We’ll be spending this night in Sarria and tomorrow hiking less than usual (13 km) because a friend of Vic’s named Charlie flew in from British Columbia to meet us in Sarria and walk with us and we don’t want to tax his system too much on the first day. Today the weather finally became sunny and warm again; the day was beautiful, although once the sun went down it became cold again. All the weather reports tell us that the next two or three days will be great, which is a relief after the rain and the cold, but there may be a relapse after that.
The terrain between Burgos and Sarria is quite varied. A long stretch of it consists of the meseta, vast flat areas of farmland that truly are flat in many parts, like the American Midwest.
This relatively featureless landscape is interrupted by occasional cities and towns, like Leon, an interesting city of 130,000 with a castle at its center overlooking a river.
But soon thereafter the meseta gives way to mountains, first dry mountains that resemble the American west, with scrub and reddish soil, and then higher ranges of very green mountains that look almost alpine not only because of their lushness and their rivers, but also because the houses in the towns that are scattered on the hillside are not as close together. At this point we are no longer in the province of Galicia but in Lugo.
Sarria also dates back to medieval times, a city now inhabited by about 12,000. It has a rich pilgrim history and traces its roots back to the Celts, oddly enough. The city is bracketed by two rivers, the Sarria and the Celeiro; we ate local seafood across a short promenade from the Sarria River and it was great.
Church of Santa Marina in Sarria.
Many pilgrims actually start in Sarria because the distance from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela at the end of the Camino is the minimum distance to hike to qualify officially (as indicated by a certificate of completion called a Compostela) as a pilgrim who has hiked the Camino.
Recently I read an amazing book by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and experiences of the last few days brought it to mind. What Csikszentmihalyi calls the “flow state” is a state we often call, in the vernacular, being “in the zone.” The Buddhists have long called this state “mindfulness.” Whatever one calls it, it means being totally involved in what one is doing while one is doing, with total focus and attention. In this state, consciousness of self drains away and so does consciousness of time. We all feel it when we are involved in an activity we love. Three hours can feel like three minutes. I was thinking about this the last few days because hiking with friends and talking along the way sometimes is so enjoyable that 15 km can seem like 2 or 3; they go by so quickly. This is like being in a flow state, hiking becomes a flow experience. These times complement well the times one hikes in solitude, silence, or both, another of the gratifying ways to experience the Camino in particular and life in general.