Day 31 (to Barbadelo): … tis o’er the hills and far away …

The others are firmly asleep as …

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I head out …  first one out the door, since my roommates did some late-night partying which makes for a slower start. Since the next village is a bit further, I took advantage of a breakfast option provided by a restaurant where we had dinner last night.

At the end of the town the Camino branches out in two directions … the left one is 6.5 km longer than the right one … an easy choice. Continuing onward the signs kept pulling me to the left but I found the right path. Slightly ahead … German gent is checking his map so I reassure him that he is on the right path.

The Way continues through thick forest … and my  walking tempo is quite good this morning. Next up … a small village with a self described “eco albergue”.
The path winds along the forested hillside until it reaches a fountain at the top of the hill. Until than practically not a soul in sight (other then the German gent) and after the fountain in come the people. First my Spanish roommates from last night, then Eliah from California, followed by Malek and Ilona from Poland and Gen (USA).

A Spanish pilgrim walking solo asks is he on the right path … “yes I double checked it with GPS” says I… “ah, GPS, real pilgrims didn’t use electronics” says he … true, fortunately they had someone to ask.

The path continues uphill and then downhill … Terje the Norwegian catches up … his first Camino was in October (6 months ago).

The next bar ahead has a major flaw … its a downhill to the left about 350 m … or at least that’s what the sign says …. I’ve learned to be skeptical … so I decide to skip this one. At the end of the forest path, Keith and Jae catch up and we pose for some photos. Next bar is right on the Camino … good place to take a break. Bepi is already there and the place is of course packed … it seems few people trusted that previous sign. The Australian family soon joins us and Jan comments how … “there is no point in stopping at Sarria, that’s just 16 km for the day” … we both agree that before the Camino we would hardly categorize a 16 km hike as “just” … interesting how one’s perspective changes on the Camino.

The Way continues on, following a rather steep downhill path. I chat a bit with Ilona from Poland who seems is walking with some difficulty (muscle spasm of some sort), but seems to be rather philosophically inspired. She mentions some of the things she learned on the Camino … like you can not carry other people’s baggage (at least not all the time) and how her main challenge is to retain the “Camino mindset” after she returns home.

Coming up to … Sarria. A town noted for the fact it is a starting point for a minimum distance walk you need to do in order to get a Compostela (about 100 km from here to Santiaago).  At the entrance to the town a picnic zone with a fountain … great place for another break.
In comes August with two American girls Lucy and Shana … “So you are that Croatian” … “So I am” … though I wasn’t aware of any claim to fame … ( I later discovered  I ended up on a few blogs and Facebook pages).
Interesting chat the with Americans … Lucy used to work as a Senate aide to a junior senator from Washington State and I managed to surprise her by knowing the name of a senior one.
Although its Sunday we manage to find an open store … well stocked one so the Yanks resupply for lunch. While I’m waiting on them outside I spot Paolo the Italian, and then … a first peregrino with a horse that I’ve seen so far … leading the horse by the reins through the city.

I hang out with the Yanks at the improvised picnic for a while and than I continue onwards. The plan is to walk additional 15 km today. As I pass through Sarria I chat up with a couple of locals on their way back from the church.

The path continues through the forest … than along the railroad … than along an idyllic forest brook … followed by my very favorite path configuration …. uphill slope. As I’m shuffling ahead Marek the Pole, coming up behind me, is doing an impromptu sportscaster impersonation …. contrasting unfavorably my pace with the German girl who lives in Capetown. “Its easy for you” … says I … “you must be going up and down on Table Mountain every day” … “weeell, not every day” … says she… I rest my case.

At the top of the hill two British ladies Elisabeth and Miah are having a picnic with Oliver the ukulele guy, my former roommate. Oliver treats us to an ukulele concert with some Swedish folk tunes.

I arrived at Barbadelo at 14:50 at parked myself at the first albergue. The last hill exhausted my reserves for the day so I cut my planned schedule slightly short.
Nice albergue … it even has liquid soap at the showers … luxury indeed.

At the bar I ran into two familiar faces but it took me a while a remember the names … Jan and Ilonka, a Dutch couple I met at Torres del Rio. That was day no. 7 … feels like a whole eternity ago.

Meals here are served anytime you want, so I join the Slovenians for dinner.

Hospitalera told me the mass here is at 18h and I assumed … incorrectly … that the church is right behind the next corner … and so it is … a few kilometers ahead. After a short sprint in my sandals I came upon a closed door … it would appear the priest got sick, so there is no evening mass.

Back at the albergue … as we sit outside … two horsemen come up the road. One horse is a spitting image of Tornado and makes a hearty effort to toss his rider … just like his movie namesake did to Antonio Banderas in Zorro. Unlike the actor this rider proved to be of a stronger mettle.
Horses are followed by a column of cows who follow the road back to the barn … the shepherd at the back only had to use his cane a couple of times for those few cows who stopped for a bite.

Lights out … that was day no. 31.