celtic past? The language is a bit different, still recognizably latin-derived, but Galician is a distinct dialect within Spain. The cuisine is different too; for example, every little hamlet has a 'pulperia' (a cafe selling octupus). There are Galician flags and cultural slogans and you get the feeling that people here are Galician first, Spanish second.
Did I mention how tired we were? So by the time we arrived in Triacastela we decided to ensure a snore-free night and we booked a habitacione. We have 4 beds in a room to ourselves and a shared bathroom down the hall. We rigged a clothesline by stringing a bit of rope from the chandelier to the drape pull and we did our laundry and enjoyed long leisurely showers. We went out for supper and tried the local octupus.
Before completely collapsing for the night, we went to Mass. It seems that every town along the Camino hosts a special Mass for pilgrims every night and we have been getting into the habit of attending these when possible. A woman welcomed us at the door on our way in and asked about our language; she had handouts available in 5 or 6 different languages. The priest tonight was a lovely man who obviously enjoyed his audience (all ~20 of us) and liked what he was doing. Before the Mass started, he commissioned members of the audience with different language abilities to act as translators for him. He told us all (through translation) to just relax and sit through the celebration; after all, he knew we were tired and had sore feet and he knew it was confusing for those who were neither Catholic nor Spanish to figure out what was going on with all the sitting and standing and kneeling etc.. He smiled and he laughed and he waited with patient good humour for the translations and he stripped the formal part of the Mass to its absolute leanness. We left feeling blessed and absolutely ready for a good night's sleep.