July 6th Sarria to almost Portamarin (The day of backtracks)
We waited until almost 11 o’clock before we left Sarria. I woke up about 6 or 7 and it was raining. I knew that Maria and Marisa, the hospiteleros wouldn’t be in until about 10 so no big hurry to get out of bed. I finally got up about 8, still raining. Deb got up around 9 and we got ready to go. We called Hayden to see what time he would get into Sarria so we could walk out together and he was just heading to Samos. That is where we thought he was staying last night.
He had stayed in Triacastela talking with Cindy, the lady from Minnesota, and had left late from there. We had waited for him and the rain so we got a pretty late start but we always start late and we had a reservation in Ferrerios. Maria had called ahead and gotten us a res. at a private albergue. From here to Santiago there sometimes may be a shortage of beds so we figured since it was a smaller town it might be wise to be prepared. We were pretty sure we couldn’t do Portamarin on one charge it was just too far.
We started out on the road to Barbadaos because we had checked the Camino leading out of Sarria and there was no way the silla de ruedas could make the first part of the path. There was a bridge called the “rough bridge” in all the guidebooks if that tells you what it was like. We maybe could have gotten over that in about an hour. I walked about a km up the path to check it out and after four or five obstacles there was a pile of gravel from the train track above the way that we could not have maneuvered. So I tell you that to tell you this. We started out on the road to Barbadaos. It was a good road not much traffic for several km to Barbadaos. When we got there we went into a café to get a cola cao and who would we find sitting there, but Marianna from Muldova. We sat with her for a while and she wanted to walk with us.
She said she wasn’t having a very good day and we hope we cheered her up a little bit. We walked on the Camino for about 5 km, which was on a pretty country road. We had gone to Baxan where we had to cut over on a different road back to the highway. When we came out there was a sign saying Sarria 5 km. How could that be, we had already walked 10 km. Nice detour. We walked on the highway for a while and the Camino took us up to several small towns. I had checked all my maps and this would be a hard spot to get through. Sure enough we couldn’t make it through at this point, so backtrack to the highway. Marianna went on with the Camino, we insisted, we were pretty sure we had a long slog ahead of us.
We knew if we backtracked the 2 km to the highway, then 3 km to the Abrea turnoff, then 1 km up to the Camino, we just needed to make 500 meters of rocks to a road that would lead us to Morgade then Ferrerios. We got to the Abrea turnoff and Deb didn’t get a good feeling. We have learned to always trust her judgment, so off we went on the highway to Paladus, about 7 or 8 km away. It was the bicycle path but was still the Camino, so we just figured we would stay the night there in an albergue or hostel. Turned out it was almost all uphill to Paladus and Deb’s chair started running out of power before we got there. We arrived to the town by the skin of our teeth and the first thing we got to was a petrol station. I went in and talked to the guy in my limited Spanish and he showed me a plugin in the outdoor restroom, didn’t seem very friendly though. So we are sitting on the curb outside the men’s room in this little town in Spain, where no one apparently spoke English.
We charged for about thirty minutes and headed for the bar down the street, where they spoke no English either. The 12 year old running the place did let us plug in and even though the comedor (dining room) didn’t open until 10 p.m. she made us a cheese sandwich while we charged. Maybe it was because we hadn’t eaten all day and it was about 6 p.m. but that was the best dang cheese sandwich either of us had ever eaten.
We asked about where the albergue was and they said non, Portamarin, how about a hostel, non Portamarin, okay Hotel, Portamarin. How far to Portamarin? 9 km. but all downhill. I hope so because there is no way the chair can make that distance tonight. A taxi would be over 100 euros to come this far. So off we go down the road and her chair starts flashing after about 500 meters up a hill. We are screwed. My dad wanted me to write as things happen and not sugar coat them like he says I am prone to do. We are screwed. We round the bend and the downhill starts. After about 2 km the chair now has 2 orange bars instead of just red, we got this? Maybe?
After about 6 km we come around a bend and see a café, looks a little rough but a café. We are so far off the Camino that no one speaks English and are not as friendly maybe to Pilgrims but these people seemed good. The waitress gets us our coca cola and then brings us a plate of olives and potato chips while we charge. When people find out how long we have been here and how far we have come, they usually are a little nicer, especially to Deb. I had noticed just over the bridge by the bar was a pension, usually a little higher, but also a little nicer.
After we charged the chair for about 30 minutes we headed over the bridge to the place and I went in to inquire about a room. The waitress who seemed to be in charge took me to the entrance to the Pension and sure enough, about 20 stairs. She said Portamarin was just about 3 km away and we said our thanks and were on our way. About 500 meters and the chair started blinking again, we are screwed again. This is when the heavy prayers come in. I know we should pray all the time but it seems I really get after it when I am screwed.
About this time a car honks and pulls in front of us on the side of the road. It is the waitress from the pension. “Senor, Senora” then several words in Spanish. What I can make out is can we go up 3 steps, yes with the big ramp. Can we make 1 km, Maybe. Then she says aqui and I think she is telling us to wait there. Off she drives very fast. We wait about 5 minutes and I look up aqui on my interpreter and we start to walk back to the pension. Another car pulls up this one bigger than the waitress’ car and two waitresses get out.
After much talking and sign language we understand we are to put the trailer and my bag in the back of the car. They wanted to put the chair in but I knew it wouldn’t fit. The first waitress says for me to go with the second waitress while she waits there with Deb. Off we go about a km away to a little triplex house, with 4 steps leading in, can we make she asks. We don’t have a choice but to make it. I am still not exactly sure who’s house it was but it only cost me 30 euros for a house to ourselves.
She took me back to Deb and off we went down the road and the waitresses went back the other way to work, we had the key to this house in our pocket. The chair quickly went out of power and I started pushing the last km. At least I didn’t have my pack or the trailer to deal with. We made it to the house and I ran the extension cord, we had bought several towns back, and charged the chair for about 30 minutes before attempting the two ramp entrance to the house.
We had been walking for about 9 hours and if my figures are correct, we walked almost 30 km on 3 thirty minute charges. This was more than we had ever done or want to do again. This post was going to be about our worst day ever on the Camino and the two waitresses turned it into a blessing on the kind of people you meet here. They had gone above and beyond to help out two crazy Americanos, lost in another country just muddling through. I don’t know their names but they sure saved our butts on that one.
Not only did we have a nice little house to ourselves, but there was a washing machine, we got all our wash done. There was a stove, and we had food with us. Hot shower when we figured out how to use the hot water heater