Checking in to the Albergue Val de Samos I have no inclination of the pending lack of sleep. First, a church chimes a pre-emptive toll before counting the hours. The main bells of the monastery then join in, just in case anyone missed the first lot. Then, as is common in Galicia, both establishments repeat the sequence. This carries on hourly throughout the night.
I share the dormitory with five Italian cyclists who, ignoring the 10pm curfew, stampede in, inebriated, at 1am. Carrying on their animated conversation, laughing and joking, one of them kicks my rucksack as he stumbles around the room I give it five minutes before my impatience gets the better of me and I release a tirade of verbal abuse. The silence is priceless, even if they don’t understand what I am saying.
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An uninspiring couple of hours start the following day along the road to Sarria, which is not the most attractive town on the Camino; but once through it, the countryside soothes me again. The section after Sarria to Portomarin weaves along quiet country lanes and dusty tracks. Several relaxed hamlets offer an occasional refuelling stop, farms appear and farmers herd their cows to pasture with excited dogs.
I cross over the Rio Mino, walking high on the bridge that leads to Portomarin. The two churches of San Pedro and San Nicolas now command the hill, but up to the 1960s they dominated the valley until it was deliberately flooded. Stone by stone they were saved and moved to the present location, where a new Portomarin was built around them The original village remains hidden below the water level but, during droughts, a long-forgotten building occasionally comes up for air.
I leave, bound for the tiny hamlet of Gonzar where the Casa Garcia Albergue sits, a further five miles. I’m tired; my push for a quick 500 miles is taking its toll and my feet retaliate. It’s a twenty-eight-mile day when I arrive and slump at the bar. The barmaid obliges my request for a gin and tonic.
“Rest, take a shower,” she coos. “We can check you in later.”