We are in Triacastela (although there are no signs of the three castles that gave this place it's name.) We walked about 26kms through the most stunning scenery but on cross-country paths that slowed us down to about 3.5kms an hour so it took us longer than usual to complete our day's walking. If you can imagine walking a marathon a day, that is what it is like when we walk over 6 hours a day!
Back to Ave Fenix at Villafranca del Bierzo. Jesus Jato did not perform the firewater ceremony - Quimado - but after a communal dinner he did some Reiki on Marion and me (to help us sleep, he said) and a foot massage on a German pilgrim. I showed him the photograph in the album of him doing foot massage and he asked me to sit next to him whilst he paged through the album, exclaiming with delight when he recognized an old friend or saw a photo of the old albergue.
The Ave Fenix albergue is locked until 7am and there was a queue of pilgrims waiting to escape when Jesus arrived to open the gates. We left without coffee or breakfast so we stopped at the first village with an open cafe bar for coffee and tostados. The route was mainly on flat, little country lanes, winding through villages and hamlets for about 20kms. Then came the big climb! The guidebook suggests that you allow 3 hours for 8kms to O'Cebreiro. We were only going 4km up to La Faba but it was still a very steep, rocky pull up to La Faba. Marion and I kept enthusing over the incredible scenery on the way up but poor Anneliese had a torrid time with her feet and said that it was the toughest day so far for her. La Faba is a farm village with one part-time shop (you ring the bell if you want the woman to come out of her house and open the door), no telephone, one bar and two albergues. We booked into an albergue, which was started by a German pilgrim and is still sponsored by the German Confraternity. After the usual shower, wash clothes etc we left Anneliese to chat with her countrymen whilst we went into the village (about 400m up the road) to suss out dinner prospects. Anneliese chose to have a menu del peregrino at the bar and we booked to have a vegetarian meal with a German hippie who runs the other albergue. This is really just one room downstairs that looks like a Kathmandu teahouse with jewellery on strange wooden boards, tapestries and other fabrics draped here and there, Buddhas scattered about and incense burning. We had a wonderful meal with 7 other people - all the veggies and fruit harvested that afternoon from his vegetable patch across the road.
Last night was like sleeping in a bullfrog swamp! I had a guy on the top bunk who groaned and rumbled all night. A German pilgrim on top of Marion would have won the Bullfrog snoring World Champs! I am sure that it is physically impossible to make the sounds she did whilst she is awake. The snores were long growls like a large dog, growing into a rumble like a tractor starting up and reaching a crescendo like a Boeing taking off. Once she reached that decibel she gargled an incredible variety of sounds - seemed to hold her breath (I got quite concerned waiting for it to all start over again) and then would start with a low rumble and repeat the whole opera over and over again. Marion kept thumping her from below and she would hesitate in full stride but continue within a moment. When we saw her in the morning we couldn't believe that such a little, cheerful looking person with short cropped burgundy red hair could produce such amazing sounds!
At about 6h45 we left the albergue and continued the steep climb to O'Cebreiro. (In 2002 we did this on the road in pouring rain and in 2004 Joy and I whizzed up in our little car through swirling mist.) The sun just started to show as we reached the village. It was breathtaking. At 1400m O'Cebreiro is a mountaintop village that is usually shrouded in mist. I don't have the words to describe a sunrise over O'Cebreiro but the early sunlight bathed everything in a glow and the surrounding hills that plunge down into valleys far below were like a patchwork masterpiece. O'Cebreiro is a listed village that contains a number of Celtic buildings called Pollazas (rondavels really!) and a few other restored stone buildings. After having breakfast at the same little Inn, Joy and I stopped at in 2004 we started our long walk down to Triacastela.
I had a last, pleasant task to do on the way. I have left a photograph and a shell for pilgrim Ezio Gory at the 145kms to do stele just outside Hospital da Condesa. Ezio, I couldn't find your tree in the dark this morning so decided to place the shell at a place you can definitely find when you walk your camino this month! I have placed the shell under a little cairn of stones on the right side of the stelle. I hope you will find it!!
The camino leaves the road just after Linares and from then on you are taken up and down rocky paths all the way to Triacastela. About 3kms before the town the path crosses the main road and I couldn't bear the thought of another rocky descent so Marion and Anneliese crossed over and continued on the stone path whilst I headed down the hill on the road. About 1km before the town I rejoined the path and at exactly that moment Marion and Anneliese turned a corner - so we walked together to this albergue.
As I am typing this Finn is on his way to Johannesburg to get his flight to Santiago. He will arrive in Sarria tomorrow and we will walk to Sarria to meet up with him.
For me this is like a dream come true. Clare and Georgette will remember that in 2002 I said that I would love Finn to walk some of the route with me. They actually bought a little book on Santiago to use when I eventually got Finn there. Well, it is over 5 years later but tomorrow my dear husband will be in Sarria and on Saturday will take his first steps on el camino to Santiago. I will mail again from Sarria.
Love to all,
S A M