Day 27 – Welcome to Galicia

The plan is simple today. Leave the Vegetarian Albergue around 7:30 am and grab breakfast in the bar a couple of doors away. In La Faba this could also be expressed as the other end of town. As near as I can tell the town population is probably less than 30.
What actually happened turned out to be somewhat similar….but not matching, referring to the plan at least. After breakfast we actually started walking at 8:45. This should have been after sunrise. As we are deeply in the mountains the sun is hidden for an extra 20 to 30 minutes. The sky was a brilliant pink where the sun would eventually rise and was tinting the clouds with a touch of colour over our heads. At least it isn’t raining.
Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
My rain gear is on the outside of my pack just to be sure. Finally, off we go. The trail immediately starts to climb as expected. The Brierley guide book indicates the first section today will be steep and ascend pretty smartly for 380 metres over 5 kilometres. This doesn’t represent much of a climb as it is spread out over 5 km. The rest of the day  should be reasonably flat or slightly downhill.
This guidebook is used by more than 85% of all pilgrims. I think 85% of all pilgrims will have a bone to pick with Mr. Brierley. The path after O’Cebreiro is anything but reasonably flat or downhill.
….but I digress.
The going today is again not for the faint of heart, but as the rain is holding off our progress is reasonably steady. My legs, feet, and boots are in great shape. As the sun finally rises over eastern range we are rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains and steeps to the twisted valleys below. To the west ominous dark clouds are being held in abayance by the highest peaks.
At one of the early breaks I decide to put on my rain pants. These clouds look too nasty, and we’re walking directly upward to meet them, face to face. It is necesary to remove my boots to pull on my rain pants. Note to self: my next pair of rain pants must able to go on over boots.
Some time later as I am walking alone when three young women come walking the opposite direction, each carrying a clipboard. One of the girls stops me while the others continue. Written on a piece of paper in Spanish and English is a request for a donation to support the handicapped. I feel obliged to cough up something and find coins amounting to about 5 euros, and sign the sheet dutifully. The young lady all time miming, indicating she was handicapped, and was unable to speak.
As we reach O’Cebreiro (referred to as the Disneyland of the Camino) it is immediately apparent this tiny hamlet is well maintained and prosperous. There are at least 2 souvenir shops in this town of maybe 30 people, and perhaps 5 Albergues or Hostels, and probably 4 or 5 restaurants or bars.
More interesting is this is the resting place of Don Elias Valiña Sampedro. He is the priest credited for re-establishing the Camino path and developing the omnipresent yellow arrows we have seen from the beginning. This man has had a profound impact on each and every pilgrim on The Way. A quick visit to the little church in the town and we head over for an early morning hot chocolate.
The hot chocolate we have enjoyed on the Camino is not a North American style hot chocolate. You should imagine a chocolate bar melted in a cup. Very rich, very filling, and sometimes served with churros, a light, deep fried pastry stick. This certainly provides a boost of energy.
I ask if either Bene or Susan had met the mute Spanish girls? Apparently they had as well. This is where Bene let me have it. “How could you fall for such an obvious scam? Never give money to people like this!”
“…..but she had an official looking clipboard” was my only defence.  I had been taken for 5 euros. I consider this to be a very cheap education.
After wandering for a moment through the adjoining gift shop we head out…. I am wondering what pilgrim could possibly fill up on souvenirs, and then carry these for the next 130 kilometres?
Rats…. it’s raining. At least the road is sure to be flat or at least downhill. Right?
The path goes up immediately out of town then down, the sharply up, the flat, then even more sharply up, then flat, the again….. you no doubt get my drift. Bene, Susan and I decide to walk separately at this point. Just to be alone, no other reason. By the time we reach Alto do Pollo everyone is beat; and I do mean every pilgrim. The rain has once again increased the difficulty of the trail by a factor of 3. You may want to avoid stand close to the edge of the cliff in Alto do Pollo Mr. Brierley……
After ordering a lunch of soup and fish pie Susan and Bene show up. We spend an hour in this little bar hoping the rain will let up. Our plan doesn’t work again. It is raining much harder now. We decide to reserve 3 beds in a Rural Casa in Biduedo, a small town just before a very steep descent out of the mountains. The trail is just too dangerous. Add exhaustion at the end of long day. It’s simply an effective recipe for disaster. None of us wants to risk not finishing at this stage of our collective Camino. The big concern if we were to continue walking and just try to find a place ad hoc, there is a high likelihood we would find every Albergue “Completo” or fully booked. Many people may have the same idea today.
We head out again on our own but after an hour or so Bene and I end up walking together. At some point the two of us are walking and making up ridiculous songs like “I Love Rain” and the “The Camino Blues”. Essentially we don’t care what others think of our songs, and the few people we pass appear to genuinely smile. It is a little brightness in our day. (and theirs I suspect)
Just as we round a corner we see Susan ahead and catch up to her. She says “Did you see the sign, Biduedo is 100 metres ahead?”
Nope, must have missed it. In a hundred metres we did find a single building, apparently this building is the town of Biduedo. I would have walked right past this building….but at least we are here.
No washing facilities, no Wi-Fi, no cell phone coverage…… but they have nice rooms (I get a private room) and a bar. It’ll do nicely. This is in fact the first time I have slept without the company of friends, sometimes a couple of hundred Pilgrims since St. Jean Pied de Port.
For those of you who expect this posting early in the day please accept my apologies. I will post this as soon as I get to a place with Wi-Fi.
We are joined for dinner by Lane (the Dutch gentleman who has walked from Barcelona), his walking partner Eva, an accountant from Prague, and Dr.Charlie, a Canadian Eco-chemist from Moncton.
After a nice dinner of calamari, a thin steak, and yogurt, all I can think of is sleeping.
Tomorrow we should be saying goodbye to the big stuff. We have made it past the mountains.
Santiago is within 6 days……..

3 thoughts on “Day 27 – Welcome to Galicia

  1. The maps Nancy linked to early on show exactly the ups and downs you were talking about… maybe you should send them to Mr. Brierley! They have been on my desk for weeks and I refer to them as I read your daily updates. It has become like reading the paper in the morning for me. I may even miss them when you get back. I guess I’ll just have to start calling you at the office when you’re back to see how your breakfast was.

    • Hey Rich;
      We will just have to get together…..there’s a lot more not written down on the blog…and a couple of thousand pictures. Still want to get together?????

      • Of course… And the sooner the better. I want to get some stories while they’re fresh and you haven’t told them 50 times. See you soon.

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