Stage 31 – Triacastela – Sarria
Total Distance – 25.1 km (15.6 miles)
Adjusted for Climb – 26.1 km (accrued ascent 200 m = 1 km)
High Point: Midway between Triacastela and Samos at 780 m (2,559 feet)
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Triascastela, open and ready for peregrinos early on the morning we left the town
Please note that some names may be in Galician – you’ll now it when you see it.
This stage is where things began to get a little more complicated because we expected large numbers of peregrinos at Sarria which is the point where pilgrims can start the Camino and be assured of getting a “credencial” from the Church authorities in Santiago. After Sarria we expected the roads to get crowded and housing to become harder to come by. But that was in the future and on this stage we also got to see one of the most beautiful monasteries anywhere in the world!
Sue and I started out early from the town of Triacastela (pop. 900) that was founded in the 9th century. Like some towns we encounter on the pilgrimage route the meaning of its name is debated amongst scholars. Some believe that the town was named after the trio of castles that were built in the 10th century and the town does have a seal showing three castles. These castles were destroyed in wars against Norman invaders sometime around 968 and are in ruins. Others think that Triacastela refers to the three “castros” – pre-roman fortified settlements – ( named Triacastela, Lagares and San Adrián) that are nearby. Finally others believe that Triacastela means “hacia Castilla” meaning towards Castilla. There is no debate however that Triacastela is the end of the most mountainous section of the Camino Francés. For this reason it became a popular stop for monarchs such as los Reyes Católicos (15 September 1486), Carlos I (22 April 1520), and most famously Felipe II (16 May 1554) who stopped here on his way to England to contract marriage with his aunt, Mary Tudor.
Monument at the end of town leading to the route to Samos
At breakfast Sue and I had decided to take the southern alternate route that would take us to the famous Benedictine monastery at Samos (one of the largest and most beautiful in all of Spain!) rather than take the historic San Xil route even though this route was shorter by 6.4 kilometers. As we started making our way through the town a interesting and somewhat disturbing site awaited us. We saw two big dogs running alongside each other and toward us that were engaged in a fierce battle with each other. Needless to say we gave them a wide berth and continued on.
About 3.6 kilometers out of Triacastela we were in the ancient village of San Cristobo do Real. To my eyes it looked as if we had been plopped down right into the 16th century! It is a small village along the banks of the río Oribio that has no more than 50 massive stone houses/structures all hugging each other tightly. I don’t remember seeing any locals in this village because I’m sure I would have stopped to talk to them. This was eery for me as were the heavily forested and therefore dark trails that we walked through.
Entering the village of San Cristobo do Real
San Cristobo do Real has a ancient bathhouse and weir along the río Oribio
As we continued on through mostly forested trails that cleared once in a while we began to appreciate the astounding “greenness” of Galicia. I saw a vibrant green color everywhere that was unlike any other I had seen in Spain. Agriculture and farming was evident everywhere and we came upon a pleasant surprise as we were walking along a wooded trail!
Sheep moving along
Entering the village of Renche where once foundry stood
The trail through the forest
Lo and behold a horseman with his beautiful horse was on the trail with us!
A pastoral scene
Look at what we saw as we climbed up the trail. Sue is up ahead admiring the view.
This beautiful little church is in the village of San Martiño.
The signs lead to Samos and that’s where we were going. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we got there but when we did it took our breath away!
The Road leads to Samos!!
Finally Samos down in the valley below! We were still up high and a still had to walk down to it.
A closer view
When we got to the town we stopped for lunch and also stopped to take a tour of the monastery. It was magnificent and deserving of a separate post that I will write soon. We spent so much time in Samos that we soon had to getting moving, quickly toward Sarria where we had a reservation at a hotel that was highly recommended to us by the barmaid at the Pension in Triacastela. Alas, the rest of the 6.6 kilometers to Sarria was mainly at the side of a two-lane road and uneventful.
Notice the scallop shell motif on the rail of the bridge
The Monastery at Samos
Here I am posing for a picture
The Peregrino monument on the outskirts of the town bids us farewell and reminds us that we have some walking to do!
The beautiful Galician countryside
A Church is always in the distance
The yellow arrow, as always, points the way to Santiago de Compostela!
The sun-dappled trail that would soon lead us to Sarria