Walking the Camino de Santiago from Leon to Santiago
With 89.5 km left to walk to Santiago, and a misty, wooded trail ahead of us, we seventeen pilgrims departed Portomarin at 7:00 am for Palas de Rei.
Well… sixteen–Nikos had left a bit earlier and was likely way ahead, re-establishing, as if it was ever in question, his place as one of the Camino’s speediest walkers. And many of the rest of the group found themselves a bit sluggish, so it was Dr. Gyug, Dr. Meyers, and myself who left for Palas at 7:00. So let’s begin again: we three pilgrims…
We were warned by Dr. Gyug that the day’s walk would begin with a gradually steepening incline, and it was during this ascent that I slowly fell behind the two strolling bff’s, admitting that perhaps my pace was a bit slower than theirs today.
But no matter! I had time to reflect, and the diligent pilgrim I am, I seized such a golden opportunity for engaging in some meaningful mediation. Who am I? What do I want for my future? Am I going the right way? Could the last time I ate a green vegetable really have been almost two weeks ago? How many more days can I get away with re-wearing these dirty clothes? What really happened to Dr. Meyers’ missing underwear? Some real soul-searching, you see.
But just before I could uncover the truth of the universe, I happened upon our professors again, who had stopped for a bit at a cafe, and onward together we trekked.
The day’s walk was marked by only a few more strenuous hills–a welcome infrequency when looking back on the day of la Laguna. In general, the landscape continued as it had been for the past couple days: expansive sections of farmland sparsely punctuated with barns and small towns. In terms of flora, gone were the many poplar forests seen earlier on the camino, and in their stead we saw groves of pine and eucalyptus, while Foxgloves, Poppies, and Daisies grew alongside the trail.
Throughout the day’s walk we also passed a handful of horreos, which are medieval granaries found in Galicia and Asturias that are built in stone, wood, or brick and are raised off the ground.
Although we were making our way towards the city center of Palas de Rei, it’s regional bounds extend several kilometers outwards. Included in this wider area of Palas, which we had neither the time nor the energy to explore, were the Iglexa Vilar de Donas and Castelo de Pambre. The Iglexa Vilar de Donas was 2 km off of the Camino Frances, while Castelo de Pambre, a medieval fort positioned along the rio Pambre was even further out of our way.
Soon after Gyug, Meyers, and I arrived at the albergue, I freed myself of my boots, socks and pack, and in characteristic Allie Aylward fashion, quickly settled in for an early siesta (which has been known to at times extend into a mini-coma). To the surprise of the several other relaxing peregrinos and peregrinas in the room, however, the afternoon quiet was abruptly interrupted with a cacophony of drilling sounds from the room directly next door. The albergue was renovating the bathroom all afternoon, so this girl’s nap was officially cancelled.
But my unexpectedly free afternoon allowed me to prepare for the Camino’s shortest cultural tour yet. Palas de Rei is a town of roughly 4,000 inhabitants and is located in the region of Lugo. Legend holds that Visigothic King Witiza constructed the palace here that gave the town its name in the 8th century.
First I brought to the attention of the class a sculpture of San Tirso erected in 1984 in the city’s central plaza. While obviously not a medieval relic, the statue depicts the saint to which Palas de Rei’s only surviving Medieval church, La Iglexa de San Tirso, is dedicated. Legend holds that because of his faith, San Tirso, a holy Christian saint, endured many tortures and was eventually sentenced to be cut in two. The executioners found, however, that their saw could not cut his skin, and finally it became so heavy that they could not even lift it, so they settled for beheadeding him. Because of this, San Tirso is depicted here holding his attribute, a bucksaw.
Iglexa de San Tirso retains the modest 12th century Romanesque portal with a plain tympanum and foliated capitals, yet most of the church is newer and unremarkable. At the time of my tour, a funeral was being held at the church, so I didn’t take the group inside. A few of us were able to see the interior of the church earlier though, which is a modern and… well, a bit drab compared to the other sites we’ve visited.
For many in the group, today was a mental strain. The walk was “only” 25k, yet at this stage in our camino, I think even I, whose assigned town was our destination, can admit that I was antsy to walk next to something other than farmland, antsy to escape the uniquely nauseating smell of cow dung, and even more antsy still to at long last reach Santiago.
On the way out of town the next morning, a modern sculpture of two pilgrims, one male, one female, bids us “Adios y Buen Camino” from Palas onward to Melide.
Wishing us speed of step and comfort of foot,
P.S. This is Dr. Meyers actually hydrating himself… with water. I felt obligated to post the proof just so it’s officially on the record.