I Made It Through The Rain – Outeiro to Santiago de Compostela

Saturday June 9th, 2018

Well, the rainy camino has ended an yet it still rains. I wasn’t expecting great weather for my walk into Santiago and I wasn’t disappointed. I left the albergue at 6:30 am, hoping to find a coffee somewhere in the next 10 km, but I hadn’t anticipated the walk over the little mountain near Pico Sacro and the continued off road walking most of the way into Santiago. Aside from the light rain that started about an hour into the walk, it was very pleasant, there was no road walking the whole distance (excluding the little village roads which have no traffic). I was 4 km away from my destination when I finally got close enough to a main road that there was a cafe 20 m off the trail and a sign directing me to my beloved coffee.

It is often anticlimactic when you arrive in Santiago – the walk is over and friends are departing, but not so for this camino, as I have mentioned previously. I am glad to be done and keen to make my way to Madrid on Monday with hopes of at least warmer weather, even if still rain. The high today was 14 C and while there was only a drizzle this morning for the walk and my arrival in Santiago, once I got to my Albergue, heavy and steady rain started and it hasn’t let up all day. I stayed at the Albergue and tried to stay warm by napping in my sleeping bag with a heavy blanket on top (as expected the heat is not on). I have all day tomorrow to walk around town and with better weather forecast for tomorrow (sun and clouds and T-Storms, but still cool), I will do my touristy thing tomorrow. I have been in Santiago enough times that I don’t feel a big need to go see stuff. I was able to get to the Pilgrim’s Office today and get my Compostela and have a nice meal at Bar Barbantes near the Cathedral, and there is a store/cafe here at the Albergue, so no need to go anywhere in the pouring rain.

The early morning mist in the valley was quite spectacular!

Morning skies were not promising. This view was to the south – not the direction I was heading. I was going the other direction – toward the rain.

Lots of vineyards and farm gardens. By about 10 o’clock, I was mostly walking rural roads such as these. The route was still in the foothills of the mountains and so it was also up and down a lot of the way.

Wild raspberries are ripe! Very tiny, but quite tasty. There was also wild peaches growing at the side of the road, not quite ripe.

Approaching Santiago, about 7 km away. Still quite rural. It had been raining for a while at this point.

The bread delivery guy left a loaf of bread at the door of this house.

4 km from Santiago and still walking rural roads.When I compare the Sanabres route into Santiago to the Frances route into the city, it is quite different – much more rural (but no coffee!)

The structures you see up on the hill is the City of Culture of Galicia. I might go there tomorrow.

I could see the spires of the Cathedral in the distance. One more hill to climb.

The Cathedral of Santiago has been undergoing a face lift for years. It is almost done. This is the first time I have seen the front facade. Previously it was covered and being sand blasted.

A well deserved proper lunch!

I am staying at Albergue Seminario Menor in a single room, with shared bath at only 17 eu a night (18 if you book via Booking.com). It is perfect. The store sells food which you can cook yourself in the kitchen plus beer and wine. If you need them, there are facilities for hand washing clothes – with an indoor clothes line or washer and dryer are available as well.

I won’t blog tomorrow, but will post on Monday. I am taking the train to Madrid and can do the blog enroute. It is a 5 hour journey back through some of the way I have walked, so I am looking forward to seeing the way in reverse and using the time to wind down. I can’t believe how cheap the fares are – I paid 40 eu for a first class ticket with my “tarjeta dorada” (golden age card), which provides a 40% discount on weekdays and 25% on weekends. If I did not go first class the fare would be 16 eu!


One More Sleep – Silleda to Outeiro

Friday, June 8th, 2018

My walk today was excellent. Beautiful scenery, a good, solid 24 km of rural farms and villages set on hills and in valleys with mostly blue skies and sun. Only one short thunderstorm in the last hour of walking. It was also reasonably warm – I had my jacket off when walking for the first time since the last sunny day we had. When was that? I don’t remember.

It is amazing what the nicer weather does for one’ morale. I took just about as long to walk the 24 km today as I did the 28 km yesterday, but I don’t feel nearly as defeated, despite the more challenging climbs today. I did have several breaks at bars – we are quite close to Santiago now and civilization and so more bars and cafes.

I arrive in Santiago tomorrow and today put me in the right state of mind. I am all too ready to finish this rainy camino, but now I am less miserable about it – even if it should rain all the 17 km to the Cathedral tomorrow. Today reminded me how wonderful it is to walk through the Spanish countryside, listening to the birds and enjoying nature.

This picture shows the hills and valleys that was the challenge today. We walked in the first valley to the right (north–west?), for quite a while before tackling the valley beyond.

I can’t imagine having bread delivered to the bus shelter across the road from your house, but I am guessing that is the case. The little metal bus shelter was across the road from a little house at an intersection of 2 farm roads. Little trucks drive up and down the country roads delivering bread daily. Sometimes the houses have a little box mounted by the mailbox marked “pan” (bread)-this one did not. Other times the delivery person just honks and out comes the Mrs to make her selection from the loaves in the truck. I presume the Mrs wasn’t answering the honk so the bread person left her usual order hanging here out of the rain.

I am loving the cactuses, succulents and palm trees, which are becoming common. I saw a citrus tree orchard today.

This is the second valley we descended and of course, next comes the ascent on the other side.

This view is looking back at the valleys we crossed this morning.

There are very few pilgrims. These two I passed off and on all morning. These plus the 3 young guys I caught up to this afternoon, were the only Pilgrims I saw walking. Here in the albergue there are the class of kids which I have been shadowing and only 6 others.

There are so few pilgrims walking that the paths are not well trodden. I had noticed that the grass on the paths we had been walking since Ourense was recently mowed. Not so today – it was awful walking through the wet high grass on some of the paths.

I stopped in Bandeira at the Hotel Victorino – a lovely little place where I got huevos frito (fried eggs). When the owner found out I was from Canada, she was really excited and explained that she lived there for 5 years when she was 18.

Eucalyptus are really messy trees, they seem to shed their bark. Lots of these forests on the walk today and evidence of logging and sawmills in action.

Ponte Ulla is at the bottom of this valley, shown here at the point of the Ulla Viaduct. This viaduct is 117 metres high and spans 630 metres. When it opened in 2012 it was the tallest high speed railway bridge in the world. Yes, we had to descend to the bottom of the valley and come back up the other side.

This is the bridge at the bottom of the valley which connects to the little village of Ponte Ulla. 4 km up the other side of the valley is the albergue at Outeiro.

I was glad it wasn’t raining yet as I went up the initial steep climb. This would in short order become a river.

I haven’t posted pictures of these before but they are everywhere in Galicia. They are called hórreos and are used to store grains.

At last, the albergue. A thunderstorm started when I was half way up the hill, so on went the rain gear! The albergue is in a lovely setting at the top of the valley with a gorgeous view from all the wonderful glass walls. It has a well equipped kitchen and nice common areas. There is even a foot bath in the yard. The rooms are not so crowded with beds (the albergue sleeps 32) and the bedrooms have a wonderful view as well. And a washer and dryer! Not that I will be washing anything since I finish walking tomorrow!

While almost all day, the skies above me were blue, most of the day it looked like it was raining “over there”. It stayed “over there”, until late afternoon. I don’t know what this kind of cloud this is called, but it looked like a rainbow was blended into it.

It Will Rain – Castro Dozen to Silleda

Thursday June 7th, 2018

No getting around it, it seems that the last week of my Camino is destined to be a wet one. Yet again the newspapers are in my boots after another day of walking in rainy weather. In all fairness, it didn’t rain the whole time that I walked but grey skies and gentle rain, with a couple of good solid showers, filled most of my walking day.

There was nothing open in Castro Dozon, so I settled for a cup of coffee from the machine in the albergue before I left at 7 am. By 10:30 the rain had let up for a bit so I took a break and ate peanuts. I was able to get a proper coffee at noon (and a slice of Torte de Santiago) when I passed the first open cafe, after 20 km!

It was slow slogging today up and down wet trails, but there was no need for me to rush and I took my time. I arrived at 3:30 – 8 1/2 hours after I started.

This is the class from Salesianos Cartagena, a private school in Mucia in the south of Spain on the Mediterranean coast. We were in the same albergue last night and crossed paths several times today- they kindly let me have one of their snacks. They are in Silleda tonight although not in my albergue and so I will likely cross paths with them again tomorrow likely.

We had a foggy start, which quickly turned into a misty rain and then a gentle rain with a few good soaker showers; mostly done by 10:30, well, except the misty rain, that was pretty much constant.

Today we did mostly off road. Walking paths in gullies beside fields.

There were some lovely oak forests to walk through.

YES! Oranges growing in this lady’s backyard!

Yes, we went up and down those hills and valleys.

This is the medieval bridge of Toboada over the River Deza.

I am at the Albergue Turistica Silleda, which is really just a bunch of apartments in this building. Disappointedly, the Albergue is on the 3rd floor (3 above ground), which after a 28 km walk is a big deal. I wonder why they didn’t put that on their sales lit. The owner has turned a couple of the apartments into 4 bedroom albergues, regular beds 2 to 4 to a room, bedding and towels provided! 10 eu. The kitchen is fully equipped, but I won’t be cooking.

I am need to figure out what this kitchen appliance is – I have never seen a device like this. There is a stove and oven to the right – so it is not an oven.

It is 44 km to Santiago on the N-525 highway, and according to my guidebook, the walking route is 41 km, not to different. I will do 24 tomorrow and 17 on Saturday, arriving before noon. With all this rain, I am ready to be done, unlike other Caminos where I felt a let down when done, this time I will be glad to be finished.

Silleda is a decent sized town, (population 8,900), with a several good streets of shops and restaurants. I think I will go find a bite to eat.

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head – Cea to Castro Dozen

Wednesday June 6th, 2018

I set off this morning to Castro Dozen on the shorter route (only 15 km) rather than the 20 km which would have taken me to the Monistario de Oseira. To be honest, I am just about out of steam – walking in the rain is just getting tiresome and I have a longer distance to walk tomorrow. The 15 km seemed more like 20 and I was not the only one feeling this way. It did not rain (much) today but there was fog and a wet mist as soon as we started the ascent to the high point (about 850 metres above sea level) after Arenteiro (at 600 metres above sea level). There was a gradual but steady climb. As my guidebook says: “the route provides welcoming forest countryside, charming corredoiras (narrow paths), among oak trees, interspersed wth valleys and spontaneous vegetation.” I might add, toward the end we went over a high ridge of eucalyptus forest which was in the process of being harvested. We also seem to be back in the land of dairy farms as there were several fields of cows out to pasture.

I am reminded why the distances seem longer – there are no open coffee shops and without coffee shops to use to get out of the rain there is just no where to stop and sit and take a break. They just don’t have the pilgrim traffic on this route to support morning café openings. Typically cafes open only in the afternoon in sleepy Spanish villages. Yesterday I found a truck stop to take a break mid morning. Today there was nothing.

The albergues have not been even half full and there are no accommodations available except in the municipal albergues these last 2 nights. Tonight we are sharing the albergue with a group of young kids and 3 chaperones (maybe 10 or 12 year olds) who are walking the Camino. Other than that I estimate that there are only about 7 others here tonight and last night there were probably no more than a dozen pilgrims at the albergue. Fewer pilgrims and therefore fewer services.

This morning’s breakfast – pan de Cea. It was tasty bread!

The first 3.5 km were not too bad, through a procession of small villages– the next village started where the previous village ended. The weather wasn’t too bad for the first hour or so. After that it became foggy and misty (enough to don rain gear) and we crossed about 11 km of country paths up and over a high ridge.

Not much to see during the couple of hours walking over the high ridge.

The village of O Castro de Dozen is a small village with a couple of bars/restaurants, a tienda and a pharmacy. I am not expecting anything to be open for coffee in the morning.

This is the municipal albergue. I am in a private room for 2 – another pilgrim and I are sharing so as not to be in the dorm room with all the kids. 10 eu each – a bargain.

On the Road Again… Ourense to Cea

Tuesday June 5th, 2018

Well, the weather forecast predicted 100% chance of rain today and they were right on. I am thankful that the rain held off while I climbed my way out of the deep Miño River valley in which Ourense is nestled. Once I was clear of the valley the rain began. At first it was just intermittent light showers. After a brief stop for a bite to eat at the half way point the rain became steady and it rained all the way to Cea. Once again, wet boots and squish, squish, squish, squish of feet in wet socks.

The Roman Bridge marked the start of our 23 km walk to Cea. There was two different routes, I took the one called Camino Real (Royal Camino) which went to the right, along Avenida Santiago. It was supposedly more scenic that the one on the left, which apparently also had a much steeper climb toward the end of the walk.

The City seems to go on forever. It is the 3rd largest city Galicia, with a population of over 106,000 people.

No marker at the 100 km mark, but I noticed this sign proving that I am in the last stretch.

The views were quite nice today. The land was mostly forested and there were very few farms – no cows and therefore no cow patties to avoid. I saw some really nice houses with very well maintained gardens.

The eucalyptus trees forests give off a wonderful smell. there were forests of oak trees as well. I also noticed trees covered in spanish moss.

Cats just hanging around in the rain.

Eucalyptus trees are not native to Spain, but initially was imported by the Romans and then subsequently planted in the 1990s for pulpwood (replacing farmlands) as it is a faster growing tree than many indigenous ones. It is controversial as it is said to impoverish the soil and water sources (they are “water guzzlers) and is a threat to ecosystems as they release compounds which inhibit other plant species from growing nearby.

The climate is warmer here than further east – and the cactuses prove that!

As do the palm trees.

I am going to have to go out in search of some “pan de Cea” (Cea artisan bread). They use a locally grown wheat and a small amount of rye flour. It has a history dating back to the 13th century.

The municipal albergue at Cea (pronounced “seeah”), is really nice. It is a renovated stone house of typical Cea/Galician style. Best of all there is heat! And newspapers to dry our boots and radiators to both heat the rooms and dry our wet socks!

Rest Day at Ourense

Monday June 4th, 2018

I spent a few days in the city of Ourense last year when I was in Spain. I like the city a lot and I am very glad to spend some time here even though I have already seen many of the sights. That said, the weather today is (guess) grey and rainy and so I have decided to post mostly pictures I took last year when the weather was 40 degrees (yes! 40!) and sunny. I took many of the same pictures today and they just don’t do the city justice.

This is in the central part of the old city, Plaza Mayor, not far from the Cathedral and also my albergue. In this city the Cathedral and a couple of other large churches are in and around this plaza, but the streets are so narrow and built up around the Cathedral and churches that you really can’t get a good picture and a sense of the size of them. Following might give you an idea of what I mean.

Fairly close to Plaza Mayor is one of the public thermal bathing pools (picture below) – As Burgas, which is also an archeological site from Roman times, They have excavated some of the original baths (picture above). Last year it was almost too hot for the hot pools, but this year if I went in I would not want to get out.

This is the touristic train you take (.85 eu) to go out to one of the larger Thermal Baths. Last year I went to Termas de Outariz, shown below, which was modelled on a Japanese bath house. There were a couple of dozen pools with temperatures varying from very hot to very cold. It was 5 eu to get in. If the weather were a bit nicer I would stay for another day and spend it at one of the hot pools.

This is the avant-grade Ponte do Milenio, (Millenium Bridge) was opened in 2001 and designed by architect Alvaro Varela in the shape of a seagull (credit: Turismo Galicia). It has a pedestrian catwalk that allows a fantastic view of the Minho river by climbing up stairs to the topmost part of the bridge on the curved bit winding above and below the vehicular traffic.

The steps were very steep – 80 steps up above the roadway and 25 steps down from road level. Last year the stairs were closed when I was here – I am so glad that they were open this time and I got to see the views shown below: firstly, the Roman Bridge I will cross to leave town tomorrow and the second picture looking in the opposite direction down (or up?) the river.

There is a lovely river walk (The Thermal Route), which goes the length of the city one both sides of the Minho River.

This statue commemorates the Ourense Rally, by artist Ramon Conde. The statue depicts Estanislao Reverer, promoter, and his collaborator Antonio Coleman sitting on his Alpinche, a Renault Apline with a Porsche engine. The rally was first run in 1967 and continues today. Reverter competed with his car on numerous occasions (credit: turismodeourens.gal)

I am not sure what this guy commemorates – but I couldn’t help but include his photo.

This is the path over the Roman Bridge which I will take out of town tomorrow. You can see how grey the skies were when I took this picture. An hour later it was pouring rain and it has been raining on and off all afternoon. Tomorrow we will have more of the same (only worse) and it looks pretty dismal for the rest of the my days in Spain – I go home on the 14th. After looking at the forecast I broke down and bought an umbrella, which served better today while sightseeing and for my touristing days in Santiago and Madrid coming up. I guess I can manage the additional weight for the 5 days I have left to walk.

A Stage Ends and Another Begins – Triacastela to Sarria

Sunday May 3rd, 20018

I guess it would be too good to be true that we could have 2 days in a row of perfectly beautiful weather and while today was not too bad weather-wise, it started out with grey skies and threatening clouds so not nearly as nice as yesterday. The hardest bit of the 18.7 km walk was the first 7 or so km where we had a climb of about 300 m and then a similar descent on the other side of Alto Riocabo. There was a gentle rain for almost an hour – just enough rain to need the poncho out – but on the whole, it was a nice day to walk.

The view from the high point near Alto Riocabo was quite spectacular! Seems like they were having sun on parts of the other side of the valley.

Today’s walk was along lots of farms, mostly dairy farms. I love the neat gardens and old stone houses.

A roadside water fountain. Galicia sees to it that their pilgrims are well watered!

Baby cow bliss! He is very happy lying by his mom.

Notice the stone fence, a uniquely Galician design!

Some pilgrims prefer umbrellas. Me, I’d rather keep my hands free for my poles.

There seem to be quite a few of these “sanctuary spots” – where food and rest is offered “for donation”. This one was very eclectic and interesting so I took a few pictures.

And then into Sarria – this is the pedestrian walkway by the river. I sat there and had a “hamberguesa completo” (hamburger with bacon and egg on top), and watched pilgrims arrive. Met my dear Aussie and Kiwi Friends who delivered an item of clothing to me left behind at the Albergue this morning. Thanks Tracey, Nat, Gemma, Jaime and Colin!

There is an interesting change in mood which occurs as the 100 km mark approaches. I reached Sarria today and it is the starting point for many pilgrims who are just walking the last 100 km – which is all the distance that is required to get the certificate of completion called the Compostela. So the number of walkers increase significantly. These “green horns”, are full of energy and excitement – It reminds me of my mood in those first few days of walking. The rest of us are a bit tired, you could say sort of crusty and for the most part our failing knees and feet have been dealt with (or maybe we just learned how to manage the pain) and we have settled into the routine of just walking. The new guys will be getting advice from the veterans about blister managment and routines. We veterans huddle over our maps, trying to figure out the best compromise between ideal distance and consider off stage stops where it might be less crowded in the albergues. “Camino families”, formed during the 4 week procession from St. Jean Pied de Port want to finish together and are starting to think about the friendships formed and how to stay in touch after their camino is done. For those that have been walking as a group the mood is almost somber.

For me though, I have decided on a different option. While I prefer to walk alone, I have met many great and wonderful people on this camino but I have said my goodbyes and am now on a train to Ourense, where I will take a rest day or two and then walk into Santiago on the Sanabres route, which runs through that city. Ourense is the equivalent of Sarria in that it is just slightly more than 100 km to Santiago and so will qualify those walkers for their Compostela. It is much less popular than the Frances route which I have been walking, so there won’t be nearly as many Pilgrims walking this 100 km as there will be walking to Santiago de Compostela from Sarria. I will miss the excitement of the new pilgrims, but instead I will have my own excitement with an entirely new route. I have walked the Frances route several times and while it is my preferred route, I do look forward to a new adventure. Last year I visited Ourense as a tourist post camino and it will be nice to see the city again and walk a new route into Santiago. So stay tuned!

And the Sun Came Out – O Cebreiro to Triacastela

Saturday May 2n, 2018

Thanks folks for your thoughts and prayers-it worked! I woke up to a glorious warm and sunny day and it remained as such all day, despite forecasts to the contrary. I was a wonderful day to walk and the views were spectacular. The photos above and below were taken as I left O Cebreiro. While it was sunny at altitude, as you can see, it was pretty foggy in the valleys.

This is the statue at the pass at San Roque (1264 m) and J. Acuna’s bronze statue of Santiago fighting the wind through the pass. It was windy, but because of the sun, I didn’t feel like I was fighting the wind at all.

This was the first time I have come across a “zomo” (orange juice) machine. The machine cuts the oranges and they are squeezed and the juice falls into a little cup – perfect!

I took this video at Alto de Poilo, a 1,337 m pass, one of the 3 highest on the Road. Sorry, the camera work is pretty shaky; I was trying to zoom in for a close up of O’Cebreiro, which is on the ridge on the other side of the valley.

As we descended from the peak, we travelled into what I thought was fog, which in retrospect was probably low lying clouds because it was gone (replaced by cloudy skies) once we reached the lower altitude at Triacastela at 670 m. Soon the clouds were almost all gone and we did laundry with all confidence that it would dry.

This is the path that I remember as the epitome of the Galacian way. Looks idyllic, eh? What you don’t see are the frequent cow pies – but really other than that it is lovely – asking it is a perfect and serene way to pass a few hours.

This is the famous 100 year old chestnut tree, which is about 8 feet across. Apparently, the most photographed tree on the camino.

This building is named Casa Du Tula, built in 1788 and belonging to the monks of the Samos Monastery.

The best part of the albergue is something I have never seen before in an albergue – a boot dryer! Where was this when I needed it yesterday. It really is just a cupboard beside a fireplace, but none the less! I am at Albergue Complexo Xacobeo, and it has everything! even sheets (top, bottom and pillow case) plus blanket! And a hair dryer! Highly recommended at 10 eu.

Here is the lounge at the Albergue. I am hanging with my besties from the lands down under – Gemma and Tracey from NZ and Nat, Colin and James from AZ. We are celebrating the weather and having finished the most difficult part of the camino. Tomorrow, things will change. Gemma’s Dad will join her tomorrow at Sarria – and I will leave the group to head in a new direction, which I will tell you about tomorrow.

Noah, You Had Better Build an Arc – Las Portela de Valcarce to O Cebreiro

Friday, May 1st, 2018

Today was a short walking day – thankfully only 14.7 km because the ascent to O Cebreiro (at an altitude of 1,293 m above sea level), involved a climb of nearly 700 m over a distance of just under 8 km. A challenge at the best of times, but today it was raining pretty steadily the whole way and the temperature dropped to just 8 degrees celcius at we approached the top. The trail was basically the same path that drained water down the mountain, so it was a like walking up a little mucky stream. In short, once again I ended my walking day soaked and extremely cold.

Before I could get to the actual climb up to O Ceb., I had to walk through the narrow Valcarce valley – a 1-2 km wide river valley which seems great for growing veg. There were several towns spaced out every few km, many of which were primarily a few albergues. Every time I pass this way I marvel at the double highway overpass shown in this picture. As you can see the Valcarce valley is very deep.

Mucky trails and rain ponchos. Question of the day – consensus of the pilgrims I spoke to today is that these raincoats we wear do not keep us as dry as we think they should. Like the boots, after a certain amount of rain, some of it does soak through. What we want to know is – how can this be? Raincoats have but one job – fail!

The fog lifted for a bit and the rain slowed to a slight drizzle just above La Faba. I was able to take a few pics of the valley behind me.

… and the road up ahead.

… and to the side of the path.

And another bit of the path behind further up near the top.

One can take the horse option to climb to O Cebreiro, although on a day like today I bet they got wetter than I did-although I am not sure how that could be as I was pretty wet. I wished that the horses could take another path. The horse traffic stirred up the mud and also left its own mess behind it – another item to dodge on the trail.

This was the view from the top when I got here at noon. Not much of a view from the top given the fog.

O Cebreiro has the nicest stone buildings.

This church apparently has been certified by the Pope a a having experienced a miracle. In the 14th century the Holy Grail was hidden in O’Cebreiro and when a priest was consecrating the host he stopped to berate a peasant who had braved a snowstorm to attend mass. According to record, the wine and bread turned into blood and flesh. Today, the Virgin of this church is known as la Virgin del Milagro.

This statue commemorates the work of Father Elias Valina Sampero, a parish priest who is largely responsible for the historical and archeological research which has made O Cebreiro a modern tourist town. He produced books on the Pilgrimage road and helped launch the field of pilgrimage studies. He oversaw the restoration of O Cebreiro’s pallozas – an ancient Celtic building which is a round, low, oval structure with a thatched roof.

This is the room in the albergue where we put our wet boots and raincoats. What a view for this utility room! But I get ahead of myself. I decided to spend the night at the municipal albergue at O Cebreiro, but I arrived 30 minutes before it opened at 1 pm so I joined the wet and shivering crowd of about 40 pilgrims huddling under the front overhang by the albergue door until it opened. As the doors opened, tempers flared as we were not really in any sort of a line because of the limited maneuvering space under the little 10 by 4 foot entranceway. It was an honour system — those that arrived earlier were to go in first, which seemed to be a good idea prior to the door opening but soon fell apart as the crowd surged forward and discovered that each person would not be permitted into the lobby until they were registered, one by one (taking several minutes each) and the rest at the edge of endurance left shivering outside. Of course, the person nearest the door slipped inside as soon as the door opened, much to the chagrin of the crowd who demanded that the ill mannered usurper get back outside. There was then a general edict that those near the door should move to the back although the porch was still too crowded for people to rearrange themselves. A few hours later, after everyone had defrosted, apologies for bad tempers were tendered and accepted. All smoothed over in Pilgrim land.

So, once again my boots are stuffed with newspaper (purchased at the local tienda as this albergue did not have any on hand) and so most pilgrims will have wet boots tomorrow but not this pilgrim. There is a dryer though, although with quite a number of pilgrims in the Albergue (there are beds for 100), it may take a while before I get my turn. I put on all my dry clothes and two pair of dry socks and crawled into my sleeping bag to warm up for a while. After I gave up trying to get warm I went off to the village centre to find a bowl of hot soup and the above mentioned diario (newspaper) for my boots. It is now 6:30 and we have a bit of sun! But tomorrow’s forecast is for more rain and worse, for several days more after that! *sigh*

This is looking to the north and west, I will take this road tomorrow.

This view is to the east, looking back at the route taken today.

And Out of the Bierzo Valley – Camponaraya to La Portela De Valcarce

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Today was a long walking day – 31 km, according to my Camino app. The weather was grey and cool as usual, and so good for walking, and bonus– the sun came out in the late afternoon. Tomorrow will be the big climb up to O Cebreiro, so I wanted to reduce tomorrow’s distance by doing a longer walk today.

I left the albergue at 6:30 am and I was really thankful that the rain had stopped overnight but I had 14 km walk through nice rolling hills of grape vines before I would get my bacon and eggs breakfast. I did stop at Cacabelos, 8 km down the road, for coffee, but had in mind a longer stop for a proper breakfast at the halfway point at Villafranca del Bierzo, which I reached by 11:00.

I really like Cacabelos. It is a decent sized village with a touristy feel. This house must have been a mill at one point.

The town has a very interesting municipal albergue which was the hermitage of the Angustias. The neat thing about this albergue is that it is built into the wall around the Sanctuary. This picture shows the roof over the string of 2 bed rooms which surround the courtyard of the sanctuary.

I took this through the fence, looking into the courtyard. It shows the doors to the little albergue rooms that are strung around the sanctuary. Only 5 eu a person! Maybe I will manage my route next time so I can stay here.

The River Cua flows through the edge of town. This was taken from the bridge.

This is what I saw most of the morning — the vineyards of El Bierzo. It was spectacular walking through these fields.

This image is burned into my brain – the most lovely spot for a casa. Vineyards surrounding it and mountains in the background.

Even nicer from this angle.

And closer still – perfection! Anyone want to buy me this finca?

I found ripe cherries on a tree overhanging the road at an easy reach! The cherry I stole was so sweet, I had to buy some at the roadside stand up the street. Though it seems most of the cherries are still green, there are enough ripe that they are picking them – I saw two guys out in an orchard picking. If it were me it would be “one for the basket then one for me, repeat”.

When I got to Villafranca del Bierzo, I first passed the Puerta del Perdon. According to tradition, if a pilgrim is too sick to go on, they could go into the church–Iglesia de Santiago and take communion, receive pardon for their sins and go home, despite not having finished the pilgrimage. I am not sick, so I kept on walking.

This is the municipal albergue at Villafranca del Bierzo, a little bit out of town. You can see the rooftops of the village buildings in the background. The village is quite tucked into the steep valley at the confluence of the Burbia and Valcarce Rivers and marks the end of the Bierzo valley and the beginning of the narrow Valcarce river valley leading up to the Cebreiro pass.

At Villafranca del Bierzo you can choose to take the “high route” or the “low route”. I have always wondered if the views from the mountain tops would be worth taking this much longer route. Maybe someday I will find out.

Looking back at Villafranca as I start the walk out through the Valcarce pass.

From about 11:30 to 2:30 when I got to La Portela, my stopping point for the day, I followed this lovely winding river walk with its gentle incline up the valley accompanied by the constant gurgle of the river. We only gained about 50 m in altitude in the 3 hours walk. Quite pleasant.

This is the first little village after Villafranca. Notice that we are nearly in the Autonomous Region of Galicia. Someone has corrected the spelling of “Pereje” to “Perexe”. In the Galician language the “j”s are replaced with “x”s. I know in the spanish language the “J”s are pronounced as “h” but I don’t know how to sound out the Galician “X”. I shall have to find someone to ask. Tomorrow as I climb the mountain I will leave the Region of Castile y Leon and enter Galicia–the land of a thousand rivers (apparently).

I saw lots of cats today, but also many bunnies, although they did not sit still for photos.

When I passed through the village of Trabedelo, I would have liked to stay at the Casa Susi Albergue, which is owned by an Australian. A few of my new found Australian and New Zealand friends had remarked to me about this albergue and it was also recommended by a Toronto pilgrim, but it was too early to stop. Maybe next time, but I would guess that reservations are a must since there are only 12 beds.

This bank of solar panels sits high above me as I sit writing this blog. I have seen no solar or wind turbines in the Bierzo valley – I guess the atomic energy generated by the plant sitting high on the hill above Molinaseca generates all the power that the valley needs.

This gentleman sits outside may alburgue announcing that there are 190 km to Santiago. It also says that I have travelled 559 KM from Roncesvalles. By my app I have travelled 608 km (from St Jean Pied de Port) and I have 173 to go.

Today’s spot to rest my weary feet. A deal at 10 Eu for a bed in a room for 3 with an ensuite shower and a separate ensuite toilet. So far I have no room mates, but there are still pilgrims rolling in, so we shall see. The dinner is also 10 Eu – 2 courses plus dessert, bread, wine and water!