Another fine day on the Camino after a wonderful night in my private room. Gotta love sleeping alone after you’ve tried the dormitories out here.
I’m up and out by 7:45 and I text Louise. They are just grabbing breakfast so I walk over to their hotel to meet them. Lila has book rooms for us at O’Cebreiro, and of course we have book the horses from Herrerias. Before you try and pronounce this…we came up with a nickname….well actually Louise came up with it. Let’s just agree to say it starts with “Harry” and the second part rhymes with “Grass”.
Getting to the horses means we have to get there…and it is an all pavement day. Again? Some days are tougher than other days so we decide as we are starting late to get a 5 km taxi ride. Avoiding even 2 km of asphalt is a really good idea occording to my feet. But after a couple of minutes in a cab to get out of town…there we are on pavement…and we start walking.
Today is really feeling autumnal…..cold, damp, and heavy. Villafranca is surrounded by mountains, so the sun won’t be creating these peaks anytime soon. We press on, and the Way is right beside a heavily traveled highway. Yuk!
We stop in one roadside service centre and there must be 5 buses in the parking lot. It’s a mob scene inside….no way to get a drink or anything to eat…and barely possible to use the bathrooms. Literallly hundreds of Spaniards were there before us. We give up and start walking down the road again.
In less than 3 minutes we see another, much smaller restaurant and immediately walk in. Order and receive your food in a minute.
It is just after 1:00pm when we make it to “Harry-Ass” so we decide to have lunch in a really nice place on the main road. This isn’t A typical Pilgrim type place. They have table cloths and cutlery…… what a great place to hang out until our horses are ready at 3:00pm.
Many people come into this restaurant and know Louise and Lila…these people are their “family”.
Finally after receiving a call from Victor (the man with the horses) we head down the road and find him having lunch. “No rush” I assure him, we’ll wait outside.
The three of us sit at a table outside with a really rowdy bunch of Spanish men wearing brightly colored vests and hats. At about the same moment we see what is going on. On the opposite side of the road there are two enormous wild boars they have obviously killed this morning.
If you have some sympathy for these boar I would like to suggest these are vicious animals with razor sharp 4” tusks. Very capable killing machines. According to Victor one of the hunting dogs was almost killed today. He also says there are so many of these wild boars in the surround forests they are a problem.
Finally Vistor is ready to go. “Does anyone have experience riding a horse?” He asks. “No….No….No” is all he gets in return. “OK, put this helmet on”, and with that he brings a stool over so we can get on our steeds. My horse is the biggest….and as it turns out the hardest to manage.
After the three of us are up and ready to go someone asks “where’s your horse Victor?” “No….I walk!”….And he did.
Immediately my horse decides it wants to eat something in the small pasture beside the road, and nothing I do will discourage him. Victor’s yelling at the horse to stop, then yelling at me to turn him around….and the horse is intent on grazing. Without moments passing Victor arrives, gently takes the horse by it’s bridal, and I am now able to turn the horse around. I am told by Victor I am too gentle….I should pull the reins more firmly next time. I promise to be more like John Wayne.
Off we go with Victor in tow. Seriously,….as we are going up hill Victor his holding onto the last horses tail being pulled up the mountain. Lest you think Victor is anything else….he typically walks this mountain path once or twice a day….the guy is in amazing shape.
Our path on the horses starts on asphalt (naturally), the progresses to rock strewn paths and then extremely steep inclines. The whole distance we will travel on the horses is roughly 10km, and difficult is hardly an apt expression.
At one point in the ride we come to a fork in the road. “Hey Victor, which way do we go?”…..”Don’t worry….the horse knows”.
So there’s a horse and a rider, and which one is in control I ask you. Apparently when it comes to this climb, the dummy is in the saddle….
All the way up the mountain my horse is constantly wanting to stop and grab a bite to eat on the way…Victor tells me to pull on the rein, and give him and kick to get him back to the job at hand. At one point Victor also tells me don’t be too hard…you don’t want to make her mad. Holy Mud! That is exactly the last thing I want to do.
On the way up we stop at La Faba and the horses automatically go to a water trough. They know the drill,…remember who’s really in charge here. And after a short break we are on our way again.
You may have as much experience as I have riding horse…which is none. Riding for two hours puts a lot of strain on your back, and knees. I am hurting big time when Victor says “It’s only another 30 minutes to the top”.
After what seamed like 2 more hours we came to O’Cebreiro and we were able to get off the horses. It was all I could do to stand. We invited Victor and his friends who drove my pack up the mountains for a beer. We found out Victor worked for 25 years in the banking system as a broker. He was trading currencies for banks. 5 years ago he decided to give this up, and now runs this business 7 days a week for 7 months a year. Victors wife it turns out is Canadian.
Funny how this all turned out today.
The reservation was made by Lila yesterday….and I have checked into my own room once again, with a double bed and en suite….
Am I getting accustomed to this?
NOTE: I will update this posting tomorrow with pictures…the Wi-Fi on the top of this mountain stinks…….