while Triacastela sits at some 670 meters of elevation (down from 1,293 meters in O’Cebreiro) and marks the end of the most mountainous aspects of the Camino, the hike to Sarria — the last sizable city beyond the 100 kilometer mark — descended another 230 meters. on balance. in reality, we faced a couple of steep inclines out of steep-walled valleys before we got to the gradual descending portion of the day. the rocky path was often slick with early morning rain or dew though usually not terribly slippery. on the downhill there were a few spots, however, where exposed slate or other metamorphic rock necessitated a bit of attention paid.
even though most of the Camino takes you along unpaved, rocky paths, I took more notice of stone and rock formations while in Galicia — and not just because inattention could lead to lost footing and a quick trip to rest on your bum. the fields were often protected by vertical slabs of stone, sometimes slate in what is apparently a Galician fashion. in the 12th century, at the height of the medieval Camino-boom, peregrinos frequently picked up limestone from quarries around Triacastela and carried them to kilns in the village of Castañeda, about 80 kilometers away. ultimately, the limestone was used in construction of the Catedral in Santiago; couldn’t find word on whether peregrinos carried the finished stones the remaining 40 kilometers.
as with the previous day, most of the towns on our voyage between Triacastela and Sarria are tiny, some no more than two or three houses connected to one another by narrow, uneven tracks. and we took the more heavily-traveled of the two routes between the two towns! despite their size today, many once housed hospices or churches with elaborate decoration or artwork.
it remained overcast for most of this day, though not as soggy as the previous day — a welcome change. as with other towns of notable size (at least compared to their neighbors), the suburban sprawl of Sarria came upon us quite a ways out and unceremoniously re-introduced us to an urban setting. of course, an “urban setting” in remote Galicia pales in comparison to the “urban settings” of Burgos, León, or Pamplona, where we entered urban tedium long before crossing over the outer limits of the city proper. Sarria boasts a population of just under 14,000 people and while not the most populous city in Galicia (that title goes to Santiago with just over 95,000 residents), is the most densely populated. but more on that to come …