Thursday, October 06, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pereje To O Cebreiro

Pereje didn't have a store so I left this morning without my usual supplies.  Each town I passed through I looked for a place to eat.  Nobody had Tortilla Española this early in the morning and this irritated the heck out of me. I finally found an open grocery store (open very early, I must say) where I stocked up with fruit and principe cookies.  This improved my mood.

The Camino passed through tiny little hamlets like Ruitalan, San Julián, and Hospital.  After Hospital the Camino left the road it had been following and headed first down then up a dirt path.  Near the bottom at a sharp turn in the trail I ran into the Japanese television crew. They were filming a young Japanese woman walking up the hill.  She was dressed in red and pink - I started thinking of her as the Starlet.  I slowed down but they waved me on with big smiles and wished me a Buen Camino.  They then proceeded to film my butt as I walked up the steep part of the trail.

The trail climbed sharply here.  The trees arched over the trail and the rocks were covered in moss giving the Camino an enchanted feel.  I heard a clank of a bell up ahead and saw a half dozen or more cows heading down the trail.  I moved to the edge of the narrow trail to let them go by.  The lead cow headed straight for me, I held out my hand, and it gently headbutted my hand before turning and heading down the trail.  A young man followed the cows down the hill.  The rest of the way up the hill was spent dodging fresh, steamy cow exhaust.

The Camino reached the town of La Faba.  I stopped at a bar and ordered some tortilla.  Instead of tortilla española I got tortilla francesa - essentially scrambled eggs.  Not what I wanted but it was good enough.  I finished my brunch off with an ice cream bar.  La Faba seemed like a nice place to stay.  Maybe next time.

I left the bar, passed the Japanese television crew who were now surrounding some bicycle pilgrims, and left town.  While the food helped a little, the Camino was tough here.  The sun was out and hot and the dirt trail went up.  I followed a couple who worried me.  The guy would walk ahead then stop to wait for his wife to catch up then he would start walking again while urging her to keep going.  What this meant is that he rested every so often and she never did.  (I know, the Wife will say this is how I hike when I'm with her ... guilty as charged).  I felt sorry for the lady.  I think she would have been justified to smack her husband.

I stopped briefly in La Laguna but decided if I stopped I probably wouldn't get restarted and kept going up the hill.  Or should I say mountain.  This hill climbing machine was being taught a tough lesson today.  While it was tiring climbing up the hill I was awed by the views along the Camino - reminiscent of the first day in the Pyrenees.  About half way between La Laguna and my destination, O Cebreiro, you entered the autonomous community of Galicia.  The border along the Camino was marked by a large concrete marker.  Once again the language spoken and written would change, this time from Castillian to Galician.  To my surprise I would learn that this area has a strong Celtic influence.  This is also where Camino markers started to appear every half kilometer with actual distances marked on them.

I reached the top of the mountain and walked over to a monument talking about the legend of a lost pilgrim guided to safety by a Galician shepherd playing the gaita.  Now the gaita is, of all things, a form of bagpipes. Bagpipes keep popping up in the strangest places - Galicia, Jordan, the Holland Center in downtown Omaha.  Frankly, I love them.  I was lucky enough to hear a local man playing the gaita in O Cebreiro.  The guy playing the gaita was trying, unsuccessfully, to harmonize with a pilgrim playing the didgeridoo.  Only on the Camino.

I stopped at the albergue and got in line.  Like Ponferrada, I was not first in line here.  I was around position twenty-five (based on my bunk number).  I did my chores, washed some clothes and hung them out on the line to dry.  While the albergue, run by the Xunta de Galicia (I think they are like the tourism board of the Galician government), was a little sterile (most Xunta albergues were), it had one of the most awesome views out it's bathroom windows of any albergue in Spain.

The view out of the O Cebreiro albergue bathroom.
(Actually taken outside the albergue but this is the view out the bathroom window.)
[Click to see a bigger version]
I ran into GV and we headed out to explore the tiny town of O Cebreiro.  The town turns out to be the first touristy place along the Camino.  There were several souvenir shops, something I hadn't seen except in large cities like Burgos and León.  We walked through them, of course, and I found a magnet and a bracelet for the Wife.  The town is not very large but buses were dropping people off to visit the place.  O Cebreiro is basically an albergue, a few hotels/restaurants/bars in old buildings, and a church.  The main attraction of the place for me were the views.  The town is at the top of a hill and looking in any direction offered a sweeping view of sun lit valleys.  Incredible.

The Japanese television crew showed up and I unsuccessfully tried to get a better picture of the Starlet.  We went to a small store for supplies and found they didn't have principes ... though they did have arthurs which were nearly identical to principes.

The focal point of the town in the church and the now defunct convent next door.  There is a legend about the church.  The way I understand it there was a priest who in the middle of winter lost faith in the fact that the host and wine would transform into the flesh and blood of Christ.  In the middle of Mass he asked why anyone would come to church is such bad weather for just a piece of bread and a little wine?  At this moment the host changed into flesh and the wine changed into blood, restoring the faith of the priest.  Here is another telling of the miracle (it's a PDF).

GV had heard that the monks that ran the church may do Gregorian chants during mass.  This sounded interesting so we enter the church, I lit a candle for the Wife (possibly resulting in her almost kicking a field goal at Notre Dame Football Camp), and sat in the back row waiting for mass.  When mass started we realized, despite the Japanese film crew filming mass, there were only two monks in the church so Gregorian chanting was not in the offing so we quietly got up and left the church ... and walked out into the rain.  Yes ... rain.  We ran to a nearby restaurant and decided to eat dinner and wait out the rain.  After dinner it dawned on me that my clothes were hanging outside the albergue and were probably soaked by the rain.  We returned to the albergue to find the ground and the clothes hanging over it dry as a bone.  The rain had been localized just over the church and restaurant.  Not sure how to interpret that. Heh.

Day twenty-eight was a physically demanding leg but a satisfying one with gorgeous views.  In O Cebreiro I felt like I was at the top of the world.  My mood felt the same.  Despite being a heathen, I had another good day on my adventure.

Total Distance: 14.62 Miles (23.53 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 42 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 3,406 ft (1,038.15 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,153 ft ( 351.43 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

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