A feat of feet

I began my Camino with a goal to push myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. While the latter had been challenged on the trail, I knew I had more in the tank. On Day 27, I’d attempt to walk further than my legs had ever carried me before; with only a handful of days left, before I reached Santiago, this would be my final challenge. Fortunately, the moderate descent from O Cebreiro to the lush valley below was the ideal terrain for attempting the feat.

Camino de Santiago Diary – Day 27

Other than the typical rumble of snores from the Camino’s usual sleepy suspects, the municipal Albergue’s dorm room lay still. After Day 26’s arduous climb, it was no surprise I was the only pilgrim awake and muddling about my bag before sunrise. My planned day would take 12 hours to complete and demanded a pre-dawn launch. I carefully stepped down from my top bunk, tiptoed past the sprawl of unconscious bodies and ventured out into the darkness.

A thick cloud had descended on the mountaintop, and my bobbling headlamp did little to pierce the mass of misty droplets drifting into my eyes. I had some previous night hiking experience but never through a dense alpine haze. Thankfully, the empty road out of town was easily navigable. I happily progressed through a handful of trail hamlets before daybreak’s light began filtering through the mist.

The sun had well and truly risen by the time yesterday’s vibrantly green scenery unveiled itself. Galicia’s celebrated natural backdrop had returned, and, despite my scheduled increase in kilometres, I had no choice but to stop, unpack my DSLR and happy-snap the countryside below.

These vistas were one of many distinct settings I would witness throughout the day. The morning’s mountainous path dipped down into forested valleys, grazing farmland and fertile gardens; then passed white stone quarries and centuries-old monasteries. The route spanned no fewer than 27 villages, towns, and cities, including the Camino’s most popular starting point, Sarria.

Roughly 25% of pilgrims start the Camino de Santiago in Sarria. The city is just over 100km away from Santiago, making it the minimum distance required to receive the Compostela.
caminoways.com

Despite covering so much territory, the journey never felt rushed; this may have had something to do with my unexpected company. After leaving my travelling buddies overnight, I didn’t expect to jump straight into another talkathon; enter an outspoken 62-year-old 6’3 Scotsman. We discussed everything from American politics, Scottish heritage, previous marriages (not mine), raising children (definitely not mine), travelling the world to my day’s extended excursion.

A two-way street walking out of Sarria.

Walking this extraordinarily long distance in one stretch seemed like a herculean effort. Yet, for this rangy hiker, who frequently trekked 40-50 kilometres through the highlands, glens and moors of Scotland, the jaunt was routine. The encounter was a timely reminder to avoid comparing your personal endeavours with the achievements of those around you.

In an age of social media idealism, where heavily curated profiles scarcely show the whole picture, others’ gains can often seem unobtainable. Comparing your progress with previous versions of yourself is the only reliable way to gain an accurate perspective. If you’re actively tracking your growth and pursuing your purpose, you’re already a success.

Having said all this, I felt ashamedly triumphant when my day’s companion decided to retire short of my Ferreiros terminus. We said our farewells, and I marched on.

An agricultural end to the day.

My legs throbbed as I arrived at my final hamlet, though I’d certainly finished previous hikes in more pain. I lumbered into the Albergue, released the bag from my shoulders and flopped down on the bed. Taking a moment to savour the relief, I reviewed my daily kilometres. My phone read 57 km, my guidebook confidently stated 51.9 km, while the day’s roadside markers suggested I’d covered 55 km. It seemed, like many of the route’s traditions, the Camino’s trail distances did not recognise one definitive record. I wasn’t bothered. I had trekked over 50 kilometres for the first time and could tick off my remaining foolhardy goal. Mission accomplished.

I celebrated my milestone by inhaling two servings of locally-made Galician stew, being invited to film three Lithuanians warble their national anthem in a field, and falling asleep in a near-empty dorm. Day 27 was inspiring, eye-opening and utterly exhausting; I would need to ease gently into Day 28.

All the details.

Trail distance covered

51.9km

Accommodation

Albergue Casa Cruceiro de Ferreiros

Price

€10

Terrain

Some gentle, some moderate downhill hiking to Ferreiros.