Before leaving O’Cebreiro, I took my backpack to Hotel O’Cebreiro because the municipal albergues don’t take or send ahead backpacks. I left the town at 8 a.m. under a painterly sunrise of rich corals; the whole sky was a rosy unfurling. I was overwhelmed by the dramatic beauty along the ridge top, through a path bordered by Scotch broom and wild absinthe.
The route out of O’Cebreiro was spectacular, with stunning views stretching for miles all around. Green pastures and small villages dotted the valley below.
A forest track took us up and then down to Liñares, a small hamlet that once grew flax for the linen trade. We passed the 8th-century parish church of San Esteban, restored in 1963, and then headed up a holly tree-lined track to Alto de San Roque.
O’Cebreiro to Liñares (3.1 km)
At Alto de San Roque, a limestone ridge of 1,270 meters, a bronze medieval pilgrim leaned into the wind over Galicia’s vast expanse of mountains and valleys. The path was lined with groves of ash trees interspersed with birch, holly and hazelnuts.
We dipped down again into Hospital de la Condesa, which once held one of the earliest hospitals for Christian pilgrims. I paid homage to the 11th century pre-Romanesque Iglesia St. Juan (also dedicated to San Roque), reconstructed in 1963, with its unusual stone-roofed belfry and cross of Santiago.
Liñares to Hospital de la Condesa (2.5 km)
Then it was another climb to the windy Alto do Poio, at an altitude of 1,310 meters. In medieval times, there was a hermitage at this pass, one of the highest on the Camino. On the way up I met Beth from Canberra. She was the same Beth that Greg from British Columbia had told me he’d “really connected with.” Beth had interests of her own; she was to meet a British guy named Pat in Sarria. She had met him earlier in the Camino and he’d had to leave for a portion of the Camino. They planned to walk to Santiago together from Sarria and then travel to Portugal together. She started her Camino on the same date as me, September 4.
The wind careened across this high point, so we dropped into a bar with a welcoming fire in a fireplace. I was warmed by an early lunch of Galician soup: cabbage, potatoes, rice and green beans. At the cafe, I met Ingrid from Holland, but her friend Lorna was luckily nowhere in sight. Ingrid was renting a bicycle for the day to ride downhill to Samos. I also met a lady named Janice from San Antonio, Texas, who I’d encounter again later in the day.
Hospital de la Condesa to Alto do Poio (3.0 km)
At this point, I started a long slow descent through a series of towns I called “cow towns,” as they all had cows grazing and mooing, along with heaps of cow pies: Fonfría, Biduedo and Filloval.
Fonfría used to be home to the hospice of Santa Catalina, built in 1535 for poor pilgrims. In a sorry state, it disappeared in the 19th century.
Alto do Poio to Fonfría (3.3 km)
The path moved slowly away from the road and into pastureland after Fonfría, although the road remained in sight. I descended through ash groves in shaded gullies, as well as a forest of oak, pine and alder. Thickets of broom and gorse are said to be home to wild boar, marten, weasel and ermine, usually not seen during daylight. The descent became steeper as I walked into Biduedo.
At Biduedo, I met Susan from Littleton, Colorado and Mike from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Susan was a nurse practitioner and had never been married. This was her third, and final, section of the Camino; she did the first two stages in 2016 and 2017. She and Mike were having beers together.
The church in Biduedo is supposedly the smallest on the whole Camino, but I didn’t take a photo of it.
Fonfría to Biduedo (2.4 km)
After Biduedo, I enjoyed magnificent views of Galicia on the path. I passed Susan and Mike at Filloval, enjoying more beers together. Darina had stayed in Filloval the night before. This hamlet was part of the Order of San Juan of Jerusalem, a medieval and early modern Catholic military order.
Anxious to get to Triacastela,, which lay before me on the floor of the valley, I continued on without stopping.
Biduedo to Filloval (3.1 km)
After emerging from a wooded area, I came to the lowest point of today’s walk at Triacastela.
There were some steep gravely descents throughout today’s walk, but overall most of the declines were gradual. The weather was fine, although windy and sometimes cold, and the views were stunning.
Filloval to Triacastela (3.3 km)
Triacastela was founded in the 9th century after the reconquest from the Muslims. It is the “town of the three castles” which dated from the early 10th century. None of the castles have survived. Today, Triacastela has a wide selection of bars, restaurants and hostels serving today’s growing numbers of pilgrims.
I checked into a private room in Complexo Xacobeo. After my shower and laundry, I went to look for a place to eat and ran into Janice from San Antonio, who I’d met at lunchtime. She worked in law enforcement and homeland security. We went to eat a pilgrim meal. I had scrambled eggs with mushrooms and shrimp, green beans, mashed potatoes and chocolate flan. Of course, red wine accompanied the meal.
Janice lost her husband six years ago; he had died in his sleep, unexpectedly. She was still grieving over him. She came to Spain with two friends, a husband and wife, and she felt something strange was going on in their marriage. The wife seemed upset her husband wasn’t paying enough attention to her. Janice had been maid of honor at their wedding 36 years before, so she had known them a long time. She separated from them a week ago because things were too awkward. She was wearing a beautiful scarf – blue, brown and rust – that she had bought in León; it was very stylish. Admittedly, I had scarf envy. She was also quite beautiful.
At dinner, Greg was eating and drinking with Beth at a nearby table. He had barreled ahead to Triacastela and left his friend Sean behind because he wanted to catch up with Beth. I thought he was smitten. 🙂 Sean stayed alone in Fonfría. He had left from Las Herrerias that morning.
Janice and I went to the pilgrim mass that was held daily for everyone at 6:00 p.m. She had a locket with some ashes from her best friend’s only daughter who was killed in a car accident at age 24. She wanted to put the locket on something in the church and photograph it. We waited until the priest left and she put it on a figure of Christ to take a picture. I wondered if that might be frowned upon by the priest.
The parish church of Igrexa de Santiago is dedicated to Santiago and has an unusual 18th century tower on which is carved a relief of the three castles. They can barely be seen in the photo above, under the statue of the Virgin Mary. The church was built with limestone from nearby quarries.
I felt disheartened that it was supposed to rain all the next day for my walk to Sarria (18.7 km). As of today, I had 136.1 km, or 84.6 miles, to get to Santiago. I’d be walking seven more days!
*Day 40: Saturday, October 13, 2018*
*34,380 steps, or 14.57 miles: O’Cebreiro to Triacastela (20.7 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Along the Guadiana.