DAY 62. 8 JULY. MIRAZ TO SABRADO DOS MONXES

 In Miraz

In Miraz

I delivered my pack to a nearby bar/albergue at 7.45am and rather nervously left it in the foyer and set off for Sabrado dos Monxes. Walking without 8kg strapped to my back felt like flying; a day of being a bird rather than a snail. Hills were almost effortless!

 The first part of the day was over granite

The first part of the day was over granite

About 9am a yellow Correos van shot past me on a minor country road. I rather fancy my pack was sitting in splendid isolation in the back, enjoying the ride.

 Starry saxifrage and moss

Starry saxifrage and moss

The walking today was glorious - a distance of 26km on granite uplands.  Domes of exposed rock and huge boulders littered the purple heather and bracken. Black pools of standing water reflecting the blue sky.  The flora is unlike anything I've seen before- delicate mosses and pale starry saxifrages.

There's a slight chill in the air to start but it became very hot in the afternoon.

 Pilgrims start cairns all along the route but some become more sinificant. Boots often feature.... 

Pilgrims start cairns all along the route but some become more sinificant. Boots often feature.... 

There are very few villages and they are almost deserted. I lose the yellow-arrows at one point and have to ask an old lady in a very tumbled down house for directions. I eat my left-over ham sandwich from breakfast for lunch, on a bench in a hamlet. There are no shops or bars.

 Huge boulders litter the uplands

Huge boulders litter the uplands

I catch up with the gang of girls on a few occasions; they're chatty and fun and are wearing little skirts, trainers and day-packs like they might be going to the beach. On the edge of the District of Sobrano  I pass a large reservoir covered with water-lilies that is the most dazzling blue. I thought I must be almost there but no...

 Reservoir near Sobrano

Reservoir near Sobrano

I arrive in the town of Sobrano dos Monxes about 3.30pm, but the albergue doesn't open until 4.30pm, so I join Davide and the usual gang for a siesta in the front courtyard in the shade of a pine tree. It's an amazing place; there's been a monastery here since 952 AD.

 The Monastery church is imposing and built entirely of granite.  

The Monastery church is imposing and built entirely of granite.  

The whole complex is built of grey granite. The main church is vast and the facade covered with carvings, but it has only two small windows. It is covered with golden lichen, lush weeds grow on the ledges and cornices; a flock of pigeons swirl around the towers and swallows squeal and dart from the belfries. There's a deep and heavy peace.

 Detail of the carved granite facade

Detail of the carved granite facade

The monks in their black and white habits open the gates promptly and I join to queue to pay my 6€ donativo, but first I need to find my pack. There it is safe and sound, propped up with a couple others against the cloister wall. 

The Cistercian order having been offering hospitality to pilgrims since the Middle Ages. I'm greeted and shown round by a friendly English monk, whose been living here for 20 years. We talk about BREXIT and a  Danish pilgrim says "we are very sorry for you".  It's a strange emotion to be pitied by a complete stranger.

 Inner cloister

Inner cloister

The dorms are in almost dark stone chambers on the ground floor of the cloister but are clean and dry. I shower and hang out my laundry in the sun and go to explore. The church is vast, labyrinthine and uncanny. The granite walls are streaked algae-green where water steams down from the roof and the floor glistens. It's not used as a church and is empty except a long altar covered in a guano-splattered white cloth. Space after space unfolds. 

 Pantheon inspired dome

Pantheon inspired dome

Pantheon-inspired domes and passages with stark shadows cast from the clear glass lanterns. The second inner cloister has a nicely renovated chapel but I'm glad to emerge back into the warm sunshine and the land of the living.

 Space after space unfolds

Space after space unfolds

People are immensely kind. The man in the supermarket offers and washes my apple for me.

 In the evening sun

In the evening sun

I have supper in a cafe in the square; squid salad. Then back to the monastery for Compline; the final office for the day.

The monks' chapel is upstairs and is completely different! It is softly lit, has pine panelling and red glass windows, smells of incense and is warm and cosy. About 10 monks stroll quietly in wearing white hooded robes with very long sleeves; the entire office is sung by three monks. Very beautiful.

The gates are locked at ten- there would be no breaking into this place!

A special day.  

 The notice board in the monastery porch is covered with layers of announcements of funerals. Remnants and staples.  

The notice board in the monastery porch is covered with layers of announcements of funerals. Remnants and staples.