Oct. 13- O’Cebreiro: 18 miles, seven hours
The tunnel is dimly lit as the traffic zooms by. We start out a bit groggy, but soon we’re wide-awake, as we focus on making our way on the narrow pedestrian walkway.
The flat path soon gives way to the steep, rocky inclines of the mountains. Every time you think you can’t get any higher, another incline awaits you! The views are just as spectacular as yesterday, but there are verdant patches of farmland and, once in a while, you spot a little town nestled in the hills. By today’s end we’ll have walked 2100 feet, straight up!
We are now in the province of Galicia, known for their abrupt changes in weather, rain and thick mountain fog. When dark clouds come into view and the air starts to get colder, we high-tail it and quicken our pace.
As soon as we check into Casa Valiña, a lovely rustic Casa Rural, the downpour begins. Once we freshen up and are ready to explore the town we realize that if we bring umbrellas and wear our sneakers they will not dry by morning, so we opt for rain jackets and flip flops instead.
We make sure to visit the church that houses the final resting place of Don Elias Valiña Sanpedro, the parish priest who restored the Camino and was responsible for marking the route with the yellow arrows (see photo above). It’s hard to believe you could make this journey without them.
Our Australian friend tells us a harrowing tale over dinner. He was up in the mountains alone when the rain and fog rolled in. From one moment to the next he could not see the path at all, was lucky to come across an albergue, and asked them to call him a taxi.
Oct. 14- Triacastela: 13 miles, five hours
It’s just before sunrise and ahead of us on the road I hear someone singing a song my grandmother used to sing to me in Spanish when I was a little girl. I catch up to the women and tell them in Spanish that I cannot remember the words. They reteach me the song and the four of us are singing at the top of our lungs. It’s a wonderful way to start the day!
Traffic jam: just when we are about to turn a corner, we are surprised to see a herd of cows on the Camino, followed by barking dogs and a Señora yelling at the dogs and the cows.
We arrive at Pension Albergue Lemos, which is very new and modern, with a lovely big terrace on our floor.
Oct. 15- Sarria: 12 miles, four hours
It’s dark and drizzly this morning, but in less than an hour we are walking with our jackets off.
Sarria is the town where you can start the Camino, walk to Santiago and still receive a Compostelo (certificate). From now on, the path will be more crowded. We laugh that we can tell the “newbies” because their shoes are so clean.
Our hotel, Pensión Albergue Puente Ribiera, is the first one in the town and from the sitting room we can see the bridge and the Camino route.
Everyone does the Camino their own way. Accommodations at the low end range from a straw mat on a church floor (for a donation) to a bunk bed in an albergue (a Pilgrim hostel). From there, choices include a star rated pensión, hostel, Casa Rural (a B&B) or a hotel.
We followed our savvy Australian friend who recommended a group of new albergues for the first few nights. It was an interesting experience and one that we needed to try. Those traveling alone will tell you that it’s the best way to meet people.
We soon realized that we could stay on our planned budget and upgrade our accommodations. While some like the adventure of not planning ahead as to where they will wind up each night, we were more comfortable with planning every day’s route and reserving ahead.
Oct. 16- Portomarín: 14 miles, 5 and one-half hours
We decide to get going earlier this morning and have breakfast on the road. It’s so dark (sunrise isn’t until 8:50 a.m.). We’re holding a flashlight and can hardly see where we are walking; not smart. We tell ourselves not to do this again.
I started laughing at the Camino obstacle course. Between the cow pies, mud, chestnuts (look like small lime green nerf balls before they are harvested) and the man on horseback coming toward us, you can’t lose your focus.
We stop and ask hotel directions at a small grocery store and they ask the grandmother to escort us. It’s a long walk and I feel obligated to make conversation in Spanish. When we arrive, she sweetly kisses us on both cheeks and wishes us “Buen Camino.”
Later, we see her again at the restaurant where we have dinner. We finally realize that she is the matriarch of the family that owns our hotel, the grocery store and restaurant. We ask her to take a photo with us and she is delighted.
Our hotel, El Padrino, is in the theme of the movie “The Godfather.” We are in the Don Vito room and it’s very high style, all in black, white and gray. At first, it seems so out of place, but we relax and welcome its uniqueness and comfort.