Glorious Walk to Santiago

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Just five minutes from Pension A Solaina, we found Bar El Mundo and stopped in for some toast and coffee before heading into the forest to San Anton.  During this stretch, we met a delightful nun who was walking alone, so we spent several minutes talking with her as we proceeded through these eucalyptus groves.  The morning was still chilly, but the sky was a bright blue.  I was so grateful that we would have such a beautiful day to walk into Santiago.  Answered prayer!

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We went through the Amenal Tunel under the N-547 and then made the long climb up to the airport and around to San Paio.

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At the top of the hill in Villamaior, we stopped for lunch at a nice albergue/bar.

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Refreshed from this, we moved on past the TV station, down the hill to San Marcos and were soon at Monte de Gozo and the monument commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II.

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I wanted to cross over the adjacent park area to find the Pilgrim statues that I had missed on the last trip, so we spent an extra ten minutes heading south to find them.  When we got there, there was a bus load of tourists who were swarming all over the place so we had to wait until they were gone to get some good pictures.  This was somewhat annoying, but we were careful to remind ourselves that they had as much right to be there as we did. This little side trip did not disappoint.

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After the statue experience, we hiked back to the monument and got a Magnum chocolate bar for two Euros at the snack bar and then headed down the hill to the city.  In a few minutes we were crossing over the train tracks on the rickety foot bridge into the environs of Santiago.  We stopped to rest at a bench on Rua San Pedro, then picked up the Camino through the narrow streets to Praza Obradoiro.

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Coming down the stairs through the archway leading to the plaza, we were greeted by a bagpiper who was playing an intermittent salute to all the pilgrims.  Then it was into the huge open space in front of the west face of the Cathedral.  As all pilgrims know, this is a very emotional time.  Heather was overcome and fell to her knees sobbing, so thankful that she had had made it.

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After we had given thanks for our journey, I took my backpack off and hoisted it above in a victory celebration.

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Heather took off her shoes because she felt she was on holy ground.  We got some good pictures of her heavily bandaged feet.  By now, she had blisters on every toe.

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After resting for a long time on the stone plaza, we walked back up through the archway to our hotel, Hospederia San Martin Pinerio and checked in.  Our room was small and somewhat sparse, but it was extremely clean and comfortable with a modernized bathroom.  After an hour or so we cleaned up and set out for the Pilgrim’s office at Casa do Dean on Rua Vilar.  The line was very long and hardly moving so we decided to come back in the morning when it might be easier to get through.  As we were standing there, the Australian mother/daughter duo were coming out.  They had just received their compostelas and were brimming with happiness.  We also saw the nun that we had met earlier in the day near San Anton and she was trying to find some fellow nuns that were working at Casa do Dean.

Heather and I left the Pilgrim’s office and headed back up the stairs to Plaza Quintana and checked out a few souvenir shops before returning to the hotel.  We stopped at the cafeteria/bar before going up to the room and picked up a snack and drink.  Then, it was nap time until we went down for dinner about 8:00.

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Arzua to O’Pedrouzo

September 18, 2015:  We were awoken before the sun was up by our noisy neighbors in the adjoining bunks, but this was OK with Heather and I, because we couldn’t wait to get out of this place and back on the trail. What a crummy night!  It didn’t take long to pack up and make our way to rua do Carmen and out of town into the forest.  Once we were in the woods, it became darker but we could see well enough.  About a half mile up the trail, I noticed the track to the right that led to Hotel Suiza where Greg and I had stayed last trip. Approaching Pregontono, the sun was rising in spectacular fashion and Heather got a great picture:

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At A Peroxa, we stopped at a cozy bar for some breakfast where we encountered a very friendly and efficient staff.  Here, we also ran into a young German friend, Marie, from Berlin, who we had met the day before.  It was great to see her again.

During the climb up to Salceda, we met an elderly South African man who had been on several pilgrimages.  He was moving in a very labored manner up the wet, muddy path and we walked with him for a while listening to his tales as he told us in great detail what he intended to eat for dinner in Santa Irene.  After a while, this became a little tedious and we said goodbye and moved on.  He was very good-humored about it, however.  Later, when I stopped to use the outdoor facilities, he caught up to us and was bending Heather’s ear once again.  We chuckled about this encounter for the rest of the day.  While we were heading up into the town, we came across two young women, one of whom was struggling with a painful leg problem. Heather stopped to help her and offered some advice for using kinesiology tape that she might be able to download via the internet.  She was thankful for that, but thought she could make it OK.  We stopped at a rest area along the road in Salceda and ate some fruit and nuts.  This would be our lunch for the day.  The sunshine felt good, and it warmed us as we sat on a comfortable bench and watched other pilgrims pass us by.

At the outskirts of Salceda, we began another long climb and soon we were at the high altitude point for the day at Alto Santa Irene.  Then we began the steep descent to the rio Burgo and into Arca.  As we entered the busy town, I pointed out the Respol gas station where Greg and I had called for help in getting to Casa da Agua two years earlier.  We proceeded up the busy street into town, stopped at a supermercado to get some snacks, and then quickly found our hostal, Pension A Solaina, with little problem.  Our host was quite helpful in getting us to our room and settled in.  This was a great place, located right in the center of town.  The room was quite modern, and the bathroom was spectacular. Hot showers followed quickly and we both took brief naps before venturing out for some food.

At the entrance to the town, we remembered passing some restaurants, so we decided to head there first and see what we could find. We settled on a modern Italian joint and ordered a pizza.  While waiting for our meal, we noticed two of the Australian men that were in the group with Vic and Heather.  I waved to them and one of the guys came in and said hello.  He told us that they were probably going to be in big trouble with their wives because they were drinking beer in a bar and missed the ride to the casa rural where they were all staying.  They had to arrange alternate transportation and were waiting for the taxi to arrive to pick them up.  While waiting, of course, they were downing a couple of additional beers!  Haha! We said goodbye to them, and they said they would convey our regards to Vic and Heather.  Our pizza came and we devoured it quite easily.  Of course, we just had to have our chocolate Magnum Ice Cream bars for dessert.  Then we were ready to head back to the pension and hole up for the night, grateful that we had made it this far, and that tomorrow we would be in Santiago.  Woohoo!

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Melide to Arzua

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September 17, 2015:  The rain finally let up in late afternoon in Melide.  While Heather was taking a nap in our cold room under blankets (the heat had to be turned on by the hotel staff), I ventured out into the main part of town to find an ATM and a supermercado to get some dark chocolate and potato chips to sustain us until dinner was served at 7:30.  I found a BBVA within a few blocks and then, just around the corner, a great market that had everything I needed. Returning to the hotel, I went to the bar and ordered a large cerveza and a Coke zero and took them up to the room.  The hot shower was a good way to get warm.  Then I found another blanket and crawled under it until the heat filled the room sufficiently.

Not being too impressed with both the staff at Pousada Chiquitin or the facility itself, I logged on to the internet and tried to see if there were any local restaurants that were recommended.  Most of them were “pulpo” (octopus) restaurants.  Neither of us were particularly interested in this cuisine not did we want to walk a mile or so to some of the other restaurants, so we just decided to eat later in the hotel.

Soon it was time for our favorite TV show, AhoraCaigo, so we watched that and then went downstairs and eventually ordered a hamburguesa and a ensalada mixta.  Heather said the salad was OK and, from my point of view, the hamburger was marginal, at best.  A blah evening, 180 degrees from last night, but we were safe and warm (by now) and thankful for that.

The street outside the hotel was all torn up with construction that appeared to be installation of new sewer and water lines.  The work went on until darkness fell and began early in the morning.

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In the cold wet morning, we set out for Arzua.  The day was rather uneventful, and the rain came and went throughout the morning.  Just east of Ribadiso, the sun began to peak through the clouds, and we removed our ponchos for good.  We crossed over the little bridge by the albergue Xunta and criss-crossed the N547 until we made it up the hill to Arzua until we eventually found Via Lactea.  Our beds were in a 16-bed dorm.  Heather took the lower bunk and I the upper.  There was a laundry facility in the back of the albergue, and we gathered everything, got some Euro coin, and proceeded to wash what we could.  No soap was for sale in any vending machine, but I was able to scrape some bits from a bin that I found and that would have to do. This part of the albergue was freezing.  I found some blankets, and we sat on an old sofa in this dank room, all bundled up, and gritted our teeth with wry laughter.

After the laundry was finished, we folded everything up and put it away in our bag.  Then we set out to the main part of town to get something to eat.  On Calle Lugo, outside Casa Teodoro, we ran into the mother and daughter from Australia.  They were staying at the hotel and just going out to do a little shopping before dinner.  We chatted for a while and laughed at our aching muscles.  They took off for sightseeing and shopping and we decided to eat at Casa Teodoro.  This turned out to be a good choice.  It was a busy and very comfortable restaurant.  Heather had a great salad, and I opted for pimientos padron and a cheese plate con pan.  Excellent food with a good glass of wine and a fine Coke Zero! After the meal, we strolled through the town since the rain had stopped and tried to find someplace that was selling ice cream.  No luck, so we made our way back through the narrow streets to our dreary albergue and hid ourselves away in our corner bunk.  Before long, it was time to try and sleep which was a challenge due to a soccer game playing on TV at some remote part of the establishment with a rowdy group of men cheering some team on until 11 pm.  As soon as that was over, things quieted down to some extent except for some room mates that came in late and were making a lot of noise settling in next to us.

When we woke up in the morning, we were both tired from the lack of sleep and Heather had a bad headache.  At the crack of dawn, we set out via the back roads of town through the adjacent forest towards Arco, our next stop.

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Short rainy walk to Melide

September 16, 2015:  Rectoral Lestedo prepared a wonderful breakfast for us and we were out on the road by 8:30.  Rain was intermittent, so we decided to just leave our ponchos on until we saw some sunshine.  Good news was that the wind had died down somewhat so we were able to stay drier as we moved towards Palas de Rei.  We stopped at La Cabana where Greg and I had stayed last trip to get some coffee, get out of the rain for a while and use the restrooms.

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While there, we ran into the couple from Iceland who were doing the same thing.  Good to see them again.  Back on the road, we bumped into the foursome from North Carolina who were just getting to La Cabana, and we walked with them to Palas de Rei.  From there, they were going to take a detour to Castillo Pambre so we said goodbye.  The rain came down more heavily as we made our way  towards the rio Pambre.  A passing pilgrim from Australia stopped and took a picture of us.

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Not too far from here, we began to see evidence of the storm.

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Just past the little bridge over rio Pambre, we stopped at Albergue Casa Domingo for a lunch snack. Here we met a German couple who were ordering cheeseburgers and beer!

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We had our classic bocadillo con queso and enjoyed a delightful conversation with the Germans.  After lunch, the rain had let up and we spotted the sun, so we de-poncho’d and set out to cross the delight old roman bridge.

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In a few miles we were passing the Poligono Industrial complex and heading back into the forest before coming down the rough trail to the old bridge leading into Furelos.

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From Furelos, it was a relatively short walk up the environs of Melide.  As soon as we arrived in town, the deluge began again.  By the time we got to our hotel across town, we were once again soaked.  On the way to Pousada Chiquitin, our hotel, we saw a familiar sight in a store window that Greg and I had seen last trip.

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Rainy Day Up and Over Sierra Ligonde

September 15, 2015:  I woke up at 4am this morning, got out my Galaxy Tab4, and followed the Tweet feed for the Monday Night Football game of 49ers and Vikings via the NinersNation web site.  By 7am, the game was over, Niners victorious, and it was time to get up and start the day.  We dressed, got our bag downstairs, and walked over to the restaurant section and ate breakfast of, you guessed it, OJ, toast and coffee.  Heather and I both pulled our ponchos out, certain that we would need them soon, based on weather reports we had seen, and a quick look at the skies outside the hotel through a transom window in our room.

We made our way back down the rua Xeral Franco and headed towards the reservoir via the twisting road across the inlet that led to the uphill track to Toxibo.  Once again, we noted how crowded the Camino had become.  There were many who passed us, still fresh from just starting their walk.  “Wait another day,” I told Heather.  It would be at about that point that their calves and feet would begin to feel the stress of climbing and descending too fast. By the time we reached Toxibo, the rain was coming down steadily, and the wind was picking up speed.  We had heard on TV that this weather system was part of a tropical storm that they were calling “Henri”.

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At Gonzar, we stopped at a bar for a snack, as did about 50 other pilgrims.  Good for the local business.  This place had their act together, being staffed sufficiently and, at least from my point of view, was providing great service to the various nationalities on the Camino with all the things we needed.  More and more pilgrims were flooding into the bar and the outside area covered by a tent, so we got ourselves packed and poncho’d up and headed back on to the trail.  Heather was in really good spirits, much more than I, and the rain didn’t seem to bother her as much.  Here she is the little town of Hospital, I think:

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Soon, we crossed over the N-540 and continued upward until we reached the high point for today at Sierra Ligonde which is about 2,400 ft.  From there it was slowly downhill through the blowing rain until we reached our destination in the little hamlet of Lestedo where we stayed at Rectoral Lestedo, a beautiful casa rural right on the Camino.  A roaring fire in the lounge greeted us once we had settled in and showered.  Dinner that night was truly the best we had the entire trip with a delicious roasted chicken as the main course.  WiFi was not working well in this somewhat remote location, an interesting contrast to the modernity of the establishment.  The owner apologized for this inconvenience, but I was actually quite happy to be effectively cut off from everything for the evening.  We met all the other guests at dinner.  There was a mother and daughter from Australia, four Americans from North Carolina, and an American couple we had seen several times on the way that day who were from Newport Beach, CA.  By 8pm we were flat out tired from our days trek and needed sleep.  And that we did, quite easily.

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The Traffic Increases from Sarria

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September 14, 2015:  From time to time, since we left Leon, Heather and I were talking quite a bit about how things might change on the Camino after Sarria.  Most of our discussions centered around the dramatic increase in the number of pilgrims, many of whom were starting their Camino in Sarria to go 100 kilometers to Santiago, the minimal distance to “qualify” for a Compostela.  As soon as we reached the top of the steps in Sarria, that became exceedingly apparent.  It seemed as if pilgrims were pouring out of every bar and stone doorway as we moved higher up the hill towards Mosteiro da Madalena.

Before we reached Rua do Castelo, we ran into Thiago coming out of one of these albergues where he had stayed the night before.  He was having breakfast and spotted us passing by.  It was great to see him again, and he told us his blisters were much better, although he was still moving slowly.  We said goodbye and promised to look for each other later on.

At the top of the hill, we kept watching all the kids being dropped off for school at Madalena, and missed the left turn at the Cementario.  Heather went back up and found the turn off and I signaled to several fellow pilgrims to follow us.  Then we all followed the “herd” down the steep hill and out across the old bridge over the rio Celeiro.  The morning train into Sarria was just coming in along to the right of the path, bringing another block of pilgrims who would probably be on the Camino tomorrow.

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At Barbadelo, we stopped at a bar/cafe for a snack and met an Austrian pilgrim who had been walking the Camino Primitivo.  By his comments, he seemed to be highly offended by the huge crowds that we were all experiencing and was going to get a bus to Santiago instead of walking any further with all these noisy people.  We ate our meal quickly and got back walking asap.  On the way to Morgade, we passed through a series of small hamlets, many of which were lined with sunflower fields.  Folks who had been there before us had carved faces into some of these now seedless flowers.

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In one of the little hamlets, Heather came across a small canine friend who had an injured paw.  The little fellow was wet from the rain and turned out to be very affectionate.  After following us for a 100 meters or so, his owner finally surfaced on the road and called to him.

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In one of the more forested areas, we ran into Thiago again and we walked with him for a good while, talking about his life in Brazil.  During this stretch, we were passed by a couple riding horses along the Camino, accompanied by two dogs who were having a great time greeting all the pilgrims.

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The rain was sporadic between here and Vilacha, but as we got farther west, the sun seemed to be out more consistently and we put our ponchos away for good.

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Just before reaching Vilacha, we stopped to rest on a stone wall.  It was there we encountered a young couple who were looking at a site to build a new albergue.  The couple had met on the Camino two or three years ago.  He was a Spanish hospitalero, and she was a Danish pilgrim.  They fell in love and now they were going to start their own business. They asked us what we thought of the idea of “yurts” on the Camino, particularly right at this point.  We told them we had eaten dinner in a yurt in the mountains of Colorado several years ago and enjoyed the experience immensely. They seemed quite serious about their vision.  We encouraged them to move forward with this idea.  We said goodbye and buen camino.

Soon we reached the top of the hill and were ready to descend to Portomarin.  Heather was hitting her 10-mile threshold with her thigh pain and was now starting to struggle down the hill.  We stopped midway down just before the bridge over the reservoir so she could stretch for a while and then made our way farther down the road and over the long span into Portomarin.

As we headed up the hill into the main square, Praza Conde de Fenosa, I remembered that there was a great supermercado on rua Xeral Franco amid the stone colonnades.  We went in there and got some things to snack on as well as some other sundry items.  Within a few minutes we were at our hotel, Pension Arenas.

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Short Day to Sarria

September 13, 2015:  The Camino trail picked up just a block from Hotel Victoria and wound around the far side of the monastery.

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As we headed west out of town, we passed a bar and, to our delight, were greeted by Thiago, our friend from Brazil.  We were happy to see him and find that he was still walking, albeit with some difficulty.  We snapped a picture with him and traded email addresses.  Since he was still eating breakfast, we left him there with the hope of seeing him sometime down the road.

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Before long, the rain started coming down and we had to get out our ponchos as we made our way on the roadside path along the river.  During this stretch, we passed an old pilgrim.

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As we headed northwest to meet up with the standard route to Sarria from Triacastela via San Xil, we passed through several small hamlets and farms for 8 km or more, all dotted with old stone structures and inhabited with local livestock.  One old roman bridge was guarded by a stone angel.

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Just after Perros we spotted a beautiful railing on a balcony, reminiscent of what we had seen in Samos.

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Then we ducked through a tunnel and met up with the other Camino track at Aguiada.  It was raining pretty heavily by this time, but we were encouraged by the fact that it would not be too much longer before we reached Sarria.

Our calculations were correct.  Albergue A Pedra was at the easternmost side of Sarria, and we found it quite easily.  We were shown our room in the pension section by a very friendly host who told us that there were restaurants just a few hundred meters down the road to the west where we could eat as early as we wanted.  There was no food served at the albergue unless one wished to use kitchen facilities at the albergue which were minimal. Looked as if there were a really nice picnic area and BBQ out back, but of course the heavy rain made that unusable at the moment. We gathered some of our dirty laundry, and I went to the albergue section and used the washing machine there.  I couldn’t figure out the dryer settings, however, and our clothes did not get completely dry.  So I brought them back to the room and Heather strung up our clothesline and we made do  with that, hoping that everything would be dry enough by morning.

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After showers and a brief nap, we set out to find the nearest restaurant.  There, in this modern cafe with Spanish MTV blaring, we had an Ensalada Mixta and a pizza, and finished it off with a big ice cream popsicle.  Then it was back to our room, do some Facebook posting and sleep.

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On the Way to Samos

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September 12, 2015:  Before the steep downhills to Triacastella, we were treated to beautiful mountain top views at approximately 4,200 feet altitude.  The lush vegetation opened up before us on both sides along nearly immaculate wide trails.  I remembered this section of the trip from two years ago as one of the most enjoyable days of walking.  This time was no different in that regard.  We slowed our pace considerably after Biduedo when the path became somewhat precarious.  Heather was trying to keep her right quad muscle from acting up, and was taking it easy.  Near the medieval villages of Villoval and Pasantes,

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we came across a familiar sight, a huge chestnut tree that is, I am sure, ancient.

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Winding through the old villages, we eventually came into Triacastella, and we found Casa David where Greg and I had stayed last trip.  We stopped here for some Coke and coffee, and I was surprised to find our old host from before.  He was quite friendly and bid us buen Camino after we had eaten a delicious bocadilla con queso.  From Casa David, we found a supermercado to get some supplies and then headed back out of town, down the road into the Galician forest and towards Samos.

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After San Cristobo, we had to poncho up because the rain was starting.  Behind us we heard two women chattering, and soon we realized it was the two South African ladies we had met in Las Herrerias.  We stopped to say hello, and they were soon past us, although we kept passing each other from time to time all the way to Samos.  By 2pm or so, we had caught sight of the old monastery and were descending into the town.  We stopped at a small store on the outskirts of town and asked directions to our hotel.  Within minutes we were crossing the intricate bridge over the river and winding through the streets past the monastery to Domus Itinerus, our hotel.

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When we entered the lobby of the hotel, we had to ring the bell for the host who informed me through a translation program on his PC that the water was not working in Domus Itinerus, and since he had no way of reaching me, he took the liberty of booking another hotel just across the street.  So we stayed at Hotel Victoria which had a pleasant outdoor cafe set up.  The room was small and a bit dank, but fine for sleeping.  We ate dinner in the bar downtown, and after the meal, we took a brief stroll through this section of town around the monastery grounds.

In the morning I took our bag back across the street to the Domus Itinerus lobby since JacoTrans would be coming there to get it, and then headed back to our hotel where Heather and I ate toast, coffee, etc. before setting forth to our next destination.

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Beyond O’Cebreiro

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September 11, 2015:  Another magnificent breakfast featuring fresh-squeezed orange juice provided the impetus for a strong start to begin the climb to O’Cebreiro.  The early morning chill stayed with us until we were nearly out of Las Herrerias as some bovine friends bid us farewell with their clanging bells.  Soon we were across the stream and headed up the road and reaching the turning off point.  Bikes to the right and hikers to the left.  Here there was a nice walk through the woods for about 500 meters until the real uphill began near a donativo where we found the host gathering fire-wood “for the cold weather”, she said.

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As we headed up this steep, rocky trail, I remembered the spot from two years ago.  Then, it was wet and slippery from previous rain although the day was as bright and sunny as it was now.  It was on this trail that I had met a young woman from Australia who was sick from the flu at the time.  She told me that she was originally from Iraq, a Kurd, and forced to emigrate as a small child with her family to Australia as a refuge from Saddam’s brutal regime.  Once again, I began to marvel at how strong memories would flood back from re-visiting familiar places.  The climb up was not as strenuous this time, most likely because it was early in the day, or maybe, could it be that I was just in better shape? Probably a combination of both.

We stopped at a crowded bar in La Faba, and Heather waited in line at the restroom while I waited in a long line to order some coffee and a Coke Zero.  After she came out, we decided the wait for the food was too long and made the decision to move on and stop a bit further up.  During this section we ran into Vic from Australia, and shortly behind him was his wife Heather and one of the other Australian women.  It was great to see Heather walking again, and her two days of rest seemed to be paying off.  We chatted for a while and then split off.  From here on up, the views were magnificent, and the weather could not have been more conducive for hiking in the mountains!

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Many pilgrims were stopping to take photos, and it seemed that everyone expressed the opinion that the camera just could not capture the magnificence of what was before us. When we reached Laguna de Castilla, we stopped and ate some fruit and health bars that we carried with us while sitting on a wall in the center of the tiny village.  Then it was back up the steep trail for another half hour or so until eventually reaching O’Cebreiro.

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Walking through the village, we found Casa Carolo, where I had stayed last trip, and Heather went inside and got a beer and a Coke Zero and we sat outside in the bright sunshine and enjoyed our refreshments.

Knowing we had a ways to go before reaching Fonfria, we set out down the hill wishing that we could have spent more time enjoying O’Cebreiro.  We stayed on the main road until reaching Linares and passed the ancient church of San Esteban with its colorful cemetery.

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Then we were soon across the road and up a dirt track that led us to Alto San Roque to see the huge statue of the medieval pilgrim holding his hat against the wind.

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By the time we got to Hospital de la Condesa, Heather was starting to hurt again, severe thigh pain, so we had to stop often for her to rest and stretch.  The countryside had some gorgeous views from here, and we were able to capture some intriguing sights along the way.

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We walked down the road to the right and out and up to a track through the woods that led to the little town of Padornelo with the old hermitage of San Oxan.

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Then there was a steep, rocky climb up to Alto do Poio which I had forgotten completely about from last trip.  This section was extremely difficult for Heather to navigate with her injury, so we had to take it really slow.  At the top of the hill was Albergue del Puerto.  I think we both silently wished we could have just stopped there for the night, as some other pilgrims were doing.  I asked Heather if she wanted to stop for at least a coke, but she insisted that she wanted to keep going to get to where we were going.  At least the next 4 km were on a basically flat trail that ran parallel to the main road.  But when you are tired and in pain, it seems like forever to go this relatively short distance.  A passing Dutch pilgrim thought that it was only a kilometer or so ahead as she blasted past us.  At just about the end of our rope, we came around a hedgerow, and there, just a hundred or so meters ahead, was Fonfria.  A very welcome sight, to say the least.  Albergue A Reboliera was on our left as we entered town, and we quickly checked in with the friendly staff and got settled in our spot with showers and some minimal washing of socks and bandanas.

Dinner was at 7:30 down the hill in a Yurt-like structure.  For an hour or so, we enjoyed a communal meal with about 40 guests.  Near us at our section of the enormous table was a French couple, two Australians and a couple from Iceland.  The conversation was lively and the food quite good. Especially delicious was the Tarta de Santiago for dessert.  After dinner we hobbled up the hill and hit the sack for a well-needed sleep.

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A Pleasant Walk along Rio Pereje to Las Herrerias

September 10, 2015:  Toast and coffee in the dining room started out what appeared to be a beautiful morning at the foot of the mountains.  We stepped out the door and turned left and were immediately on the Camino opting to take the Pereje route along the N-VI and following the river.  We felt this choice would be the easiest on Heather’s right leg and hip, and we were attempting to prevent any further injury.  She felt great as the morning walk began.  After a slight climb out of town, the road soon leveled out and was quite manageable for her.  At this point we could look back to Villafranca and see where we had spent the night.

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After an hour or so we stopped at a rest area in the sunshine that was now beginning to spill over the hills in the east.

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We stopped again to rest in Pereje at the top of the long street that is called Camino Santiago where Heather entered a small mercado and tried to obtain some Iburprofen along with some nuts and a Coke Zero.  She was told by the gruff shopkeeper that the sodas were not cold so we just left the place without buying anything.  Up the road about 3.5 km was a pleasant turn off into the woods before reaching Trabadelo.  This was a nice respite from the constant noise of the busy road.  We were also joined here by the pilgrims who had taken the Pradela Route earlier in the day, so the Camino got a little more crowded.

At La Portela, we stopped at a truck stop/restaurant and purchased some fresh cheese and bread, then sat outside and ate that and some cashews we had brought from home.  We didn’t finish all the cheese, so we gave what was left to a young pilgrim who was just stopping by, and we got up to continue on.  After 1.5 km, I started to feel some nausea and was certain I was going to throw up.  In Ambasmestas, we found a bench to sit down on for a bit.  I drank some water and tried to regain my equilibrium.  In a few moments I could feel the nausea subside to some degree and decided to give walking a go once again.  After a few hundred meters, I was back to normal.  Whew!  We were thinking that the cashews might have been rancid.

From this point, we followed along the river through a series of delightful villages with lovely country homes painted in bright colors.  It was a magnificent day.  There were wildflowers galore along with personal and communal gardens that were still thriving at this time of year.  In Vega de Valcarce, we ran into our Australian friends Vic and Heather who were staying at a pension there for the night.  Heather had been injured and had taken a taxi for a couple of days, but she was hoping to walk the next day.  They said with confidence that they would see us tomorrow at the top of the mountain.  We said goodbye and headed towards Ruitelan.  In Ruitelan, we were able to stop at an ATM and get some Euros and right next door was a Farmacia so Heather could get some Ibuprofen and Compeed for her Ampollas (blisters).

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After Ruitelan, the trail led back to the main road, and we had a steady, but relatively short, climb until we reached the outskirts of Las Herrerias.  Our pension was just off the road to the left, and it was a special place.  We settled in here around 1:00 pm.  Heather strung up a clothesline in our room and washed out some of our things.  Some we put out on our balcony in the sunshine.  After a shower, I went downstairs, and had a large beer while I logged on to the Internet through the WiFi connection that would not work in the room.  After a while, Heather came downstairs, and we sat in the warm sunshine while several more guests checked in.  At 7:30 we had a wonderful dinner in the dining room and retired for the night.

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