Follow the Camino, our Camino travel agency, had furnished us with daily walking notes which had brief descriptions of the route i.e. villages, points of interest, rest stops, etc.
The Amigos thus had a daily ritual at breakfast -- we'd read the notes for the day to get an idea of the length and difficulty of the walk we were about to face.
Day 5's walking notes ominously mentioned lengthy uphill climbs through the course of a 12 kilometre walk.
Time to talk like a drill sergeant to the calf muscles and hamstrings ... "You can do this guys!"
To rejoin the Camino from Portomarin, we followed the main road out of town and descended to cross the Rio Mino via a different bridge from the one we had used to enter the town the day before.
This is the start of the uphill climb with a marker that states that we are just passing the 89 kilometre point. Can you see how the road starts to climb just after the trees? While this was not as steep or rocky as Day 3's climb (forever etched in my mind as "Spain's Revenge") it was challenging because of its length -- over two kilometres of steady and ceaseless climbing.
I did love walking through the forest paths. The trees provided shade, the air was cool and fragrant and there was time for quiet reflection as I slowly made my way.
We passed through a picnic area where benches and tables were ready for pilgrims who wanted to stop and take a snack. During today's walk, there were no cafes or albergues for a stretch of seven kilometres -- quite a distance to go without any reviving cup of hot cafe con leche.
We finally made it to Gonzar, where there was an albergue -- ole'! Since it was past noon when we straggled in, we had quite a filling meal. Hamburguesa, huevos con jamon and yes, sausages too.
We needed all that oil and grease to fuel us for the five more kilometres we had to go through.
Pilgrims leave many mementos on the Camino. Some of them are just graffiti, some are messages to friends e.g. "Hans, meet me in Palas do Rei!" and there are some that are so interesting you just have to stop and look. This one was a heartfelt and sincere thank you letter to the Camino -- for blessings received.
Just a kilometre out of Gonzar we faced a straight and steep uphill climb through the village of Castromaior. Just as we were about to walk up the incline, we saw this little arrow on the road, carefully made of stones, pointing the way. A sign from San Santiago to his Amigos -- vamos!
Midway up the steep road, I looked back to see how far we had gone. It had been a cloudy afternoon but at that moment I saw this giant hole in the clouds -- I half expected to hear a booming voice say "What are you doing, just standing there?! Walk!!!"
Along the highway, some lovestruck peregrino had risked life and limb by spelling out, in almost same sized and same coloured stones the message "Tina Te Amo". I hope that a passing bus did not flatten him as he worked.
Raindrops started to fall and ponchos had to be taken out. But one last group photo before we crossed the highway via the overpass.
If you are interested in how this walk turned out -- the rain started to fall in earnest and we certainly got drenched -- just 300 meters from Ventas de Naron.
I like to think of it as a baptism of water and blessings from San Santiago!