Day 27 - Villafranca del Bierzo to Triacastela

Trip Start Sep 03, 2012
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Trip End Oct 07, 2012


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Where I stayed
Pension Garcia

Flag of Spain  , Galicia,
Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kms Walked: 51kms
Kms Walked in total: 656kms
Kms to get to Santiago: 130kms

Pains: none
Blisters: none

A nice hotel should not be rushed in the morning, especially if you seem to be the only one in it. I enjoyed a delightful night of silence and rest, waking up to find I was the only guest at breakfast.

After the Botillo experiment I needed very little breakfast as the pork was still blocking most of my stomach.

I left just after 8am, time when there now is sufficient light to walk without a headlamp. After the break of a week, I did not intend to fall in any of the old rat race pilgrim habits. I will end this walk at my pace (whether faster or slower), and I will certainly avoid doing whatever the masses of sheep decide to do.

The weather during the first couple of hours is now getting close to cold, and only by constantly moving along did I avoid having to put my rain jacket on. The good news is that its not raining, and that is very positive when climbing the last of the big hills, and the highest one in Galicia.

Last night I nearly made the mistake of throwing away the sun protection as I was convinced that it would just be extra weight in Galicia (the land of rains). However by noon I realised that would have been fatal as the sun was extremely strong.

The first 25 kilometres of today had the same characteristics: road, traffic, asphalt, lorries, the horror!

The only relief were the small villages I passed and some tortilla I ate. The rest deserves being trashed, deleted and forgotten. It might have been nice 800 years ago - but it ain't today!

One of the pilgrim customs which I will also not continue doing, is to repeat "Buen Camino" like bleeding cockatoos every time you pass someone. I will now say "Buenos Dias" and "Buenas Tardes" (good morning or good afternoon). As expected this has thrown most of the receivers into distraught with most replying "bons" or "buens".

If after 3 weeks, or 600 kilometres, in Spain they haven't managed to learn the above, I'm not going to waste my time with courtesy - they are the ones being rude by not learning the basic language phrases (especially if you are going to use them on a daily basis around 100 times).

The ones that say hello in English or French simply don't get any reply from me...and how good it feels!

After 25 kilometres, finally the first decent forrest and mountain path since the Pyrenees! Its take 27 days to get to this.

This lead all the way up to the top at O Cebreiro, a climb feared by most pilgrims during the previous weeks, but strangely soft to my opinion. I doubt its my mountaineering prowess that made it easy. It probably has much more to do with gross exaggerations on guide books and the average age of the pilgrims being 93.

Another let down it the town of O Cebreiro, a bunch of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. My aim was to stay here to start walking down the next day, but it was still early, sunny and my legs were demanding some more action.

I sat down, ate a bocadillo de jamon, drunk a couple of cold refreshments, saw an overweight Spanish pilgrim wearing only his boxer shorts, stood up and got the hell out of there! There was not a fat chance that I was going to spend the rest of the day seeing a pilgrim in very tight boxer shorts.

Its all basically downhill from O Cebreiro, so without really realising it I had clicked a total of 40 kilometres since I started and still had energies for more. That Botillo sausage certainly has magical powers!

I looked at the map and decided to keep going to the larger settlement of Triacastela (they used to have three castles, now there is none so perhaps it should be Nocastelas). That would be a record of 51 kilometres which would have been scary a month ago.

The best part of the last ten kilometres was that there was no one else walking. Everyone has stopped at noon or little after. Additionally the views were clear and the smell of cow dung abundant and intense (much better than the lorry smoke!).

The sun was such that I had to put my sunglasses on for most of the afternoon. Not something enjoyed very often in Galicia.

The path towards Triacastela is wrapped by trees and stone walls, going down steeply in occasions, and dropping swiftly for the rest of the route.

As I was walking along one of these flat stretches, I detected a chubby pilgrim climbing unsteadily up a stone wall. I gathered he was trying to take a master class photograph of something on the other side, but it was still a bit weird as he really was trying to keep his balance.

I quickly realised that his wall climbing was not voluntary...he was scared of a group of cows walking up the path and had decided to get out of their way.

To be sincere, more than cows they actually looked like bulls with the size of their horns, but I had passed quite a few of these and I knew they are frightened of people and will tend to move away.

As I continued to walk past, I said hello to the frightened pilgrim and he sort of made a sound back. It was at that moment that the first cow in the group decided I was not to be trusted and stopped suddenly.

The cow behind must have been thinking about grass and ignored the change in pace of the cow leader. This meant that its head introduced itself firmly (including horns) into the backside of the first one. This in turn made the leader jump forward and side wards in my direction.

I skipped to my left towards the wall, and in turn our scary pilgrim fell off the wall towards the other side, while screaming with an extremely high pitch identical to that of a young girl going down the scariest ride in the funfair for the first time ever!

I heard him hit the floor, although unluckily for him it was a cow dung carpet of which he was now covered in.

I know I shouldn't have but I looked at his sorry state and started laughing my head off. By then all the cows had passed and the farmer at the back had reached us. I don't think he quite understood why someone would be rolling around a cow pat while another chap was having a laugh attack.

Believe me - that made my day. I still giggle hearing the scream. Not even the 800 year old chestnut tree further on calmed me down.

Anyway, 51 kilometres later I made it to "Pension Garcia" - I had to stay there! And it was the best choice, 25 euros for a single room with ensuite toilet: large, comfortable, clean and a powerful hot shower.

Potentially this has made my mind up...no more albergues for me until after Santiago. I can walk further and without any stress, while missing the snoring Swiss boar, or the exhibitionist French shitter!

After 51kms dinner was heavenly. Not only was I starving but it was just what I needed...and they gave me lots of it. My first caldo Gallego by the way, of which I was allowed to have 3 dishes before my main course.

The owner (Mrs Garcia) was very welcoming to me, and she said how patient and polite I had been. I didn't think I had acted any more politely than normal, so she explained that she was used to terrible manners from pilgrims.
The day before a woman held her from her arm and demanded service "now", even though the bar was extremely busy. I asked her if she had been French, and she confirmed it. Typical!

Dinner: caldo gallego / huevos fritos con patatas y beicon, ice cream, bread and bottle wine : 8 euros!
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