Journey to Santiago: day 35

From Barbadelo to Gonzar

We have breakfast at the bar of the albergue and start our journey in the dark and under a light rain , except Cristian who wants to take it easy and leave after us. 
With the light of the electric torch we get on the road which, climbing, leaves the village; for the most part of the morning we pass through farmhouses by dirt paths and nothing more, going up and down over and over again. The biggest problem is not the effort but, seen we pass continually through farmhouses, the ability to avoid the several animal droppings we encounter. 
At almost 10 am we pass in front of the boundary stone which indicates the last 100 kilometers left to Santiago, from here, or better, from Sarria, we had the occasion to meet groups of pilgrims starting their journey from the last 100 kilometers, the minimum requirement to receive the Compostela, for those who see it as a trophy to have at any cost.


Today, as yesterday, we walk very fast; Grazia and I are very well trained and Chiara, although she’s small and tiny, walks fast as well. Apart a small break in a bar we walk for almost 20 kilometers until we get to Portomarin. We cross the long bridge leading to the city, under which we can still see the ancient bridge built by the Roman Empire and, on the banks of the river, the old ruins of the city that, after the construction of the dam, have been moved on the mountain nearby.


On the other side of the bridge and after a staircase and a climb we get to a bar/restaurant where we stop to have lunch; I’m tired to eat bocadillio (sandwich) so I have a pizza which, obviously, is a frozen one, even though the price isn’t frozen at all. We get back on the road as soon as we finish our lunch and, after crossing another bridge, practically the journey lets us pass across the city even though we would avoid it, to shorten the distance; we although had to take a break. 
From here on we keep going on dirt path flanking the road, a little muddy because of the rain of yesterday night but anyway well accessible, until we get to Gonzar, where there’s nothing else than a couple of hostels and a restaurant.


At the municipal hostel we stop at there’s the kitchen but no pots and pans at all and here, in this very small village, there’s no shop at all, so the restaurant is our forced choice. 
I hope to be able to sleep tonight because the dormitory is not so big but there are many beds. Moreover, I am very tall and I often have problems with beds, especially the bunk beds because they are shorter than 1,90 meters and I have to sleep bent on one side.

Steps: 32572


Journey to Santiago: day 34

From Triscatela to Barbadelo

We take it easy today and at 8 am, after a good breakfast with coffee, we leave. Or better, Grazia leaves and we (Simona, Enrico, the latest addition of the group, Chiara and myself) follow her after we have finished our coffee and prepared our backpacks. We leave the village and immediately we face a choice: either a climbing road which gets to Sarria after 18 kilometers or a variation on flat road which lengthens the journey with 6 more kilometers. 
At this point we are not afraid to climb but we surely don’t need extra kilometers to be added so we take the first choice; then we proceed along a small road passing through the fields and, shortly after that, we start to climb , first on a steep dirt path which makes us sweat and then on the road. Both Chiara and I take a good pace and soon we get far from the other two, Grazia is still ahead


We proceed along ups and downs passing through a couple of villages built around farmhouses, we take a break at a bar but quickly get back on the road. 
It’s simple to walk with Chiara and also very pleasant because she doesn’t stop too many times, like me; the temperature is not too warm and we quickly get cold, it’s difficult to restart then.


We walk very fast for the 18 kilometers which divide us from Sarria and we make just a short break, in the meanwhile we talk about everything and nothing; Chiara is a young girl but her mind is far far better than many people who is twice her age, as I am for example. 
Just before getting out from the village we stop at a bar to have lunch, we thought we could find Grazia, sooner or later, sitting there waiting but perhaps she didn’t even stop here or she’s already back on the road.


We thought we would have seen Enrico and Simona coming along too but instead, by the time we finish our sandwiches, they are not near yet. We climb up a little to leave the village and I receive a phone call from Grazia who’s already reached the destination, 4 kilometers ahead from us. She tells me the name of the albergue and, after a last hard climb, we reach Barbadello, a very small village with a cozy and nice albergue/restaurant . It’s Sunday so we cannot do food shopping and then the kitchen would be pretty useless too. Enrico and Simona stopped in Sarria and will meet us tomorrow at the destination, while Cristian, instead, reached us and we will stop here together for tonight.

It’s almost the end of the journey, even better, the end of this year walking and I really don’t know if I cannot wait to get to the end or if I’d like to slow everything down to make this period last as much as I can. But it’s also true that I crave to stay a couple of days in Santiago, I’ve been walking for a lot of time now…



Steps: 27908


Journey to Santiago: day 33

From O Sebreiro to Triacastela

This morning we wake up with a strong wind blowing; once we prepare our backpacks and get out on the road we discover that it’s raining with some snow too, it’s very cold to be honest. We go to the restaurant we had dinner yesterday to have breakfast and then we leave, surrounded by the fog.
After climbing on a dirt path we go down on a half paved road among gusts of icy wind and rain, we pass through a couple of villages which are just a little bigger than a farm and we stop at the second one of these to have a coffee. We go down by a path which flanks the road to go back then reaching 1270 meters above sea level. We keep going along hilly paths getting down a little to take then another steeper ascent which takes us back on the top of the hills, with a great view but with a strong wind too.


After almost twenty kilometers from the start we finally start to go down for real on a path which, after a couple of kilometers, passing through farms and stables, takes us to Triacastela.


We walk through the village to reach the albergue, we have a room for four people all for ourselves and seen we have come early we can use the washing machine and the tumble dryer; maybe we are okay with the clothes until we reach Santiago, this is what I believe. Tonight we can use the kitchen too, so we decide to have some Amatriciana pasta. Later on Cristian and Enrico will join us, they left their albergue later and have come from farther away than us.


Steps: 26578

Journey to Santiago: day 32

From Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro

We wake up early as usual, yesterday we have been lucky because we had a small room for 8 and there were just 4 of us. We have a coffee for breakfast and then we get on the road reaching the three other Italian ladies we met yesterday; they started their journey only few days ago and now they are starting to feel the pains of the first days so they walk slow and very soon we leave them at our back. For that matter today I need to walk at my pace and after some kilometers I lave the others at my back too.


The first part of this leg is on tarmac, most of it on the side of a road which flanks, passes under or above the highway running along a valley and, sometimes, flanking the Rio Valcarce.


I find some variety in the journey when the road passes through small villages, and I stop in the first one of these to have a coffee while I’m waiting for the others to come. 
We walk for several other kilometers always on the side of the road when finally we turn away and start climbing towards small villages which become typically mountain villages. We stop at a bar to have a sandwich and quickly get back on the road, today’s leg is very long.

We get back climbing on tarmac and always passing through very small villages until the yellow arrows send us to walk on dirt path: it’s getting serious now. The ascent becomes very steep and bumpy and we climb almost 400 meters in a short period of time; once we are at the end of this first ascent we arrive at La Faba where we meet Cristian who is playing the guitar outside the albergue he decided to stop at with his friend. We stop too to recover from the climb which made us sweat a lot and after a beer be restart our journey. 
Enrico decides to stop here for today, I can imagine them singing and playing the guitar until someone won’t grab it from their hands.


Grazia, Simona and I instead get back on the road along the long ascent which divides us from the destination, 5 kilometers more to get to 1300 meters above sea level and something more to finally get to O Cebreiro. The effort is rewarded by the panorama surrounding us, I love these paths because the view changes at every step we take, while Grazia suffers during the climbing and would love to walk more on plan road.


The albergue is very fine, we are in the attic and the roof is not too high so there are no bunk beds, and this means few people, less noise and less smell. There is a kitchen at the ground floor but with no pots or pans, so basically it’s pretty useless
We then go have dinner at the restaurant where, with the Pilgrims’ menu for 10 euros only we can have soup, eggs, sausages and chips, and , as sweet, some ricotta cheese with honey, or at least this is what I take.



Steps: 37211

Journey to Santiago: day 31

From Ponferada to Villafranca del Bierzo

Tonight I didn’t sleep too much and this morning the awakening hasn’t been the best ever; the hospitaller of the night shift woke us up at 6.30 am turning on the lights and screaming something I did not understand, only the sound of a trumpet was missing.
We gather our stuff and go to the vending machines for a quick breakfast, today’s path makes us pass through the old town and near the castle we could not visit yesterday because we got in town too late. We pass through streets smeared by graffiti until we enter a big park; we walk through it and definitely leave the town, but before we stop at a bar to have a coffee.

We walk on tarmac the whole day, passing through Camponaraya and, later, through Cacabelos where we stop to have lunch; we find Javier here, he will stop at the same place we are headed to. 
Once we left the city we take some kind of variant which leads us to some hill with many vineyards and, passing through ups and downs we finally get to Villafranca. We join the community dinner and then a strange ritual one of the hospitaller does with a sweet liquor catching fire and then he recites some kind of blessing for the pilgrims.

In theory we should not even have had to stop here but, instead, it became a very pleasant night; we met three other lady pilgrims coming from Italy and another couple of people in fact the Italians have become the largest group in the albergue. 
Tomorrow’s leg will be hard and we’ll be climbing all of the time, so we have to go to bed as soon as we can.


Steps: 30097

Journey to Santiago: day 30

From Rabanal del Camino to Ponferada

Seen that today we will be climbing since the beginning of our journey we believe it’s not the case to be walking in the dark, so we take it easy and we leave the albergue at 8 am so, after the first 2 or 3 kilometers, it’s already dawn, right before taking the mountain paths.


Anyway it’s foggy or, better, the clouds are low and this is not helping at all; the rain is too light to wear the raincoat but it’s enough to soak us wet.


We climb on paths among rocks and trees until we reach Foncebadon, a very small village with a kind of a restoration point where they sell some fruit, sweets, sandwiches, coffee and tea. But, most of all , the fireplace is lit, which is very helpful in a day like this.
We don’t stop too much because the longer we stop the harder is to get back on the road , now we are at 1530 meters above sea level and after a couple of kilometers we get to the Cruz de Ferro (the iron cross), a peculiar point of the journey where the pilgrims leave something, from the rock carried from afar to a bracelet or a shell, everything. Grazia leaves one of her t-shirts, some pictures and objects given to her by the parents and relatives of some women victims of domestic violence she met in Italy.


After some pictures we get back on the road going down among dirt and paths , passing by the characteristic hut of Manjarin and then along a continuing ups and downs through the mountains for the most part of the day; for someone may be a torture but personally I prefer legs like these than the monotonous Mesetas for example.
The panoramas are always changing and, it may sound strange, but I feel less tired , my legs don’t always do the same movement for 30 kilometers as we walk on plan so I do not always use the same muscles.



Anyway, after several kilometers of slippery rocky paths due to the light rain, we get to El Acebo de San Miguel where we stop to have lunch, right before it starts raining more heavily. After getting back on the road, still wearing our raincoats, we head to Molina Seca passing through Riego de Ambros before, another nice burg, very well cared.


During the journey the rain stops falling and then starts again so many times that I have become an expert on wearing and taking off my raincoat without even stopping.


In Molina Seca, a beautiful village full of bars and restaurants, we stop to drink something and decide to follow the road for the next 5 kilometers which divide us from our destination, it’s 4.30 pm yet and we’d lengthen the road if we’d follow the dirt path.
After these last kilometers walking on the sidewalks we get to the parish albergue, a big building which can host to 170 pilgrims, with everything they need. Unfortunately it’s a bit late today to have a look around the city, the leg has been long and we left later than usual.
We just have the time to have a shower, do some food shopping and eat with Daniele and Sergio, two Italian men we already met in Leon. 
Tomorrow, if the weather will be nice with us, the leg should be easier.



Steps: 38698

Journey to Santiago: day 29

From Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

Today’s leg is not too hard, it’s just 20 kilometers long or something, so we take it easy and we take the road after 7.30 am; anyway it’s still dark. 
We walk through the city passing in front of the cathedral and then we walk along the roads of the suburbs which lead us, after an overpass on the highway, on a dirt path; in the meanwhile the sky starts to become red with the crack of dawn.


We get to the first village where we have a quick stop for a coffee and when we get back on the road we are shivering more than before despite we are walking with gloves and hats on. We are always walking on dirt and we cross a couple of other two villages; on this stretch, last year, has been kidnapped an American pilgrim girl, Denise Thiem. A man changed the signals to get her lost and to take advantage of her. In fact Grazia had the idea, today, to leave one of her t-shirts where we believe someone put a cross, a gravestone or however something in memory of this girl. 
We get to El Ganso and we pass it we still cannot find anything . And we will discover that there’s nothing like that, it will perhaps be built somewhere or sometimes, maybe in Santiago where there was her funeral, but unfortunately we don’t have any information about this. Maybe we can leave the t-shirt for her tomorrow once we will reach the Cruz de Ferro.


Anyway after 6 more kilometers today’s leg comes to its end very easily in Rabanal del Camino, a very small village with 44 inhabitants as the lady of the hostel said to me. The hostel is small and cozy, with a nice kitchen tonight we are having a hot chickpeas soup seeing the sun wasn’t very hot and it’s very cold outside. They say tomorrow it will be raining and a long climb is waiting for us, I hope the weather won’t be that bad because I don’t want to get wet and cold.



Steps: 25008