Laza to Xunquiera de Ambia

Another big day. As there was the early usual movement in the albegue – some were leaving the dormitory at 5.00am!! – I was up and on my way by 7.00am. Another, fine, clear, sunny day. As usual, the others were ahead of me and I was walking alone! Here’s a view of the day ahead:

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I passed through the villages of Soutelo Verde (3kms) at 7.45am and Tamicelas (3km) at 8.30am. It was easy enough walking, often on the shoulder of the road, or on a clear dirt road as in the above photo.

But from then on the challenge began. The next 6 kilometres was a steep climb of nearly 400 metres. It was long and relentlessly upwards, without relief, and around every bend on the horizon there was simply another section that was further upwards. It was also a fairly rocky path, so demanded attention.

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Upwards!!!!

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Upwards!!!!

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Upwards!!!!

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Upwards!!!!

If you imagine another 50 photos, then you have some idea of the trek. Until finally, having crested the last peak, there was a downhill slope.

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However, there was one advantage, having climbed upwards, there was a great view of the valley below:

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Note that this was from only about half-way up, and once we went over the shoulder of the present slope, the valley disappeared from view, but the road climbed relentlessly upwards even further!!

On the climb upwards, I was passed by another pilgrim, which is not an uncommon experience. But then I had the, for me, uncommon experience of passing other pilgrims (they can be seen coming over the shoulder of the hill in the last photo showing the valley below). They were two Spanish pilgrims whom I had admired for arriving so promptly at the albergue on the previous day, especially having come from A Gudina, which full journey had taken me two half days, the long afternoon two days ago and the morning afterwards. They were among those who had left at 5.00am. So I was a bit surprised. I also wondered how they had travelled so quickly the previous day when they were so slow today. And I felt a bit chuffed at my own efforts!

However, all that changed when I arrived at the top. For there was an ambulance waiting there. Obviously, one of the two pilgrim who were travelling together and whom I had passed must have felt such discomfort as to call an ambulance. I was only able to assure the service personnel that indeed there were two Spanish pilgrims on that section of the trail, but I had no idea how far away they were. I had passed them some 30 minutes previously and had no idea how much or how little they had progressed since then. I said that the path was driveable if they wanted to take the ambulance down the hill to meet the pilgrims who had called them.

I could do no more, so continued on. I said a prayer for the pilgrims. I said a prayer for the ambulance services everywhere who help people in crisis. I was pleased to see that the ambulance was on the spot, as I had planned in my mind that if ever I got into difficulties, I would call the emergency number. So it was consoling to see that this plan does actually work, that assistance can be provided promptly in emergencies. I do not know the outcome of the event, but hope the pilgrim was given the assistance he needed and recovered from whatever had caused him such distress as to call the emergency services.

Shortly after completing the climb, I arrived at Alberguerria (6kms) at 10.15am. The bar there is a surprise. The walls, roof, columns and every other available space are decorated with conch shells, signed and dated by pilgrims who have passed through.

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I added my signature and date to a shell to be installed in the collection, along with all the others, including from my brother James.

When I first saw the name Alberguerria, I thought I had arrived at my day’s destination and was surprised that I had arrived so early. But I quickly realised that it was not my day’s destination, but the destination of those the previous day who had not stayed at Laza (as I had) but had continued on further. I still had another 8kms to go for the day.

I continued on to Cross on Monte Talarino, like the one the previous day, erected in memory of those who had died on the camino. I again remembered the Spanish pilgrim from this morning and hoped he was OK. As I approached the cross there was another pilgrim there and I hoped he would be able to take my photo. However, he moved on before I arrived, so I used time delay to get myself into the photo, but could not position the camera to get the whole cross in view. So you will just have to imagine it, or remember the similar cross from the day before.

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Having climbed 400 metres in the morning and crossed the summit, the afternoon’s task was to climb down the other side, descending 300 metres in the next 5kms. It was fairly steep, so demanded attention. However, it was more a dirt path rather than a rocky one, so was a little more forgiving. Still, caution was necessary, to avoid slipping or falling.

Downwards!!!

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Downwards!!!

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Downwards!!!

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Downwards!!!

As with the morning, imagine another 40 or so photos and you have the idea.

In the towns I have been seeing granary stores, which are said to be a feature of the Galician rural scene. I think they are for drying corn cobs. Sometimes, decorated with crosses, they look like small churches!

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I eventually arrived at Vilar de Barrio (5kms) at 1.00pm. I knew that some others had continued on. In fact, as I was contemplating what to do, another couple of pilgrims were in the town square putting their backpacks on and getting ready to move on. The next stage was some 13kms further, making a total for the day of 33kms. I reckoned on present form this was doable. What was particularly attractive, was that the next few kilometres were across the valley floor on flat terrain, no ups and downs like the morning, except for a short rise/fall at the end of the day. So I too decided to continue on.

The first section was through some small towns, virtually joined together, so indistinguishable from one another. Then it was into the open flat country.

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Onwards!!!

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Onwards!!!

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Onwards!!!

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Onwards!!!

As with the morning’s climb and late morning/early afternoon descent, add another couple of dozen photos and you have got the idea!!

It was not a hard walk, as in up and down, but it was a long, strenuous walk, in the heat of the afternoon. I eventually cross the valley floor, had a short ascent and descent up the other side, passing a couple of villages on the way. Then, as early in the morning in the ascent up the lower valley, and in the afternoon descending the other side into the lower valley, my favourite walking place is the tree-shaded lane. It is cool, refreshing to the eyes, peaceful, footsteps muted by leaves, tranquil. Definitely my favourite walking place, except when it is marshy underfoot.

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Shady Lane

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Shady Lane

A final rocky descent to cap off the afternoon.

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Just because it was long and hot doesn’t mean that I didn’t get a chance to appreciate the flowers! Here’s a flowering tree, looking like a pre-historic, yellow, herbivore dinosaur feeding of the forest foliage.

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I eventually arrived at the albergue in Xunqueira de Ambia at 5.30pm, having completed the 13.7kms from Vilar de Barrio in four and half-hours, which was not bad.

I enjoyed the shower!!! Then went into the town, found that Mass was about to start, so joined the congregation. Then I had a quick bite to eat and returned to the albergue to register my presence, settle the account and get ready for the next morning.

Needless to say, I slept well!

Ultreia!!!

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