Camino Diary Entry #29
#29 Emails home from the Camino
Villafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerias Varcarce 21.7 kms and to O’Cebreiro (10kms)
Safe in the knowledge that we only had (or so we thought!) 18 kms to walk, we took our time setting out. The wind at times threatened to be chilly but by the time we were actually on the road, the wind had settled and the sun was shining. It still proved to be a ‘2 layer day’ so it was also a saving on the rapidly dwindling suncream! (and we have no intention of buying more 100 ml bottles of anything to carry!)
The walk for once followed a lovely river and was through beech forests and ferns along the valley floor.
Feeling a little jaded we got to Vega de Valcarce early afternoon. Despite our best efforts, we could not find our hotel.We walked on with a bit of arm waving encouragement from one or two locals who we questioned and eventually out the other side of the next village. The sky had darkened and the drizzle setting in, we turned back. Yet more directions from another little pub, a small beer to thank him for his help and we turned back once more. We had messed up with our destination and due to a lack of effort in preparing and a lack of glasses on my part, we were looking for our hotel 2 villages too soon.We won’t be letting that happen again! By the time we got to Pasoda Real Paradiso Beirzo we were sporting our Fluoro orange jackets trying to stay dry from the steady rain.
The up side of walking 3 or 4 more kms the day prior, meant that we had only about 10 kms today. It would have been a real treat had it not been 8 kms of mountain climb up 700 m to a height of 1330m!
It had rained heavily overnight and we cautiously negotiated our footsteps up the tracks, through mud, puddles, over rocks and between the business of the ‘invisible’ animals. We left the gentle river sounds of water pouring over rocks and across weirs and as we tackled the first steep ascent the noise was replaced by that thumping, pounding of blood in your eardrums as your heart tries to adjust to unfamiliar exertion.
We focused on where to place our feet and the sun crossed in and out. Some times it would be so hot that we considered stopping to strip down and then within moments the clouds gathered and a chilly wind was biting at our ear lobes.
We are quite harsh on ourselves when we estimate arrival times and distances! We get some perverse pleasure in telling ourselves: Have 2 more hours and 6 kms to go and then ‘suprise’ ‘ that only took us…….’ ( this was not one of those days where that theory worked!)
Despite the relatively short distance, it still took us the best part of 5 hours. I did spend considerable time imagining which particular little creature had travelled ahead of me and made such perfect round holes in the mud. Would have thought that maybe it was sand crabs – but obviously not at this altitude! Another few hundred meters on and the ‘penny drops’ that just maybe these holes are created by the species commonly known as ‘hikers poles’!(have I been out of the loop of reality too long perhaps?)
As we clambered up through yet another rural village of at least 3 ramshackle buildings, Gwyneth noted that for the last few villages the only sign of life had been a few cats!
Somewhere in the distance cow bells dinged and donged at the bottom of the valley. Villages we looked ahead to and assumed were our next port of call, in time became just dots in the distance below us. At one point we could nearly have leaned back and stretched a little to touch the top of the huge power pylons (yes, a shocking thought I know!). Soon even the pylons were well below our height.
We climbed and climbed and climbed! Brave cyclists were tackling steep rocks and mud with pleasingly entertaining failure to get any traction!
Knowing that we could look forward to a rest day (yes, another one!) once we got to the thriving metropolis of O’Cebreiro, kept us going. We were ready for the chance to poke about some shops, catch up on laundry and keep up to date with communications home. The wind was by now freezing and knowing our destination was at the top of the mountains, there was no worry about the descent today.
We paused for photos and to take in the majestic heights we had accomplished. The arrival into the town was lined with an ancient rock wall and brought us to the local church. We are by now in the province of Galacia and the town is known for its circular, thatched buildings of rock and a strong Celtic influence.
Pre- booking accommodation on the Camino, is bit like Forrest Gumps box of chocolates! You really don’t know what you’re going to get on the inside!