Oct. 3 – 7: Villamartin Grande to Vilalba


Oct. 3: Villamartin Grande – 15 miles
There’s lots of conversation this morning between us, a man from Minnesota and a family from Alaska and Seattle. We’re back and forth between dirt and pavement. Once we all separate to walk at our own pace, the absolute quiet is startling, but wonderful.

Walking through the province of Asturias, their was a ruggedness to the landscape. Now in Galicia, the farmlands take on the look of a patchwork quilt. The different colors of green highlight the plow lines creating a unique design on each plot of land, some so vertical it makes you wonder how any machinery can navigate it.

You can hear a pin drop in the tiny village of Villamartin Grande. As we approach what we think is the albergue we have reserved, a sign says “Cerrado” (closed). For a moment, we are standing in shock alongside some French pilgrims, who also have a reservation, until we realize the sign is on the cafe, closed today for an emergency.

We are welcomed into Tentempé Peregrino and get settled. It’s plain and clean and we are glad they are offering a pilgrim meal, since there seems to be no other dining options available. A pilgrim’s meal is a gathering of pilgrims who come together over a meal. Sometimes it is prepared for you and sometimes you assist in its preparation.

Seven of us dine together (us along with another couple from Texas and three pilgrims from France). We all speak just enough of another language to be able to communicate. We talk and laugh while enjoying the the wine, the homemade meal and the camaraderie. Hard to believe two and a half hours ago, we were total strangers.


Oct. 4: Mondoñedo – 14 miles
A rooster’s crow disturbs the morning silence. We walk with the Texas couple and stop to admire the spider webs in various designs that adorn the fences. Fog and mist have crept in and surrounded the area, giving the landscape that mystical feel Galicia is known for.

We’re treated to a little bit of every surface today: pavement through towns and dirt paths in forests, with several steep ups and downs. Every day, townspeople walking greet us and point the way, cars beep their horns and wave. Mondoñedo is such an old town that the cars actually seem out of place. The Hotel Montero is both an albergue and a hotel. It’s plain, but clean and on the Camino route.

This trip, I was glad I asked both a yoga and fitness instructor for a suggested stretching workout. We’ve done it religiously every day and it’s seems to have made a difference. Each evening, we lie down backwards on the bed with our legs straight up against the headboard. The reverse blood flow works wonders. Sometimes our feet throb so much, they feel as if they have a heartbeat of their own.

Oct. 5: Abadin – 10 miles
The morning starts with a dilemma: should we take the shorter, but steeper mountain route and save three miles? Both routes have no services, but we are carrying enough water, some apples and in case of emergency, we can always break out our cocktail nuts. We opt for the mountain route. We’re above tree line and it’s cool, windy and quiet, but not as steep as we expected.

We’re told there is no reason for a map in this small, old town, so we are greatly impressed by Albergue Xabarin. Very contemporary in a gray and white color scheme, there’s great attention to detail. Colorful modern art by Spanish painter Pedro Campos Diaz graces the walls and it’s hard to believe they are actually paintings, not photographs. It’s a treat to prepare our own complimentary breakfast in the amazing stainless steel kitchen.

Oct. 6 – 7: Vilalba – 14 miles
Every morning when the alarm goes off, I give the weather report from bed. While it’s a good way to start the day, it may also be an excuse to stay under the covers just a bit longer. I’m sure if I start announcing the barometric pressure and due point I’ll be found out.

It’s drizzling, misting and cloudy, but at least the terrain is flat. With the sound of cow bells in the distance, we are navigating what looks like lime green Nerf Balls all over the ground, but in reality are chestnuts. Everywhere we go, we see townspeople crushing the Nerf layer with their foot, then collecting buckets of the chestnuts that are inside. We’ve come this far to not trip over a chestnut!

The sound of cow bells start to get closer and closer, until we find ourselves pushed off the road, which becomes a cow crossing.

Today, Michael and I met 42 years ago, so we decide to celebrate and stay at the Parador de Vilalba. It’s a small, quiet town and the perfect place to relax and enjoy a romantic dinner and reminisce. Located in the city’s old quarter, the hotel was designed around the tower that dates back to medieval times. From the hotel, a glass enclosed walkway leads to the tower and its exquisite Great Room.

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