Camino Day #8: Fonfria to Sarria

2014Camino-1070432kpdmvWe’ve had our typical breakfast of tostadas (toast) and coffee only to step outside and discover pea soup fog this morning as we leave Fonfria, Spain. Kind of pretty in a surreal way, but not good for viewing scenery.

2014Camino-1070437kpdmv50Fog clears off and the trail starts descending, steep in places.

2014Camino-1070440dmvpopIt’s turning out to be a lovely day as we walk through the quaint village of Biduedo Above is a tiny chapel dedicated to San Pedro.

2014Camino-1070442dmvcrArrows continue to point the way.  I sure hope we keep seeing these helpful guides.

2014Camino-1070443dmvclThis little guy is quite friendly and does not pose a threat.

2014Camino-1070445pldmvThis spectator doesn’t seem to mind our presence, either.

2014Camino-1070446pldmvclHey, you are walking the opposite way!  Inquiring minds want to know…  We stop to chat and discover he is Australian and walking backwards to meet his wife who is walking with her sister.  Hmmm… familiar story here.  I play back the camera images from the albergue near Vega de Valcarce and it is confirmed that we are both talking about the same lovely Australian sisters.  Technology is useful, even on the Camino.

2014Camino-1070447pldmvMeet World Peace.

2014Camino-1070448hfm20pop40dmvRandy poses for a photo opp with Australia and World Peace.

The trail now descends down to the small hamlet of Pasantes.

2014Camino-1070450pldmvHuge size to this tree so it may be worth stopping to read the sign. Locals claim this unusually shaped chestnut tree to be around 800 years old. An albergue is located right next to the tree.

2014Camino-1070451dmvplNeed to take a picture since I know I won’t remember what it said.

2014Camino-1070454dmvSparse population with just a few homes and yards appearing along the trail. It’s another good day for laundry.

2014Camino-1070459hfm20pop50clWe stop for coffee in the town of Triacastela and meet this American woman walking the Camino alone from Burgos to Santiago.  Flight landed on her first day at  4:00 p.m. and she started walking immediately, arriving at an albergue at 8 or 9 p.m. after walking in the dark. Brave lady!

We leave Triacastela and need to choose the best route to Sarria. Left or right?  O.K., left it is.

2014Camino-1070462dmvcrWe pass a church with its adjoining cemetery.

2014Camino-1070465dmvcrGardens are maturing all around the old cemetery.

 

2014Camino-1070469dmv Thank you, Random Gardener, for wearing a color complementary to green.

2014Camino-1070473dmvcrOpen areas nestled in with wooded areas are used for growing crops for feed that are cut by hand.

2014Camino-1070477dmvcrThis section of the path is steep and slippery and we don’t see any other pilgrims.  Are we lost?  Did we miss a sign?  We come to a fork in the road and see no yellow arrows. Should we turn back? Should we panic? We gingerly trek to the right. Thank goodness... we finally see a yellow arrow.

2014Camino-1070479dmvplcl50crColoring with his daughter in front of his home along the Camino de Santiago.  What a great dad!

2014Camino-1070480kpdmv50crThe Camino takes us along the village of Samos and the Benedictine Monasterio de San Julián de Samos. It was founded in the 6th century by San Martin Dumiense and renovated by San Fructuoso in the 7th century. Unfortunately soon after the monastery was renovated it was abandoned because of the Moorish invasion and it wasn’t until the Asturian King Fruela I reconquered the area did the monks return. Some years later King Fruela was assassinated and the monks gave refuge to the King’s wife and son, who was later to become Alfonso II of Asturias. Because of this the monastery was granted royal protection.  ~ Galicia Guide

2014Camino-1070484poppldmv13th century Iglesia San Salvador. The belfry is a later 19th century addition.

2014Camino-1070481dmvkpcrPilgrim Statue along the Camino route.

2014Camino-1070485dmvcrFinally, we reach the town of Sarria.  How much further to the albergue?  Elizabeth and Bryon have gone ahead to get us booked into the albergue in time so we try to make radio contact now. We make contact and we must keep going through town to the other side.  A-r-g-h…

2014Camino-1070488dmvcrReally, this many steps?  We’ve already gone about 30 + kilometers (extra credit since we find out later that we took the long route) and we are hungry and tired. Our albergue is at the top of these stairs, but at least we see the yellow arrow indicating it is on the Camino route.

O.K., here we go...  anything for a bed to sleep in tonight.

 

Galicia and O’Cebreiro

2014Camino-1070328dmvcrWe are now officially in Galicia. This part of the country has an economy based on fishing, farming, agriculture and increasingly tourism.  While the population is Spanish, they see themselves primarily as “Gallegos.”   When the Galicians talk about nationalism, they are generally referring to the “nation of Galicia”  rather than the nation of Spain.  ~ http://www.galiciaguide.com

2014caminoblog-1070340In O Cebreiro, all roads lead to the village church. Founded in the year 836, Santa María la Real (Royal St. Mary’s) is supposedly the oldest church on the entire French Road of the Camino de Santiago. The building is embedded into the ground, with sunken floors that added protection against winter storms.

2014caminoblog-1070342 At a desk, a clerk stamps pilgrims’ credentials and sells votive candles.

2014caminoblog-1070343The building is quite spacious inside.

2014caminoblog-1070347Many are only short-term pilgrims and are dropped off by large tour buses that wait while they explore the village and pay their respects with a candle purchase.

2014caminoblog-1070350 Villagers lived in stone huts called pallozas until as recently as the 1960’s.  Upon entering a palloza, which typically housed a dozen people (and their animals), you’ll find two simple rooms: the only “private” room in the house, belonging to the parents, and a living area around a fire. Surrounding the fire are clever benches (which were also used as very hard beds) with pull-down counters so they could double as a table at mealtime. Cooking was done over the fire using a chain hanging from a big beam, while giant black-metal spirals suspended from the ceiling were used to smoke chorizo.

2014caminoblog-1070352Attached to the living area is a miniature “barn,” where animals lived on the lower level, and people — kept warm by all that livestock body heat — slept on the upper level. Thanks to the ideal insulation provided by the thatch, and the warmth from the fire and animals, it was toasty even through the difficult winter.  ~ Thank you, Rick Steves, for the fun facts to know and tell.

2014caminoblog-1070356It was a little on the cool side and this cat has found a nice sunny spot to guard the beer crate in back of an old cafe.

2014caminoblog-1070360Shopping is available at the horreo (granary).

2014caminoblog-1070361… and here it is, but store is closed.

2014caminoblog-1070358Have no fear!  Gypsies decide to set up shop right by a cafe sign so I guess I can shop, after all!

2014caminoblog-1070362  I’m taking photos of the cute dog, right?  Oh, and there just happens to be Gyspies in the background.

2014caminoblog-1070367Group shot just outside O’Cebreiro as we begin our descent to the other side of the mountain. We’ve enjoyed our little noon break in this quaint village with so much Celtic influence and history.

Now it’s back to hiking with Fonfria as our destination.  We enjoy conversations with other Pilgrims, but I can’t say the trail is over-crowded.

Milking time is done… for now.

Camino de Santiago Day #6 continues up the mountain, O’Cebreiro…

The path passes through a small dairy farm and we arrive just after morning milking.

2014Camino-1070308dmvThe girls are milked and it’s time to mo-o-o-o-ve on.

2014Camino-1070313dmvLooks like Grandma has kid duty and a strong grasp on her charge. Don’t even think about it, Nino!

 

O’Cebreiro, you’ve been waiting for us

It’s Day #7.  We are up with the chickens since we have a long day and a mountain ahead of us.

camino-frances-26o-cebreiroOur path goes from right to left.

This mountain is the original reason we are back since we have unfinished business.  In March of 2013 a snowstorm stopped us in our tracks.  It is August now so we should be clear to go, but we must get an early start to make it all the way to Fonfria today.

A group of rambunctious teenage boys out and about at 5:30 a.m. seem suspicious at first, but we quickly realize they are just playing pranks on a cafe employee opening up for the day. She is not amused and we pass by with ease.

The video is a little jiggly because I didn’t want to be left behind, all alone, in the dark!

2014Camino-1070286Indiana Joan is ready to head up the mountain.

2014Camino-1070282dmvcrWe begin the climb.

2014Camino-1070278dmvWe find a self-service concession stand utilizing an honor system.  We also see these in western Minnesota, along the highways, when someone has garden produce available for purchase and they are not able to tend the stand.

2014Camino-1070289dmvcrFountain in a little hamlet along the way.

2014Camino-1070290dmvTranslation:  Despite the breath (as he says), I have to laugh. Let’s say you smile, laugh, because I can not.  I really don’t feel that out of breath and the legs feel great.

2014Camino-1070300dmvWork to do on the mountain… or is he in charge of crowd control?

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camino2014-1070302Looking back, the views are breathtaking.

camino2014-1070304The path is cut down into the ground and, above us, we now enjoy the open views of pastures and cattle grazing contentedly as the sun begins to warm the air.

Ah-h-h-h-h… this is the life and not a snowflake in sight!

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6 ~ It’s the climb… for some.

2014Camino-1070204dmvWe notice a very cool mural across the street from the bus station loading area.  Translation:  Human race is the only.

2014Camino-1070202dmvcrWe are boarding a bus for a 25 kilometer (about 16.5 miles) ride to Villafranca del Bierzo where we will start walking again.

2014Camino-1070208We immediately find a fork in the road and aren’t sure of the route.  Hmmm…. this way?  …or that way?

2014Camino-1070205dmvWe ask some friendly locals who cheerfully guided us through town, down steps, past the church and point us to the road on the other side of town.  This route joined up with the other road so either one would have been fine, but you never know and it doesn’t hurt to ask.  This one was more interesting due to the challenge of the language barrier, and interesting local character .   They did not push us to tour the church for a donation, so it appears they are just plain friendly folks.  A smile is a smile in any language.2014Camino-1070212Our path is now alongside the highway, but our group has split up.  Randy, Liz and Bryon take the harder path, Dragonte, that winds up and around the mountainous area.

0820140401dmvcrLooking back over Villafranca del Bierzo

0820140420dmvcrThe path is incredibly steep, Randy’s legs are taxed, as if saying “That’s what you get for taking a day off.”

0820140414dmvcrBack in the medieval times this was the path taken to avoid robbers and thieves.  The government then decided to make it a toll road and charged travelers that chose this route.  Some may say highway robbery was involved with both routes.

0820140542dmv4x6We are happy to report that there were no toll booths for either route today.

0820140631dmvcrTheir views are spectacular both far away and close-up as they admire this walking stick insect.

2014Camino-1070215dmvkp50Meanwhile, Joan and I are wandering through little villages in the Valcarce Valley, where there is work to do.

2014Camino-1070217dmvcr I have a wheelbarrow similar to that one at home except mine doesn’t have a rubber tire. I still use mine, too.

2014Camino-1070221dmvI don’t think this albergue is open today.

2014Camino-1070226dmvcrWe meet young families that are transporting their kids in a stroller and behind a bike.  We visit often throughout the next few days with the parents of a one year old from Germany using the stroller.  Walking the Camino with little kids has got to be a challenge.

Amazingly, our two groups meet up right about where the path comes together again.  What timing.

2014Camino-1070238dmvcrRandy’s motto most days.

2014Camino-1070241dmvcr15 kilometers later we arrive at our destination. (9.3 miles, but closer to 10 miles for the challenging route)  Liz has booked beds ahead so we don’t have to worry about the bed race.

2014Camino-1070249A-a-a-h-h-h-h… home, sweet, home and the welcome mat is out.

We come from a land down under…  Why is this song by the Australian group, Men at Work, running through my head right now?

A planned fast forward on Day #5: Pamplona to Ponferrada

It’s the morning of Camino de Santiago day #5 and we pack cookies purchased in a quaint little cookie shop last night in Pamplona.

2014Camino-1070180dmvNo, we didn’t buy all these cookies.

2014Camino-1070181dmvcrThrough the dark morning air, on our walk to the bus station, we pass a life-size monument depicting the running of the bulls.

map_dotsThe black dots mark our route via bus today.

2014Camino-1070183dmvWe notice the drier appearance of the terrain on the flat plains on the plateau of central Spain which is referred to as the Meseta.  I have read that this section is challenging in a way that is more mental than physical, but can also be beastly hot in August.  Since we don’t have enough time to walk this section, we are fast-forwarding by taking a bus today to Ponferrada, Spain.  Maybe this would be a good region to tour on a bicycle rather than walking?

2014Camino-1070188dmvkpOur bus arrives in Ponferrada, which is surrounded by mountains and is the capitol city of El Bierzo in the province of Leon, Spain. In 1178, Ferdinand II of Leon donated the city to the Templar order for protecting pilgrims on the Way of St. James who passed through El Bierzo on their road to Santiago de Compostela.  The castle hosted the Knights Templar’s Grand Master of Castille.  The Templars were only able to enjoy the use of this fortress for about twenty years before the order was disbanded and its properties confiscated.  ~ Wikipedia

Seems like a lot of work for just twenty years.

2014Camino-1070197dmvcrEven though we spent the day on a bus, we still seem to have an appetite and find a cute little bar/restaurant with a personable owner. It appears as though the locals frequent this establishment, so that should be a good sign.

2014Camino-1070192dmvcrRussian Salad – a cold, vinegar potato salad.  It’s not only pretty, but delicious, too!

2014Camino-1070193dmvCocido, a hearty chick pea stew with pork.

2014Camino-1070196Cochinillo (roast suckling pig)  Pork dishes are common in this region.

The mural above brightens the street near our hostel as we dream of the adventures that lie ahead. We will be taking a short bus ride in the morning to Villafranca del Bierzo where we will start walking again.  Oh, it will feel so good to drink in the surroundings and just walk again…

 

 

 

 

Camino Fast Forward… to Pamplona

The end of Camino Day Three is becoming more challenging.  No beds to be found in Zubiri (Rats!) No beds to be found in Larrasoana (Double Rats!).

Not being able to bring a bed back to Joan, waiting at the Rabies Bridge, we collect her and locate a cafe with wireless capabilities.

Time to figure out what Plan B should look like.  Elizabeth, A.K.A. Guru of Travel, works the daylights out of Joan’s Ipad at a cafe in Zubiri and she and Joan team up to find enough beds in Pamplona, Spain. Fast forward, via taxi, about 12.5 miles.

2014Camino-1070091dmv We end day three with a stay in a hotel near the Camino route about three miles from the city center. Day four begins with a leisurely three mile walk to the historic city center, which is quite easy compared to the previous days.
2014Camino-1070098dmvcrIt appears other tourists are eager to greet us, ignoring the poor homeless man.

2014Camino-1070095dmvcrWhile passing a city park I observe that kids are kids the world around, complete with moms overseeing their activities and sharing a conversation.

2014Camino-1070100dmvcrAfter a little bit of wandering and asking directions, we find our place of lodging  (above and on the left) and are early enough to get five beds.  This albergue opens at 1:00 p.m. daily and will fill up by 2:30 p.m. today. Finding beds has become a race in itself due to the number of people walking and biking the Camino this time of year.

2014Camino-1070127dmv

A little background on our lodging tonight:

2014Camino-1070120dmvAnother way of re-purposing, which is a trend these days.

2014Camino-1070117dmvPosters advertise bull fights, but no running of the bulls… that’s O.K.

2014Camino-1070096dmvcrNow, which street do they run the bulls?  Could be any of these or all of these.

2014Camino-1070097dmvcr Quite narrow and I would surely be trampled!

2014Camino-1070132dmvWe tour the massive Pamplona Cathedral, mostly dating from the 15th century.

2014Camino-1070143dmvcr

2014Camino-1070156dmv

2014Camino-1070129dmvcrRandy visits with the French monk that we met the day before while on the path.

2014Camino-1070138dmvDo I see a clothesline through these enormous pillars?  Adrenaline rush.

2014Camino-1070134dmvMy day is complete.  Boom!

2014Camino-1070160dmvThe guy in the red t-shirt seems to be training for the running of the bulls!

2014Camino-1070113dmvTime to locate a meal for these starving pilgrims and Menu del dia is a favorite.

2014Camino-1070176dmvYum!?

2014Camino-1070106dmvTraditional paella is on the menu… why not?

2014Camino-1070121dmvHome, sweet home, for tonight.  Our tummies are full and it’s time to call it a day.  Tomorrow includes another Fast Forward, as scheduled in our original Plan A.

2014Camino-1070126dmvThis creepy doll is across the street from our albergue… watching us as we sleep.

Sweet dreams…?