Friday, November 13, 2009

From Triacastela to Samos

I walked out of the albergue around 8:30 am, and followed the 2 Danes, brother and sister, whom I had met up i O Cebreiro. We were all 3 a bit uncertain as to the correct route, since we were following the longer route towards Samos, a detour of 5-6 km. After walking along the road towards Samos for a couple of kilometers, there was the yellow arrow we were looking for, and from there on the Camino was on lovely dirt pathways through little hamlets, nice stretches of forest, and just the most delightful and varied landscape.
The Danes had long disappeared, they were walking without backpacks, and were long-legged and very fit, so they walked much faster than I. It was a beautiful morning, sunny, but quite chilly, there were frost on the grass and bushes in the fields and pastures, where the rays of the sun had not yet reached. I was happy that I had bought a pair of gloves up in the little store in O Cebreiro, because they sure came in handy this morning! There was definitely Fall in the air, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through this pretty stretch of the Camino. Birds sang, the ferns and some of the trees were glowing in yellows and golds, picturesque indeed! I had not had any coffee before I left, and I could feel the long walk yesterday in my bones, so when I saw the huge Benedictine Monastery down in the valley, I was happy to know coffee was only a short distance away!
Soon I was drinking my first café con leche of the day, and then I walked to the Monastery. On the way I ran in to Ilona - I was happy to see her again, she was definitely one of my "special" people on the Camino! She told me that the evening mass with chanting at the monastery was at 7:30 PM, and also that the tour of the Monastery was well worth it. She was staying at a hostal just opposite the monastery - she did not stay at the albergues, she preferred to spend a bit more money on her accommodations, and then be frugal with her meals.
Right after I had talked with Ilona I met the friend of the Danish brother and sister I had walked with in the morning. He was driving, and was their personal "carrier", and a really nice guy - he also told me the tour of the Monastery was absolutely a must, so armed with these reports I set out to find when and where the next tour started.
It was still early in the day, I had only walked about 12 km, but I wanted to spend the night here, because the albergue was in the monastery, and when would I ever get a chance to stay in a monastery again? Besides, I wanted to experience the evening mass with the chanting monks.
I bought my ticket for the tour, and walked around a bit, before it was time to go back to the entrance, where we were guided by a lovely young Spanish woman. She only spoke Spanish, but at least she spoke slowly and clearly, and I actually understood some of what she was explaining, as we walked through the huge buildings with beautiful murals, statues, fantastic carvings and artistic and architectural details of this large Benedictine monastery of Samos. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, even if the explanations were only in Spanish!

Afterwards I went over to the café across the entrance to the albergue, which did not open until 3 PM. I had lunch, and soon I was joined by Vihar, whom I had also met earlier, and when it was a few minutes to 3 PM the kind warden came over and told us we could check in now. He was such a nice, kind man, as was the other warden, and they played lovely music that made the big room seem cozy, as we got settled in these quite majestic surroundings with the tall, vaulted ceilings decorated with murals. While were getting organized and showered, another couple of Danes, Nina and Esther, came along with 2 Canadian women, whom I had not yet met, but heard about.
One of them had been lost for about a day up in the mountains by O Cebreiro. She and her friend had separated as one of them had to use the ladies room. As agreed, the other one walked ahead, and somehow the one trailing behind went the wrong way, and ended up walking all the way around the mountain, and did not find an albergue until it was almost evening.
In the meantime the one walking ahead was getting quite frantic, because her friend never showed up. The next day she was still looking and asking everyone if they had seen her friend, but nobody had! Finally she called in the police, and about 1 1/2 hour later her friend was found, and all was well, luckily! They did not have cell phones, and there was no internet where the lost one ended up, so she had no way of letting her friend know she was okay.
It was quite a scare, and these kinds of news travel fast on the Camino - so even if we did not know any of the involved pilgrims, we all worried and wondered what could have happened. However, I must say even though I walked by myself, and often was all alone for long stretches with no one in sight, I never felt the least bit afraid.

Nina had forgotten her towel at the last albergue, so I dug into my backpack and found the little instant towel my kayak friend Jan had given me long time ago, and gave it to Nina. She looked at the tiny little package, wondering how on earth that would turn into a towel; but she gave it a try, and it worked just fine to her amazement. It is one of those that slowly unfolds as it get in contact with water, and we were all laughing as Nina emerged showing off the towel after use! We were also cracking up when several of the old guys in their tiny speedo underwear zoomed by our bunks, which were right by the entrance to the bathrooms. As someone said, on the Camino modesty is best left at home! It was just too funny, and all this in a monastery! I wondered if the monks have as much fun?
Just before I went to the evening mass I ran into the two Norwegians from Bergen, and we were so happy and surprised to meet again! We ended up going together to the mass, where we joined Ilona on the bench. There were only about 10 priests and monks performing the Vesper service, and most of them were very old. The chanting was really not very impressive, I am afraid. The poor monks were so old, their crackly voices could barely carry in the huge chapel, but at least the organ was playing, helping them along.
I had to imagine what it was like back in the days when several hundred monks lived here. It must have been quite a choir then. However, it's a tradition which clearly is dying out, as the monks get old and pass away, not many newcomers anymore. After the Vesper part of the mass was over, Ilona, the Norwegians and I snug out, we were hungry. After saying good night to Ilona, who did not want to have dinner, I went with Lita and Sven, and we had a nice dinner together, catching up on what we had experienced since we saw each other last in Fromista.

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