We were both beat from our descent from the mountains of the day before. Neither of us had slept very well but we were glad to have had the room for five to ourselves. Today we had a slower morning as we were going to take a taxi to the next town’s train station to get Lil’s return to Madrid train ticket.
After a very good breakfast of bacon and eggs the taxi picked us up and we sailed past pilgrims making their way to Ponforata and beyond. As the walk was suburbs and city we weren’t too disappointed to be missing this part of the Camino.
At the train station we had no difficulty in getting the ticket and in fact got the ticket on promotion saving about $50.00 US. From there we found our way back to the Camino without having to back track through town. It took asking directions from a number of people but we eventually made our way back to the Way.
The rest of the day we walked through one town after another, though it felt like one continuous suburb of Ponforata. It was perhaps the most non-descript day yet of the way. We decided to call it transition day because we were transitioning from the Maseta to Galacia: we had left one but had not yet reached the other.
It was a challenging walk for me because I was both uncomfortable within and without. I was having a bout of “stinking thinking” as Lilly-Barb calls it and my right foot was bothering me. I’m sure the one was connected to the other but I couldn’t shake either.
It was an alternate reality day too. While there were a number of pilgrims who had been walking the day before, from the time we left Ponforata until we arrived at Villafranca that evening we never saw any pilgrims walking while we were, with the exceptions of those times when we were stopped for a break in a village or town, when we would see them streaming by in waves.
The last 5K of the walk we finally left the road and were back on the dirt country paths we love so well. However, today the beautiful summer weather we had been enjoying on the Mesata began to change. It’d been cloudy, windy and muggy all day. When we turned off the road it began to storm. We thought we were going to be caught in a tornado the skies looked so ominous. We donned our rain gear, something we hadn’t used for almost a month, and took off into the artic blast of wind and cold air that swept down upon us.
The path too changed, after weeks of relatively flat terrain we were once again in the ups and downs in the foot hills of the mountains of Galacia. Though unused to climbing hills (other than the gradual climb of the few days before) we soon felt invigorated and enlivened by the challenges of the trek and the weather. It was as if our sleepy summer walk was being swept aside and we were being awoken to the vigors that lay ahead.
The best defense is a good offense and having rain pants and poncho on seemed to appease the weather gods. Rather than being blasted by hail and pelting rain we only had intermittent showers with sun breaks to soften the journey. By 5:00 we were in sight of Villafranca our destination and only then did we again see pilgrims again who had been mysteriously absent all day.
Our lodgings were on the main square and we were grateful to have them. It seems these towns are busy with pilgrims and getting a spot is not assured. We had a comfortable room with bath attached. I took a two hour nap while Lilly bathed and washed clothes. The naps are so wonderful. I love them almost more than anything else. I always feel a rejuvenation occur that is near miraculous.
The hotel receptionist had recommended a local restaurant and we headed there around 8:30. We’ve gotten used to eating on a continental schedule. The establishment was warm and welcoming and the proprietor friendly. We had a great goat cheese salad and grilled vegetables. We decided to be brave and tried Octopus, specialty of the region. However, when it arrived neither of us had the heart to eat more than a taste. This being my fault for telling Lil that, unlike squid which have little native intelligence, Octopi are highly intelligent creatures and the thought of eating one of these beautiful beings ended up being our undoing. Ironically the waiter had misunderstood us when we ordered and given us a double helping. He seemed disappointed when we left most of the dish uneaten.
Once back at the hotel I took a bath but sadly the water was lukewarm and soon abandoned that for a quick shower. Funny to have two nights without hot water. The unspoiling of Will and Lil on the Way.
Despite my great nap I was still tired and decided to forgo writing the blog last night. I knew we had long 31K hike today, the last 7K of which was going to be all uphill, and I wanted to be as rested a possible.
By 11:00 I was abed and soon asleep.
Slept well last night. Woke up rested and refreshed. My foot didn’t hurt and my inner self was content. By 7:15 we left the Posada and had a coffee at a cafe/bar on the square. There were a number of other pilgrims there too and when we headed out of town we were part of a pilgrim wave.
There were three possible routes we could have taken today, each more challenging than the previous. Perhaps at another time we might have chosen one of harder paths, but today we went for the easiest. It followed the highway to one side and a flowing river to the other. It was flat and easy walking. We passed through a number of little villages, some doing better economically than others. We made good time averaging about 4K per hour including our breaks for breakfast and lunch.
We stopped for lunch around 1:00 and as it had been raining on and off all morning, we opted for eating inside a cafe. They advertised lentil soup and it sounded perfect for this cool wet day. I had a bowl that was delicious. Not only a bowl but a whole pot that I shared with Lil, who was busy making us tuna and avacado cracker sandwiches. We both had fresh squeezed orange juice too, a treat we have recently discovered.
The meal set us up for the last long climb. The morning had begun cold and the weather promised rain showers all day. We spent the first part of the walk taking off and putting on our ponchos and rain pants for it would rain and then it would be sunny for a while. As we climbed the last ascent we kept the rain gear on for it did continue to rain periodically but by the day’s end I was wetter due to sweating than the rain itself.
The climb took us up and up and up. Soon we were having amazing views of verdant valleys below. This land of Galacia shares roots with other Celtic lands, the topography looks like Ireland or Scotland, wild and free. Such a contrast to the dry flat land we had come from. The hike itself was very challenging, giving us a great cardio workout.
While my foot was holding out well, Lil’s wasn’t and it had been bothering her all day. She had a couple of times during the hike up to O’Cebriero that she questioned her ability to continue up to the top. However, she felt she had no choice but to find the inner reserves to persevere and complete the hike, which she did.
When we arrived here it was 4:15 and we’d completed the last 30K day for the remainder of this Camino. With 8 days to go we have no more than 20K to walk on any day ahead. The village was packed with pilgrims, many looking for a place to sleep. Fortunately the night before Lilly had received wonderful help from the hotel receptionist in getting us the last room available at a Casa Rual here in O’Cerbriero. We were so beat and tired that if we hadn’t a place to crash in peace we would have been in a bad way.
We settled into our room as we have done now for a month, our routine of unpacking, bathing, washing, stretching, napping. The temperature was in the high 30’s, with a damp wet in the air. I took a long hot shower, which felt wonderful after not having one for a few days. Then I realized I was in need of a nap which I took, waking feeling refreshed and happy.
By now it was time to go to dinner in the dining room adjacent to the bar/cafe where we’d checked in. There were few people when we arrived but it gradually filled up with pilgrims in the village. We both had the local specialty Galacian soup made with greens, potatoes and white beans: simply delicious! The bread, which we have been avoiding, was so appealing in its hearty way that we had some too. For our main meal I had fried eggs, bacon and fries, while Lil had fried local trout. Both were yummy. For dessert we had Santiago cake made with almonds, another local specialty.
We now had nine days left to reach Santiago by Wednesday, May 28th giving us a day to spare before Lilly-Barb departed on Friday for Madrid and back to the US on the 31st. As we had an extra day we decided to stay here at O’Cebriero and have a rest day tomorrow to regroup before making the last week’s trek to Santiago. Lil’s foot needed a rest from walking and we had a reasonable and comfortable place to stay. After confirming we could stay another night Lil headed back to our room and I stayed behind to write the blog in the bar at a table where I could write. I’d almost finished when a pilgrim who had been drinking in the bar with another came over to my table and started up a conversation. Sadly he was deep into his cups so the conversation went nowhere. As soon as I could do so politely, I exited myself and headed to bed. It was then time to say:
Buenas Noches Amigos!
Leaving Villafranca. The last of Leon Castile.
Selfie at boarder of Leon:Castile and Galacia. Hobbit Land-going into Galacia. We made it to Galacia!