The city that starts the 100 kilometer required to get one’s Compostela in Santiago. I’d been expecting the culture shock, but nothing could have prepared me for this.
Unlike St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, where a mixture of dread, anticipation, excitement, and acquaintance with the new and unfamiliar lays tangibly in the air, Sarria is a party town. Those aren’t the pilgrims who will brave the climb to Roncesvalles, who will find solitude and their Camino in the hills of Navarra, burn and walk in the Meseta, make new friends in Los Arcos and an albergue in a small hamlet somewhere on the roadside. Those pilgrims won’t sweat O Cebreiro, watch the sunrise from the Cruz de Ferro, stand where the wind and the stars collide, or share their emergency banana with a stranger from Ecuador.
These pilgrims will walk, stroll, party, their four days to the City at the end of the Stars, and go home. The Camino is a business anywhere along the Way, but from here on out it’s big, cut throat, business. Sarria has more albergues than inhabitants, more cafes and roadside confessionals than pharmacies, and it shows.
I’ve never, not in the solitude of the desert nights, not in the forests of Navarra, felt so alone.
I left Sarria at 5am, past bars and clubs still operating at full volume, people with Concha t-shirts (the symbol of the Camino). A clinic tends to drug and alcohol overdoses, street vendors are selling gear that is more snazzy than functional. I am the last to criticize people’s Camino, but these are the pilgrims I will have to sleep next to and compete for bunk beds with in the next five day.
Five days until I am past Santiago and on the last 100 kilometers to the end of the world in Fisterra. Five days, four nights, and I don’t want this to end.