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The Beauty of Galicia – 23 September


Alto do Poio to Pintín

Pintín is another place that might not figure prominently on the map! However, it does seem to have a little more in the way of population than Alto de Poio.

Last night, Kate experienced the same digestive apocalypse that I did, precisely 24 hours later, but like me, felt better after the experience by the morning. And so we walk on …

We saw the sun rise as we left Alto do Poio. The Camino passes along the higher parts of the Galician mountains, and it was warmer than we expected, given the altitude (1335 metres above sea level). The Galician countryside is exhibiting signs of autumn, with the trees changing colour, and leaves beginning to drop – and this is the first evidence of autumn that we have seen since we began this journey, exactly four weeks ago. The country is quite different from anything we have seen for weeks: greener, with more vegetation, and more evidence of active cultivation, especially since we seem to walk through a lot of farmyards. This morning we had to stand aside while a herd of cattle passed us going in the opposite direction.

We stopped for a quick breakfast in Fonfría, the next of the small villages along the way, and another familiar face appeared: this time an Englishman whom we first met in Frómista, and who has reappeared from time to time. His pace seems to be faster than ours, but he is inclined to walk shorter distances each day. This appearance and disappearance and reappearance of fellow pilgrims is something I have mentioned before, but after a while we tend to take it for granted. But we do wonder what has happened to those whom we do not see any more: how far have they gone?

There is a lot of height to lose between the ridge that runs from O Cebreiro and Triacastela, the next major stopping point. As we began to descend, we could see that the valley below was wrapped in patches of fog. The temperature dropped as we descended: we were walking through temperature inversion, as well as entering the slightly damp fog. There was an ethereal effect in walking without being able to see much around us, which we have not really experienced so far. With apologies for the dubious pun, it certainly dampened the tourist temptation and left us to muse upon our pilgrimage. Yet even in the mist, the Camino emphasises its history: the path is an ancient road, lined with granite walls that are very old, and that have seen the path sink below the level of the surrounding fields and woods over the centuries.

We stopped for a short break in Triacastela and replenished our supplies. We had a choice in route, and decided to take the road less travelled, to the north missing Samos, to the south, where there is an ancient monastery, and an albergue with, apparently, limited facilities and many beds in a vast dormitory. This way, we stand a better chance of catching up with our hope of being in Santiago on Wednesday.

I had another of my irritable and impatient moments with the guide, which suggests that we should have walked down “the main road,” which would not have led us in the right direction. Fortunately, Kate noticed a sign pointing to the next village on our way, and we found one of the ubiquitous yellow arrows that answer most questions about the way. We had a wonderful walk through beautiful countryside, and the mist had largely lifted, leaving patches of high cloud that left us with some shade, but also some warmth.

We had a brief interruption when Kate discovered that her glasses had fallen out of her pocket. Leaving my pack, I walked back as far as she could remember wearing them (probably not really the kilometre that it seemed!), but found nothing. A pilgrim, a young Spanish girl, came upon me and asked what was happening. Apparently, we learned later, she was a little anxious at first, since I was scouring the edges of the road, and not wearing a pack: she thought that I might be a strange or eccentric local inhabitant (rather than a strange and eccentric pilgrim!), and she was walking alone. Fortunately, she spoke very good English, and when she discovered what I was doing, she offered to help, looking on one side of the road, while I looked on the other. We did not find the glasses, and decided to move on. However, I kept looking, and at a point that I thought was beyond where we had originally walked, I noticed something shiny in the undergrowth by the side of the road, and the glasses were there. It’s almost certain that it was at the very point where Kate originally noticed they were missing, but we had immediately turned back. I relate all of this in gory detail for two reasons: one is that the power of persistence (and prayer) should not be underestimated; the other is that pilgrims are more often than not very willing to help one another.

Although this had taken a while, we decided to walk on. We were rewarded by a Camino almost devoid of any other pilgrims, time to begin reflecting upon what this has meant, as we approach the last week of our journey, and a peaceful environment in which to do so. We were also given a section of path that looks like something out of a fairy tale: as before, the trail has become a deep, narrow chasm in the earth, but this time almost like a tunnel, with trees growing close together overhead, blackberry vines hanging down from above, all with a steep incline down. Any child’s imagination would revel in such a place! There was nobody else about, so I skipped down it. No picture would do it justice: it’s just too dark for a decent exposure.

We were hoping to get as far as the other side of Calvor, close to Sarria, but our feet decided to call it a day at this little hamlet, Pintín, which we entered through yet another farmyard, and where there is accommodation and food. We have walked about 23.5 km today, which isn’t one of our longer days, but more than we have walked in a while, and evidence that our bodies are recovering from at least some of what has ailed them.


  1. Teresea permalink

    Hi Paul, did you and Kate take the long way around through Samos to visit one of the oldest monestaries in Spain?

    • No, we took the shorter, scenic route to the north … 5 km doesn’t sound much, but at the end of a long, hot day it takes us well over an hour. So we opted for the north and walked through wonderful woodlands, and yet more tiny, Galician hamlets.

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