The forecast for today was not just rain, rain and more rain.
It was rain, rain and heavy rain with thunderstorms and lightning.
After I switched off the alarm this morning AT 6.00am, I listened carefully. Silence! It wasn’t raining! It had rained during the night, but at that time, it was not raining. We dressed in all our rain-proof gear for the torrential day ahead – water-proof hat, rain-proof jacket, rain-proof pullover trousers, and my boots also have a gore-tex lining so are waterproof also. Also, pulled on the rain-proof cover for the backpack. We set off about 6.40am. As usual, I bid my companions good travels on their way and from then on had the day’s walk to myself.
It was damp as we set out, some moisture still in the air from the night before. There was a bit of misty rain for a short while. As the morning went on, there was also some spotting rain, for about an hour or so, not too heavy, but enough for me to be glad I was wearing all the protective gear. Apart from keeping out the moisture, it was an extra layer and wind-proof and helped to keep me warm. However, as expected from the forecast, there were dark, threatening clouds building on the horizon.
But to my (and everybody else’s) surprise, in mid-morning, there were patches of blue sky. Eventually, the sun broke through. Not only were there no thunderstorms and lighting, there wasn’t even any rain, for the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon. In fact, there was quite bright sunshine.
For the last couple of days I have put my sunglasses away. With the dark, overcast weather above, with the dark, shaded lenses of my sunglasses, and with the dark, shaded lanes to walk through, I had found that it was too dark to see my way! So I put my sunglasses away. Today I nearly had to take them out again. The change from the bright sunny days that have been my lot for nearly all of the time that I have been walking, to the last couple of days of dark, overcast weather has been very striking. It is almost like having walked into a completely different country!
However, although the weather did stay clear through the morning and into the afternoon, there were enough dark clouds on the horizon indicating that it could change quickly enough, so I didn’t take off the rain-proof gear but left it on just in case. As it happens, I arrived at the albergue in the early afternoon and the weather was still clear. But I have noticed since then that the dark clouds have gathered again and pilgrims have removed their washing from the clothes line, so there must have been a light shower already, and the conditions could very easily change quite quickly. In fact, there were some further showers of rain late in the afternoon.
I don’t know what the weather forecast is for tomorrow, but if it is “heavy rain with thunderstorms and lighting” and turns out like today, I will be very happy! But back to today!
Here’s what it looked like setting off from Silleda in the damp, early hour of 6.40am.
However, it is precisely this damp weather which makes for such green fields (similar to Ireland).
Over to the Sou-West, dark clouds were threatening on the horizon. I hoped I would be clear before they overtook me.
It was not long before I was walking through my favourite terrain, some tree-shaded lanes. It is amazing how quickly the scene changes. The moment one enters such a rural lane, there is peace; there is absolute silence, except for birdcalls and insects; it is tranquil; it is soothing to the spirit.
As I walked through this particular lane, I amused myself by letting my imagination run wild on the dark tree trunk ahead on the right-hand side of the lane. My first thought was that the branches were like the up-raised arms of a giant gorilla! As I looked more closely, I thought the “facial” image at the top of the central trunk/body was more like that of a bear, so the figure could easily be a grizzly bear! Can you see them? What other images come to your mind? Or am I becoming a deranged pilgrim!?
Here’s a zoomed-in, close-up of the particular tree trunk/branch to which I am referring. Can you see these images now, or other images?
As the morning went on, blue sky began to break through, creating a lovely contrast to the green grass.
There were more of the Galician granaries.
Given the weather forecast and the threatening change to the weather, today was another day when I did not want to get lost. If there was going to be a cloudburst, I wanted to be in the albergue, not still on my way there. So I was careful to watch for the camino signs, the arrows and conch shells, which directed my way along the pilgrim path, so that I would not get lost and waste time trying to find the path again. To test your ability to spot the signs indicating the pilgrim path, how good a pilgrim you would be at finding your way, here’s a section of the road coming towards an intersection. How many camino signs can you see?
I can tell you that there are seven (7) yellow arrows visible to my naked eye. You will certainly have to zoom in to different areas in the photo to find them all, especially those a little distant from the camera. And if you count the conch shell as another sign, there are a total of eight camino signs in the photograph. The signs are not usually so prolific. There are usually two or three or sometimes even four at forks or intersections in the road to show which path to take. Occasionally there are individual arrows along the stretch of the road, as a confirmation that you are on the right path. But occasionally, as in this instance, there is a profusion of signs.
As I continued on the path, as indicated by the signs, I passed through a stand of string bark gums, reminiscent of Australia.
In one of the towns, at a saw mill, there was another reminder of Australia, and even more particularly, of the farm in South Australia where I grew up. The saw mill had a Ford tractor, very similar to the Fordson Major that was the farm tractor during my childhood years, subsequently replaced by bigger and bigger models. The current farm tractor is so big that the bonnet of the engine does not even fit under the door of the farm workshop where the Fordson Major used to be parked. Tribute to the durability and reliability of the Ford, this tractor was hooked up to a trailer and was apparently still in use. It is certainly forty, possibly fifty, years old.
Continuing on, here’s a view of a valley off to the north.
Later on I had a very steep descent down to the Rio Ulla, dropping some 200 meters in a very few kilometres. I feared that there would be an equally steep ascent up the other side, but I was relieved when we reached a shoulder of the valley and instead of descending directly to the river bed there and up the other side, the path turned left and headed down along the valley towards another town.
A local woman was ahead of me on that road. She was carrying a small cutting scythe in one hand and a basket of green vegetables in the other. Presumably she had cut the latter with the former in a garden patch further up the valley. As I passed her, I engaged in some basic conversation, a simple “Ola, Buenas Dias” (“Hello, Good Morning”). She thought that my pilgrimage from Granada to Santiago required “forza” (strength, spirit, courage). I asked her the name of the town and she told me. I asked to take her photo. She obliged.
When I showed her on my camera the photo that I had taken, she broke into a broad, gap-toothed grin. She was very pleased. She said “muchas gracias” (“many thanks”). I don’t think she had been a model for a photograph for a long time!! So today I made one woman happy!
The town she had identified as Ponte Ulla, the penultimate town on today’s itinerary. I was glad to know that I only had 4kms to go, about an hour’s walk. The bells of the local parish church had conch shell decorations in the belfry.
Having done a very sharp descent into the upper valley earlier followed by a long descent along the valley, when I finally crossed the river at Ponte Ulla, the inevitable followed, a long, steep ascent up the other side.
Before long, the climb diverged from the main road into the countryside, passing through beautiful rural settings such as this, with road, avenue and archway of trees, blue sky and white clouds.
I had hoped this would be the last ascending section of the day. It wasn’t! A few more were to follow. I seemed to be going a long way on this rural track, and feared that I might be bypassing the town along the main road that was my intended destination. Finally, some buildings appeared through the bush and I was entering the top end of the town of Onteiro. I misread a sign that I took to be pointing down the road, rather than along it, so then had to backtrack to find the albergue. I joined my companions there, had a quick bite, a shower and am settled for the rest of the day.
The albergue is a bit isolated, so no shopping or restaurants. No wifi either, so no post to the blog today! There has been some showers of rain during the afternoon, a further disincentive to going out. However, we were able to order a basic meal here in the albergue for later in the evening. Then it will be bed and rest in preparation for the final day’s walk into Santiago.
Yesterday I had nominated Ponte Ulla as the next night’s stop. However, according to the information in their guidebook, my companions recommended Onteiro (also mentioned in another guide book as the location of the Capilla de Santiaguino (Chapel of Santiago) as a better option). It is 4.5kms further on than Ponte Ulla, so reduces the final day’s walk by that much. The albergue here offers better facilities than the one in Ponte Ulla. And finally, being very practical, it is good to have that steep climb out of the valley behind us at the end of today, rather than starting off with it first thing in the morning!!!
The distance from here to Santiago is 16kms (or 18 kms, depending on which guide book one follows). I would anticipate being in Santiago to attend the midday Mass.
Again, just for the record, today’s walk was as follows:
0.0kms Silleda, left at 6.40am
7.0kms Bandeira, arrived at 8.30am
5.0kms Dornelas, arrived at 9.50am
3.0kms Carballeida ??
1.0kms Seixo ??
2.0kms Santuario de Gundian ??
2.0kms Ponte Ulla, arrived at 12.15pm
4.5kms Onteiro, arrived around 2.30pm.
According to the above, the day’s walk was 24.5kms, which more or less agrees with the other guide books. I completed the walk in just under 8 hours, which allowing for breaks, photos etc, is again just under regulation time. I am happy to report that the leg which has been troubling me is OK. There is still some mild soreness, but it is moving freely, not hampering my walking, so I am quite happy with the progress I have made.
Tomorrow is another day. I have no idea what the weather will be. I will just have to take whatever comes.
Tomorrow I am on my last leg (enjoy the pun!).