An easy day today, as promised, a mere 14.4kms!!!
I set the alarm for 7.00am, rose, did my final packing, had a quick breakfast in the bar, and was on my way at 8.00am. I had met a German (?) pilgrim couple in the street the evening before when I was looking for accommodation, and I met the Swiss pilgrim couple with whom I had shared some stages a few days previously, but again this day, as usual, as I have become accustomed, I was walking on my own.
It was another clear, sunny day. It was a bit cold first thing in the morning, but the walking soon warmed up the body and the unknotted any soreness from the previous long day.
The first few kilometres climbed up from the town. I passed Portocambo (3km) at 8.45am (in regulation time. As I continued upwards, I thought I had not seen a camino sign for some time, and wondered if I had missed a turn. As I was thinking this, I noticed a faint yellow tinge in the road. There was an arrow literally at my feet:
Admittedly, it is one of the faintest arrows I have seen, no doubt worn by traffic on the road. Any fainter and I would not have seen it all. Any fainter, and it would not exist! As I looked up, I noticed another camino sign on the right hand side of the road, and another 10 metres further on, another one on the left hand side of the road. So I was clearly on the path! I continued on to the top of the pass, where there is a very large wooden cross 25ft/7.5m high.
According to my guide book, “This was donated by the monastery at the Santuario de los Milagros [some distance to the north west of here] and positioned there on the initiative of Don Eligio Rivas, the parish priest in Bandeira and very active in reviving the Camino through Galacia, in memory of those pilgrims who died whilst making their way to Santiago.”
So the Camino is not risk-free!! People have lost their lives on this way. The film “The Way”, with Martin Sheen, which popularised the Camino in the English-speaking world a couple of years ago, is based on the premise that the main character’s son gets lost in a snow storm and dies of hypothermia in the Pyrenees. A friend told me that a friend of his was doing the camino, but the rigours of the way led to him dying of a heart-attack! Given that so many pilgrims have to deal with other less dramatic ailments such as blisters, I have been very lucky to have had no major health issues on the way.
Once over the pass, it was a steepish decline all the way, dropping over 500 metres in about 11kms.
Here is a view of the day(s) ahead:
I note that there are more mountains ahead! Why not some plain walking for once, as in walking across a plain, rather than up and down mountains? But when there was plain walking before and after Salamanca and Zamora, I didn’t like that either. Never satisfied! Always complaining! But then, now that I am a senior citizen, doesn’t that entitle me to be a grumpy old man!?!?
The road wound around the shoulder of the valley, ever descending. I was aware that for each step downwards, there would be another step upwards the next day! The views over the valley below were quite spectacular.
I passed through the village of As Eiras (5kms) at 10.30am. One of the residents had kindly put out refreshments for pilgrims.
There was milk coffee, cold water, hot water, tea, biscuits, pizza slices, nuts. There was no coast as such, but the benefactors did ask for a donation so that they could continue to provide this free service to other pilgrims in the future. I had heard this practice was quite common on the Via Frances (the French Camino), but it was the first time I had seen it in my travels.
As we wound further down the road, I passed through pine forests, fern, and the other lush green growth found in the lower valley. I have become quite fond of this type of fauna, as the overhanging trees provide a shady, green pathway which is very pleasant to walk through and the fresh greenery is refreshing to the eyes. Here’s a snap of the view off to the left-hand side.
Eventually, the day’s destination, Laza (6km), came into sight, nestled in the valley, surrounded by mountains.
When I arrived in the town at midday, I checked with the guardia civil who run the albergue, situated in the sports complex at the top of the town, signed in, had my credencial stamped, and received the keys and directions. As I was heading to the albergue, the French woman whom I had met again the previous day around the same time in A Gudina arrived in Laza. She told me she had stayed in the same house as myself the previous night. She to had been on the same very long walk as myself yesterday, but felt it was too early to stop, so was continuing on another 12kms. I was happy to give myself a break!!
I was the first pilgrim to arrive in the albergue, only just, and chose my bed. Within minutes, other Spanish pilgrims arrived, having walked from A Gudina that morning (which I had noticed when I signed the register for the albergue that many pilgrims arrived from A Gudina to Laza without stopping in Campobecerros. I don’t know how they did it!? I am assuming they must have followed the original, shorter, northern path, not the very long diversion that I followed yesterday afternoon. [P.S. I have just heard from an Australian and a German pilgrim who are travelling together that they ignored the signs and walked the regular northern path and there was no construction disruption along the path anywhere at all, so all my extra efforts yesterday proved to have been unnecessary!!!!] I showered, did my laundry, had a meal [James, I found Senora Angeles at Bar Picot; she thanks you for the recommendation and sends regards], and am enjoying a restful afternoon.
I know that no matter what, the first part of tomorrow morning involves a steep climb out of the valley. In the guide book, after some relatively slow ascent, it then rises nearly 400 metres over 5kms. I am glad to be having an easy day today!