October 18, 2019
Day 37 on the Camino
Today’s Walk: O’Cebeiro to Triacastela
The municipal albergue in O’Cebeiro has an 8 am check-out time, and stepping outside, the mountain air chills my hands and face. J’Nell and I have breakfast and then walk over to the stone wall at the edge of town. It’s too early for sunrise, but the sky grows lighter in the stillness of the dawn over the valley, and we are treated to a foggy and mystical view.
Rain is in the forecast, but as we set out it is dry. Looks like most people left earlier, and we once again have the trail almost to ourselves for most of the day. The path out of town is nice crushed rock and sand, just like yesterday once we reached Galicia. However, there is a ton of up and down, and it is like a rollercoaster along the hillside.
Linares is the first place we reach, and it seems deserted. The fog is thick, and has an almost otherworldly quality as it drifts through the town. This can’t be much different from what a pilgrim would have experienced in the Middle Ages.
There is the gray of the fog, the gray of the stone buildings, the gray of the sky, and the vivid green grass you glimpse through the diaphanous haze. Soon we reach San Roque, at 4,167 feet reaching toward the sky, with its famous and very tall pilgrim sculpture.
In Hospital de la Condensa we ring the bell of their church, and it’s a wonderful feeling tugging on the rope and hearing that chime. Soon afterwards we don our light, plastic ponchos as the mist turns to rain. There is a steep incline ahead and I try to crest it as fast as I can in this weather. At the top we continue in the inclement conditions for another 3 kilometers to Fonfria, where we warm up with coffee, a sandwich and a cheesecake at a cozy place called A Reboliers.
We sit across from three young women who are all being positive and spiritual, and are enjoying their good vibes until a guy walks in and interjects himself into their conversation. It is the same person, tall, maybe in his early 30’s, we overheard complaining at the albergue that morning. I caught pieces of it while getting ready to leave, but mostly tuned him out. J’Nell heard the whole exchange.
She later says his diatribe at the café is almost word-for-word from the albergue. The crux is he is pissed there were no blankets provided in the municipal (you should never count on that…they did have some but they were all taken), and that we were “kicked out like dogs” in the cold at 8:00 am. He kept saying it wasn’t “Christian”. I wanted to clap when one of the women perfectly counters every single one of his arguments with something positive, and put the responsibility for his ailments back on him.
At a town called Biduedo we see “the tiniest chapel, and continue downward. We’re finally able to take off our ponchos when the sky clears, and at Fillobil we catch up to the nice Australian lady (cannot remember her name) we first me when leaving Ponferrada. We talk while heading into the beautiful valley, but then she realizes she left her phone and glasses at the cafe in the last town.
She sprints back up to get them, and then ten minutes later, just as we about to cross the highway, a car parks at the side of the road. A woman carrying glasses and a phone rushes by us up to trail. J’Nell notices the objects and lets her know we had been with the person who left them, and that she is heading back up.
How amazing for that lady to drive down the mountain and run up the path to try and find a complete stranger. It is the true the spirit of the Camino. We would see the Australian woman later that night, and while she retrieved her glasses and phone, she didn’t know the effort that had been expended. She greatly appreciated hearing about it.
J’nell and I keep going down, down, down past the rolling green hills until we reach a small village and are greeted by an adorable kitten who comes right over to me. I pet her, she rubs up against my leg, and keeps following us when we continue on our way. The kitten eventually turns around once we reach the rocky path downward.
We next pass an 800 year old gigantic Chestnut tree with its gnarly branches and thick trunk, and it’s only a short walk to Triacastela (named after the three castles that long ago stood in the town). After showering we get beers and write in our journals at restaurant & bar Complexo Xacobeo.
Trevor would eventually walk in, and we hang with our new friend and have another great talk. He jokes that the thing he will miss most about the Camino when it’s over is being able to talk about his feet problems from walking. Nobody in New York will understand!
We have dinner there, which is quite good and probably the busiest restaurant we’ve seen on the Camino other than in the big cities. The traditional Galician soup is the highlight of the meal.
October 19th (Saturday)- 6:21 pm
Meson O Tapas bar, Sarria
Today’s Walk: Triacastela to Sarria
Rain-O-Rama. This is the worst weather day of the trip, and it will pour on us nearly every single step on the Camino.
The morning starts with a visit to reception to ask “Donde esta me ropa, por favor”? We paid the proprietors 10 euro for them to do it, and last night the woman said she would leave our clean clothes aqui (here), and pointed to the spot. But they were not aqui when we got back from dinner. While someone stealing our ragged Camino clothes is unlikely, the thought flashes for a second of how much that would suck. Thankfully they were still in the dryer.
There are two paths to Sarria, and while one is more remote and takes you to a beautiful monastery, it also adds 6.4 kilometers to the day’s walk. That was out of the question in this weather, and likely would have been even if it was sunny. So at 9:30 am we take the path to the right marked San Xil.
J’Nell and I have mountains, forests, green fields, fog and mist to start the day. It makes me think of Ireland or Middle Earth, and although we are dealing with foul weather, it is beautiful. The stone walls and moss and overhanging branches in the forest are enchanting.
We are only 2 kilometers into our day when the rain gets heavier. With our new dark blue ponchos I figure we are protected from the elements. But J’Nell says she is feeling wet, and that’s when we realize the material, while beading water, is not actually waterproof. Why sell a poncho that fits over your backpack that isn’t waterproof?? This is the first time on the whole Camino I actually experience any bit of anger.
Under an awning for cover, I help J’Nell take off the blue poncho. She then gets the light plastic one we’ve been wearing that is more like a trash bag, puts it on, and then fits the other one over it. I am stubborn and still pissed off, and keep wearing the one that doesn’t keep me dry. But truly nobody to blame here other than myself as I should have bought a real one from REI before leaving. I’ll eventually do the same as J’Nell and use the plastic poncho as an inside liner later in the day.
Soon afterward we hit steep hills with rocky, muddy paths and make our way up nearly 1000 feet. Being under the thick forest helps lessen the impact of the rain, but our feet are soaked. We reach the town of Sans Xil, which consists of some stone buildings and no people anywhere, and we’re completely exposed to the rain all along the mountain pass. It is windy and cold, and my shoes feel as if I’d gone swimming in them.
I have to make peace with the weather.
We’ve been so lucky since September 12th when we started, and to complain about the weather doesn’t seem right. Nobody is forcing me to be here. I chose to walk the Camino, and it is a privilege to do so.
I think about my buddies B Doane & Bradleigh, Debe, who was a big mentor to me, and my grandparents. They all passed away in the last decade, and I have a moment in the rain where I feel I am walking for them. All possibly never even heard of the Camino, but in this terrible weather I am hit with the thought I am doing it for those who won’t get the chance.
Just when you think there is nowhere to shelter from the rain, we reach Terra de Luz, a cozy commune/donativo pilgrim’s oasis. There we see and chat with Sophie from France, who was part of the Meseta crew who became a big part of our Camino family. I have green tea, a banana, and a cookie while getting a respite from the rain; we will show our appreciation with lots of gracias and also leave a donativo (donation) to help restock for the next group of pilgrims.
We are still 12 klicks from Sarria, and every kilometer would be tough ones in the non-stop rain. We see plenty of cows, some horses, more green fields, and lots of trees. We don’t pass any cafes, making us even more grateful the commune was open.
The remaining three miles to Sarria are on a dirt trail that parallels the main road, which has few cars traveling on it on this Saturday afternoon. Thankfully so, because we are forced off the dirt path onto the pavement because mud puddles and bogs make it impassable. After reaching the edge of Sarria, we cross a river and go through the modern town center to find yet another hill to get to our hostel.
Nearly at the end of the day’s walk in all that rain, seeing a bunch of steep steps, you can only sigh and chuckle. We use Google Maps to help us find our hostel called Travesia Rooms, but it’s not where the pin says it should be. We ask a guy outside of a bar for help, and he graciously directs us to walk into the church grounds. Our place is in in a narrow alleyway ten feet from the cathedral.
The shower in our private room and bath is hot, spacious, with good pressure, and is fully enclosed. I didn’t want to leave it. Thankfully we also have working heaters, and we dry our shoes, socks, and clothes on them. There is a café around the corner called La Travesia dos Sonos that is open.
Cozy and welcoming, we are able to have a cooked-to-order delicious meal available at 5:00 o’clock! Most places only offer a pre-set pilgrim’s menu, and usually not available until 6 or 6:30 pm at the earliest. At La Travesia we have baked cheese on toast with jam, Raxo pork (little bites with garlic), falafel, and grilled pimientos. Afterwards we walk around the town a bit, which has a nice medieval center and some cool, old buildings, and the sun shines on us!