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 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 haze of droplets drifting into my eyes. I had some previous night hiking experience but never through a dense alpine fog. Thankfully, the empty road out of town was easily navigable. I carefully progressed through a handful of trail hamlets before daybreak began filtering through the mist.
The sun had well and truly risen by the time yesterday’s expanse of 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 sweeping countryside.
These soaring 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 past 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.
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 6’3 62-year-old 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.
To me, walking the day’s extraordinarily long distance felt like an enormous output. Yet, for this rangy hiker, who frequently trekked 40-50 kilometres through the highlands, glens and moors of Scotland, the jaunt must have seemed 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 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.
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. Like many of the route’s legends and 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 goal. Mission accomplished.
I celebrated my milestone by inhaling two serves of locally-made Galician stew, drinking with three Lithuanians on their national day, 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
Some gentle, some moderate downhill hiking to Ferreiros.