O Cebreiro – Triacastela
I wake during the night tossing and turning trying to get comfortable. As I go to sit up my left knee lets out a crack like a rifle shot and I feel something on the medial side suck back into place.
Ahhhhh the relief……….at last.
The long walk uphill and the constant grinding out trigger points each night seem to have finally won. In the morning when I wake prior to the phone alarm ‘Jeremy spoke in class today’ my knee feels much stronger. For the first time in weeks I am able to rise from the bed without using my arms vigorously for support.
Of course there is still pain however in comparison to the days before it is so minor I feel restored.
Pam is also awake prior to our alarm going off so ‘up and at ’em Atom Ant’ we pack fast and leave under the good auspices of a Leunig Moon setting over the Casa Rural.
We head up to O Cebreiro to find a place to have breakfast however the coffee machine seems to be going through an endless set of steaming preparations.
We have places to be and people to see.
In the meantime I have had my normal breakfast of fruit and anti-inflamatories and we decide we will have breakfast for Pam at the first open place we come to.
It is still well before sunrise as we make our way first to the Eastern side of the hill to see if there are photo opportunities for the rising sun.
We are really still too early and rather than wait we make out way to the Southern end of town and find the yellow arrows guiding us up the gravel road ahead.
We have a long walk ahead with several steep climbs and a long grinding descent at the end. Our preference is to start early and knock off the first ten kilometers in the early morning while we still are numb and stunned from sleep.
‘Onwards and ever upwards’, my heart rate surges and I begin to perspire in the cold mountain air. Pam takes her coat off as we rise and rise under the archway of tree boughs forming a tunnel ahead of us. To our right where breaks appear in the trees we can see clouds filling the valleys far below us.
The path widens and the trees are now sentinels beside us, we crest the hill and breaks in the trees ahead let us see the valley below to the south in the morning light.
We descend to a wider gravel road running under huge power line supports and turn right walking for a few hundred meters on the flat road then branching left and descending further once more.
The gravel road zigzags down towards the tiny hamlet Linares and huffing and puffing up the hill come three Pinball Wizards in search of their first mark for the day. They mournfully hold out their folders in hope of obtaining our signatures, scam averted, I am still wearing my string bracelet and their sad eyes have no effect.
I am sure I hear them talking amongst each other as they climb higher behind us, another Camino miracle?
There is nothing open in Linares and we press on, the Way crosses the bitumen road to the right, turns down a country path. From here we turn left making our way up again soon after.
The path is narrow and stony and to our right the slope falls steeply into the valley below. Magnificent scenery greats every break in the trees.
We have a series of crests to overcome before the real descent commences and we past the next, Alto de San Roque, at the Monumento al Perigrino, a statue honouring pilgrims on the Way.
From there we descend to Hospital da Condesa where we find an open bar and Pam has her caffeine need for the morning finally sated.
The cloud in the valley below creeps higher with the rising sun.
From Hospital da Condesa we climb again to the hamlet Padornelo where we find a church that allows passing pilgrims to ring one of the two bells in its spire.
Pam has told me of a group of people who tour the world in search of church bells that are able to be rung by people instead of timers and robots and she takes advantage of her moment in the sun to pull the chain that moves the clapper.
The resounding bell peal is most satisfying.
Immediately after Padornelo we climb the steepest section of the day up a rough eroded stony path leading to Alto do Poio. With some power now restored to my left leg I make it to the top first and try and take photos of Pam giving me the forks as she huffs and puffs to the top.
At the top is a bar doing great business and we stop for rest and water. Pam realises Lexi is also online and they text each other. She is about to go out to a concert at night in Melbourne as we sit shaded from the blazing sun on a mountain in Spain.
We send a selfie and she asks ‘why the red faces?’
A little technological marvel of the modern age.
Where we are 21st century is still blending with the past. No current photo technology includes odour and we are passing many ‘rural’ smelling places.
Pam comments each time that ‘it stinks’. For me this is the odour of my youth, the odour of farm life. Pam is such a city slicker.
From Alto do Poio the grinding descent begins. I am loath to test my knee too hard and we are taking our time as we pass through Ponfria, O Biduedo, Fillobal and Pasantes as well as all the farmlets between.
If a picture tells a thousand words then here are twelve thousand of the best.
Finally we have reached Ramil which is a little village that almost blends with Triacastela. We are confronted with a cow blocking our path and I have to assure Pam that she will be able to pass without harm. A more placid herd of cows would be hard to find.
We stop at a bar/cafe soon after and while Pam is ordering a drink the small herd is walked down the concrete path between the outside seats and the bar.
Not a sight you see often in the suburbs.
We walk the length of the town looking for the Casa Rural we have booked a room in for the night and having had no success turn back and ask for directions at an open bar. The lady serving directs us to another bar where there is a tiny sign on a cigarette machine inside advertising our Casa Rural. Not the first place I would to have looked but then I am still not that familiar with Spanish advertising practices.
I tell the lady at the second bar that we have a reservation and she calls someone on the phone then tells us (via charades) that there is someone coming to pick us up in a car to take us to the Casa Rural.
It is very important to Pam that she walk the entire length of the Camino without aid from any modern contrivances such as cars, buses, taxis, Segways and I am not sure if she is going to accept getting into a car.
On learning that the Case Rural is several kilometers away in the direction we have already walked we decide not to be precious about it (we will be dropped back at the spot where we are picked up and will not be cheating on the Camino distance) and wisely allow the lovely lady who turns up in the car to drive us back to the Casa Rural.
We have not been in a car since the taxi dropped us at our hotel in Paris and stepping into the confined back seat felt extremely unusual. We joke that this is the first time we have travelled above four kilometers per hour since stepping off the train in St Jean Pied de Port.
The Casa Rural is rural indeed, a couple of beautiful stone and concrete buildings set on a small farm at the end of a long gravel drive. We are shown to our quarters which include a two double bedrooms, a living area and small kitchen as well as a bathroom.
The walls are stone and judging by the window frame settings are about two feet thick. The ceilings are low and supported by beams that have been rough hewn from solid tree trunks.
And it is all for us. Luxury.
We chose which room we will sleep in then shower and rest for a while. Later that night we are driven back into Triacastela for dinner as no meals other than breakfast are prepared at the Casa Rural. We have a pilgrims meal in town at a very busy restaurant and are picked up at nine again and ferried back to our room.
What do you hear at night in the country when you are surrounded by two foot thick stone walls?
Mick and Pam.