Apr 17 2017

Stage 36: Ourense to San Cristóbal de Cea 22.5km


Stage 36: Ourense to San Cristóbal de Cea 22.5km

A long walk along the main road followed by a steep climb out of Ourense (a city of bridges spanning the Miño). 3km of unrelenting 21%, then a slow, enjoyable walk through oak woods and across gorse moor. A picnic by a waterfall and a roman bridge (Simon studying the pond life), a couple of cafe stops, punctuated by more gentle walking. It appears that we’ve found our lower gear. Pepe is right to calls us ‘flojos’ – we were going to see the monks at Oseira, but we stopped in this town after a relatively short meander because the sight of Pepe and Bernadette sitting in the sun at the albergue was too inviting. We have until Sunday to get to Santiago (it’s only Wednesday) – then it’ll be expensive and touristy. So why rush?! This is a fine albergue, a converted village house, with thick granite walls, a wide terrace and a traditional horreo – no longer storing maize, but full of old mattresses and sleeping mats. And probably mice. The cats all look well fed round here. The town has at least three bars, a quite ‘super’ market, plus a pulperia, which we patronised last night. Galego soup, followed by a plate of octopus. And too much wine. Left Simon at the bar drinking with Pepe .. heard the dogs of the town barking, heralding his homecoming at 12.30, full of licor de hierbas (‘típico’!).

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Apr 16 2017

End of week 5, started in Alicante and now we’re living it up in Ourense. Only 72 miles left to go


End of week 5, started in Alicante and now we’re living it up in Ourense. Only 72 miles left to go

Having met a crucifix’ed peregrino, walking for his sins, who said he had once walked the French way and it was full of people who were not ‘proper’ pilgrims, but tramps and the like, I was reminded by Simon that ‘there are two kinds of people in life, those that think there are two kinds of people, and those who dont’.

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Apr 15 2017

Stage 35: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense 22.7 km


Stage 35: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense 22.7 km

A troubled night of snores, sneezes, sweats and smells. The realities of the Camino. But a glorious day of sunshine, a high of 26 degrees, and only a short walk downhill (mostly on tarmac) into town. Putting my snow mitts and ski hat to the bottom of my bag, and retrieving the Ambre Solaire and sunnies. I have a good feeling. A couple of beers in the sun and we dismissed the notion of another albergue night, agreeing instead upon a small hotel. Tomorrow we’re planning on crashing a monastery and staying with monks – having tried Franciscans and Carmelites, we’ve been assured that the Benedictines are particularly hospitable. Fingers crossed.

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Apr 14 2017

Stage 34: Laza to Xunqueira 33.4km (felt like 133.4k)


Stage 34: Laza to Xunqueira 33.4km (felt like 133.4k)

As an inhabitant of a shared bedroom that had agreed on an early start, there was no swerving the 7am ‘lights-on’. Had a sweaty 500m climb out of the river valley, punctuated by a brief second breakfast at a ‘donativo’ cafe (have whatever you want and leave what you can) – a thought provoking concept – and later, tapas and a hard boiled egg with Luis at the famous shell cafe at the summit in Alberguería. Luis operates a far more business-like deal. That left a mere 21.5km (13 miles), downhill to the ‘X’ place. Pah! No problema. The track lead us straight, straight along an endless dirt road, up and down, along tarmac, over granite moorland, through oak woods, and finally, FINALLY, at 6pm we arrived at the albergue and claimed our bunks. Walked on and off today with Bernadette, Beate & Alberto; caught up with Vitt and Pepe. I’ve slept with all of them (except Beate.. she’s a hotel girl). Vitt snores and needs to pee a lot (cracking open the ear plugs and currently working my way through a bottle of Rioja to aid total blackout).

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Apr 13 2017

Stage 33: A Gudiña to Laza 34.4km


Stage 33: A Gudiña to Laza 34.4km

If you’re thinking of a Camino in February/March, be prepared for whatever the weather can throw at you! And that’s all I have to say about that! To all you Cornish folk.. Look at the Galician fiestas at the start of Lent. Hmmmm .. familiar? The only difference is that over here the church has taken ownership, and a crucifix has somehow got involved .. Not so in Padstow .. ‘oss ‘oss, wee ‘oss!

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Apr 12 2017

Stage 32: Vilavella to A Gudiña 14km


Stage 32: Vilavella to A Gudiña 14km

Stage 32: Vilavella to A Gudiña 14km Snow stopped play yesterday, and we ducked out mid stage. Ran out of steam to walk the extra 14km to A Gudiña. Then, reading the guide, we realised that in order to stay in sync with the albergues we have no choice but to stop at A Gudiña – following that, Laza, is 34km away, and we didn’t fancy a 50km hike. So, we enjoyed the short walk through the heather moor and mossy granite boulders. The landscape is suddenly oozing water; streams, springs, waterfalls. Whereas we were forced to buy bottled water before, now there are several water fountains at each village we come to. Huge granite slabs have been hauled into place to provide stepping stones and hefty bridges. Primroses, wilted from yesterday’s snow, grow in abundance from the dry stone walls that now line the camino. Chestnut cases and dry oak-leaves are under foot. With the snowy peaks surrounding us, it feels like we’ve been transported to the Scottish Borders. It’s incredibly familiar. I know the further we get into Galicia, as we leave the mountains behind, it’ll feel more and more like Cornwall, easing the transition home – especially once we hit the rocky coast at Muxia. Met with our companion Bernadette at the albergue at A Gudiña, and caught up with a Spanish pilgrim, Alberto. The clocks spring forward tonight, meaning that it won’t get light until after 8am. We plan to get on our way earlyish. Snow and low temperatures forecast again for tomorrow. A bit of warmth would be welcome.

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Apr 10 2017

Stage 31: Requejo to Vilavella 29.3kms


Stage 31: Requejo to Vilavella 29.3kms

Yesterday’s weather forecast.. the glamorous presenter promised a slight warming after the day’s winters lows. Based on this information we decided to make an early start and brave the mountain. Up, up to 1350m, down to Lubián at 1025m, where the people are known locally as ‘lobos’ (wolves), then up again to 1281m and over the crest into GALICIA! Originally planned to walk on another 13km to the albergue at A Gudiña (‘Reported reopened, clean and fully fumigated in September 2016’, according to the guidebook), but had to find an alternative. Two climbs with thick up to a foot of snow underfoot and freezing fog alternating with near blizzard conditions did for us and Mother Nature won. Google sent us to a very nice hotel with a hot bath and a large quantity of good honest Gallego food (peregrino menus can be marvellous!)

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Apr 09 2017

Stage 30: Puebla de Sanabria to Requejo 12km


Stage 30: Puebla de Sanabria to Requejo 12km

Shortest day by far. For one thing, it was incredibly hard to leave the luxury of the white room in Hostal Carlos V. Second was the dramatic forecast of snow and thunderstorms and temperatures of minus eight degrees in the mountains (and we’re assuming the albergue in Lubian isn’t heated because we stayed there 2 years ago). Third? Thirdly.. I was in need of a sleeping bag day. So, arriving in Requejo, after a few hours in the snow, and looking towards the mountains with low cloud and snow, imaging wolves and hungry pigs; and here a bar with a wood burner, cognac, and a the promise of a warm albergue.. the decision was made. It was the right decision. It’s warming up a little tomorrow. Planning an early start (7am breakfast in the bar across the road) and pushing into Galicia, with its obligatory paper sheets and pillowcases.

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Apr 08 2017

Stage 29: Mombuey to Puebla de Sanabria 30.7kms


Stage 29: Mombuey to Puebla de Sanabria 30.7kms

Last night shared a small room with a Dutch man with an upset stomach, a Czech who needed to pee, and Simon who likes to read through the night. Asked whether I slept well, I made a polite gesture and mumbled a ‘yes’, thinking OF COURSE I DIDN’T BLOODY SLEEP WELL, you IDIOT! (but thanks for asking..). Happy to be up and out and walking, despite the freezing temperatures. Lots of pit stops today to readjust clothing – freezing wind then brief respite as the clouds parted. Then snow. Then sun. We’re beginning to pass through abandoned villages. It’ll get worse when we enter Galicia. Old couples tending their allotments by hand, chopping wood, back breaking work. All the young people have departed. It breaks my heart to see these beautiful buildings left to rot along with whole communities .. but there’s little incentive to restore them and no money. The weather here certainly doesn’t encourage tourism. The future may lie in Sanabria’s wildlife together with money paid to mountain villages from renewable energy schemes. Saw the last of the storks and hoopoes. Replaced by Jays and blackbirds. A family of deer passed across our path as we walked among the lichen covered holm oak. All the time the snow covered peaks ahead of us. The heaviest snow fall on the Camino so far; luckily we were sheltering in the only cafe en route. Desperate for a coffee by then. I think I’ve developed a coffee dependency. Caffeine deficiently teasy. The albergue is shut in Puebla de Sanabria – so we’ve checked into a dangerously white hotel room. Tomorrow we’re heading vertically up.. more snow forecast.

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Apr 07 2017

Stage 28: Santa Marta de Tera to Mombuey 35.9kms


Stage 28: Santa Marta de Tera to Mombuey 35.9kms

Proper cold with the threat of rain. Set off at a good pace, but not good enough to keep Pepe at bay. After a chat, Simon and Pepe sorted out any rivalry and we could all breathe easy and walk like normal people. Highlight.. embalse Nuestra Señora de Agavansal – remembered this place from our last walk along the Camino Sanabres, 2 years ago – beautiful. And the slightly mad missionary, Craig, was thankfully less evangelical on this visit. In fact it was great to sit with him a while and eat our lunch in his hand crafted albergue .. we caught up with Pepe .. we waited for Bernadette .. and we walked with Bernadette to the next Albergue. Said farewells as we strode on to Mombuey. Greeted with wine by Vit the Czech and peregrino Netherlander. Warned of snow and minus temperatures tomorrow.

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