Day 13 (May 17)
Friday began with an uphill hike through brushy, open country. By mid-day, she had hiked nearly 8 miles uphill to the small town of O Cebreiro, perched at the top of the 4200 foot-high pass. The hillsides, peaks, and even the Camino itself were choked with heavy snow. Though rare this late in the year, the snow continued to fall and the biting wind continued to blow.
The exertion of the climb kept Lauren warm, combined with her gear. She wore two sweaters, a scarf, and her mud-spattered poncho over these. Lacking gloves, she wore socks for mittens.
The weather wasn’t abating. Worse, she had a sharp pain in her lower back, a new blister, and her cough was worsening. But she had traveled only 8 miles and she wanted to go farther. She found a taxi to take her the next leg, a winding mountain road to the town of Triacastela, founded in the 9th century.
Day 14 (May 18)
The day dawned gray and drizzly. Lauren began her walk still feeling weary from exhaustion and the cold. By noon, the temperature had fallen further and the precipitation had become freezing rain. The trail was transformed into a downhill slick of mud and cow dung.
By 3:00, she reached Sarria, originally a pre-Roman settlement that was refounded around 750. Exhausted, chilled to the bone, and filthy, Lauren bought a bottle of cava, found the nearest respectable hotel, and rented a room.
The hotel room proved to be a priceless luxury. Lauren turned up the heat, stripped off filthy clothes, and climbed into a tub filled with steaming water. After a long bath, she slipped between cool, crisp sheets and just listened to the quiet, eventually drifting into a pleasant nap.
She woke to a hailstorm around 6 PM and again relished the peace, the safety, and the modern comfort of her hotel room, so different from the endless trail or the spartan albergues. She spent an evening feeling connected to the rest of the world, watching episodes of Mad Men on her phone, reading, and drinking cava.
Day 15 (May 19)
Lauren woke this morning feeling stiff and sore, but also refreshed and renewed. She strolled down to a fancy hotel breakfast then took her time packing. It was a treat simply not to be in a place that kicked you out at 8 AM (as is standard practice in albergues).
She spent part of the day walking with another American, a young man who is a student at Washington University in St. Louis (Mark’s undergrad alma mater). When she stopped for lunch, she met a lovely Irish girl named Veronica.
The day’s hike was still cold and rainy and filled with mud and cow pies, which slowed Lauren considerably. In Portomarin, Lauren and Veronica rented a private double room. Lauren spent the chilly, rainy evening huddled beneath the covers wearing every warm piece of clothing she had with her, dirty or clean.
Day 16 (May 20)
Lauren finished a long day of walking at almost 5:30 PM, putting down 31km (almost 20 miles). She had reached the town of Ponte Compaña, a town that sits on the edge of Serra do Careón, a national forest filled with eucalyptus and pine. The weather remained cool throughout the day’s hike, but at least it was sunny and pleasant.
Despite being sore and tired, Lauren was in good spirits and feeling great. She had just 63km left to reach Santiago de Compostela, which meant that she would arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. She went to bed, hoping to get to sleep early and to get a head-start on the next day’s travels.