Day 14 – Calvor to Portomarín (27.7 km)
During the previous day I had walked only about twenty one kilometres to Calvor, instead of the twenty six kilometres to Sarria; consequently the distance I had to cover to Portomarín was five kilometres longer, totalling thirty kilometres. To walk twenty kilometres is fine; after twenty five kilometres one knows what one has done; but for me thirty kilometres was taxing, especially after my marathon to Triacastela.
After Sarria only 117 km remain to Santiago de Compostela. Sarria is the popular town – actually it is a small city – from which pilgrims with time constrained or out of other reasons commence their walk and yet be entitled to receive the Compostela certificate from the authorities in Santiago. In actual fact, the minimum distance permissible is 100 km. The certificate confirms that the poor pilgrim has completed the Camino Francés. The translation of the certificate reads as follows:
“The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Cathedral of St. James, custodian of the seal of St. James’ Altar, to all faithful and pilgrims who come from everywhere over the world as an act of devotion, under vow or promise to the Apostle’s Tomb, our Patron and Protector of Spain, witnesses in the sight of all who read this document, that: Mr___ Theodericum (my first name in Latin) — Daehnke has devoutly visited this Sacred Church in a religious sense (pietatis causa).
“Witness whereof I hand this document over to him, authenticated by the seal of this Sacred Church. Given in St. James de Compostela on the____ day of ____ A.D. ____.”
The original and official Compostela is written in Latin and a copy of my own Compostela will follow.
The walk today was rural and beautiful; I passed many farm hamlets with their pastures, farm tracks and roads surrounded by dry-stack rock walls. The fields were green and undulating but not mountainous. Portomarín, our next stop, is a rather unusual town situated high up on the banks of the Embalse de Belesar water reservoir. The Belesar dam was constructed in 1962 and most old buildings and monuments that nestled on either side of the river were relocated to higher ground. To reach the new (old) town, one crosses the ‘new’ bridge at a narrow part of the dam, climbs up the steep, long steps and passes through the relocated arch which formed part of the old medieval bridge that used to span the Mino River far below.
It is essentially only the main road that is lined by the ‘historic’ buildings, and the unusual character of this town is formed by the arched arcades that stretch along both sides of the main road. The arches are framed with dressed stonework and the buildings, which are plastered and painted white; are unique in character and different to any I had seen before.
On the left side of the road the buildings are interrupted by an imposing medieval-style stone church with a large plaza in front. The church has only a few small windows high up near the ceiling and the atmosphere inside appeared cold, gloomy and uninviting, as if the spirit of the past had never re-entered the reconstructed church. It was not a suitable place to continue with the diary and I can’t even remember if I lit candles for the family.
I met Martine and Jean-Pierre on the balcony of the private hostel where we stayed. They had just finished their late lunch and offered me the leftovers – rice with some vegetables stirred in. I was hungry and grateful for the change from cheese and salami. After Portomarín we saw each other many times until we reached Santiago, where we, with Tony from America, participated in the pilgrim’s service in the cathedral.