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Published: October 18th 2016
Since I last wrote, I have been walking through the most glorious countryside. This week, other than the first day has to be the best for views. It reminds me very much of home and it is only the different style of buildings and pathwork that gives the game away, otherwise you could.be in a beautiful little bit of England.
On Saturday 15th October I started the day, leaving Villafranca de Berlioz, with Donna (USA, introduced by Maura), Ann (Scottish, met at Rabanal) and Mike (USA, in same Albergue Santa Marina and then next bed in Albergue El Piedro). Most of us prefer to walk with someone first thing in the morning especially when its dark and foggy, we help each other with navigation ie spotting the way markers.
We gradually split apart as we start to gain confidence and all go at a different pace. Later I hear a voice and its Maura and we walk together. A beautiful walk, on the track and in the folds of the mountain. Josie is with us for a while but we head off when she takes a comfort break. The views as we look behind us are stunning. This has
to be the best day of the whole walk for scenery. The climb is steep and relentless but worth every step.
Just before Maura and I met again I had spotted Anne Claire resting next to a trough. I quite fancied a rest myself. At the beginning we stayed, by coincidence, at all the same albergues. The guy she was walking with is the one who tipped me off about the benefit of sponges. Luckily we didn't stay at the same Albergue in Belorado as that's where they got bed bugs. I bumped into Gabrielle a few days ago when he told me the whole story. Ann Claire decided to go back to where she had left off and Gabrielle just continued from Burgos where they had gone to clean up. I never thought I would see her again and we sat to rest on a stone bench next to the trough. She gave me a Marie biscuit (similar to rich tea) and I offered part of my Santiago tart (Almond cake).
As someone else came up the hill that A C knew I carried on up and later met Maura. The views were to die for, fold
upon fold of mountain behind us surrounding the valleys below, smoky layers of cloud swirling in and around the valleys and hills. We both spotted a tree, alone on the hill on the side of the path. Red in its autumn glory. And we took a photo of each other beside it. We saw cattle being herded down the hill by a farmer on horseback, no saddle, his feet nearly touching the ground, dentally challenged. A perfect rustic scene.
And then Maura discovered she can still pull. The farmer propositioned her, much to our later amusement. We eventually reach O'Cebreiro and the cloud stays off for a bit though its dull. In front of us the view is spectacular. We are tired and arriving at the albergue find its the worst one so far. No shower curtains, stink of sewerage in the showers and crammed in the bedroom like sardines, Maura and I have to top and tail the beds are that close. Still its a place to rest our heads and you have to get used to it.
Not wanting to stay in the hostel I went to a bar and had a cafe con leche then hot chocolate (l can highly recommend it) when an email arrives from Claire (we go to bars for WiFi as much as anything). She asks if I continued to walk with Robert after she'd left and I updated her. Two minutes later 'Helllooooi Steeeph.' Its the man himself. Would you believe it?!!! We had dinner together, went to mass and then said goodbye again. He was meeting Sue the next day.
All the days for about the last week have started off dark, cloudy and foggy. Leaving O Cebreiro on Sunday 16th it was raining as well. I left at the same time as another lady, we don't speak a word ofceach others language but both knew we liked each other and wanted to help each other out of the dark and cloud. Most of the past few days have been the same when you can see, field bounded by stone walls, sometimes a tree line edging them, walking through farmyards of varying maintenance and cleanliness just like home and quite a bit of walking on the edge of deciduous forest on a tree lined track.
I definitely wanted to get to Triacastela and hoped to get further the challenge being a dearth of albergues for 10 km. I made it to the albergue at Calvor so did really well. Three or four hours later Lucia came in the same room.
It was much the same on Monday 17th, cloud and fog much of the walk, beautiful countryside very reminiscent of many places at home. I decide to have a snack and drink stop at a bar that is rammed. There are three people at a table, one just leaving. Penelope. One of the others I recognise. She is beaming, 'Steph, do you remember me?' Luckily, I confidently say, yes of course. Mainly because I think I am looking at Shira from Albergue Tio Pepe. Then I realise the accent is very different. I go to order and whilst I wait and n the long queue it clicks. Bettina. When I was in Leon she flew into there and started her very first night then day walking. I was already in the room we shared at San Fransisco Asis albergue when she arrived and was one of the first if not the first peregrinos she saw at the start of her Camino.
It got slightly weirder. It turns out that in one of the albergues she heard someone talking about Steph and she thought, 'I know Steph.' So she is now also an acquaintance of Reinhold.
Talking of Reinhold, Bob made me laugh. You know already that Reinhold is part time priest part time orchid cultivator. He's even spent time in Kew gardens. Apparently he and Bob were in the same albergue or bar and there was a beautiful orchid covered with about a dozen blooms
Reinhold went up to it, examined it closely and slowly and precisely picked them all off except one. Oh to be a fly on the wall when the owner sees it.
Later yesterday I met Penelope again and we walked into Portomarin together, shared a washing machine and dryer, had dinner, slept in adjoining beds and walked out together this morning. I will email later to see where she got to. I knew I wanted to go beyond Palas de Rei whereas Penelope hadn't decided yet. Felicity and Robert have emailed, they will arrive in Santiago tomorrow so I will miss them unless they stay on for a couple of days.
Today 18th was much the same with cloud/fog later lifting, about 1 pm to reveal achingly pretty countryside. I am thoroughly enjoying this part of the walk. I came across British Columbian Joan (Astorga) and we lunched together. I hoped to make it to Casanova but got further: Melides. So I will make Santiago on Friday all things being equal with a small possibility of getting there Thursday.
On Sunday I catch the 4.15 pm bus from Santiago to Salamanca to start a 2 week intensive Spanish course. I will stay with a host family of a couple of business people. Not sure what they will make of me. I have a couple of sets of walking gear and only one other outfit. That I've worn for 5 weeks (I have washed it a couple of times) and it's quite raggedy by now.
Tomorrow I would like to make it to Salceda but f I could get to Pedrouzo that would be brill.
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