Sunrises and Octopus are the best in Galicia
The plan for today is to “get up the mountain”, but depending on how we feel we may go the 30.3 km to O Cebreiro (our first idea) or save our selves the last 5.1 km and stop at La Faba (Emmanuel’s better idea).
We left the village just before sunrise. Just after the bridge there is also a choice of routes. You can stay on the main road and walk in the valley, the road is not very busy since a motorway has been opened nearby. The second path involves a 400 metre climb and descent to finish at the same place. The second route is certainly more scenic, but much more strenuous. It is also going to be dark at this time and we felt that might be too much of a challenge and so we opted for the valley route. They both end in Trabadelo.
The first 22 km on our chosen route is gently uphill and fairly easy, but there is nowhere to get a coffee or breakfast for 11.5 km, until Trabadelo.
“Trabadelo is typical of the villages we will pass through during the next two days; one street villages seemingly isolated from the modern world. For pilgrims of of the past this was a dangerous area where local lords supported themselves by taxing pilgrims, violence was not uncommon, though Alfonso VI tried to put a stop to the practice.” Most of the towns today are tiny and consist of houses and a few businesses on both sides of one narrow street.
There are many of these “shrines” of good wishes along the way.
There were few places open to get food anywhere at all today, but we finally found a bar to get some sandwiches at the base of the next steep climb in Las Herrerías de Valcarce. This was 3.2 km from La Faba and 8.3 from O Cebreiro. The last part of the day however is hard going with an assent from 700 meters to 1,330 meters, a hard afternoon. We are all a bit tired in general today. Climbing we were too hot and tired to take any photos at all.
La Faba is a tiny village with only 25 inhabitants. The small 16th century Church of Saint Andrew was rebuilt during the 18th century. It and the alberge are run by a German Confraternity. By the time we got here to la Faba Sara was done for the day with fatigue and sore feet. We were greeted by the couple who were in charge and served juice tea and cookies. They got everyone checked in and showed us around. The church is small, but lovely and they had orchestral music playing to sooth the weary soul.
Once the laundry was washed and hung out we headed into “town”. This consisted of 2 bars and a very small grocery. Here you have to ring the bell for service and it actually rings somewhere else in the village and the owner then comes over to let you in. Or like us you sit and wait for them. The albergue has a nice full kitchen and we stocked up for a big pasta dinner. There was a nice bar where we had some of the best Tinto de Verano on the trip.
Today we will finally do get to the top of the hill. We set out before first light and this did make the steep rocky trail a bit of a challenge. It was slow going with the head lamps, but the trail improved after the first 1.5 km. We also were treated to a spectacular sun rise. Making it to the top of the hill at O Cebeiro after 5 km. Most of this day after this is downhill, though it can still be hilly between O Cebreio and Fonfria – 11.5 km, after this it is gently downhill until Triacastela after 20.6 km.
Leaving La Faba after 2.5 km you arrive to La Laguna, which is the last town in Leon, however it looks and feels Galician. The stones houses, (pallozas), with thatched roofs are typically Galician and you will see many between here on Santiago. There is a large horreo, corn storage, in the village; you will see hundreds of these for the next few days, however this is perhaps the best well preserved between here and Santiago.
Today we leave the province of Leon and enter Galicia. About 1km after the village of Laguna de Castilla you will see the stones marking the boundary and the distance left to Santiago.
“Cebreiro is the first village in Galicia, it has just over 1,200 inhabitant and sit at 1,293 metres. Due to the location it has always been an important spot on the Camino Frances in aiding pilgrims get across the mountains safely. There was a pilgrims hospital here in 1072 entrusted by Alfonso VI to monks from St. Giraldo d’Aurillac, later it was administered by the Benedictines until the dis-entailment.. Be warned O Cebreiro is a touristic stop for buses and car drivers.” We are glad we did not come here yesterday.
Early morning walking is beautiful with clouds often below in the valleys. Most of the walking today is on paths and tracks with only a small amount on minor roads. We walked up and down today in and out of the fog.
Linares is a tiny hamlet with only half a dozen houses, it has however been here since the 8th century. After Linares there is an uphill climb to Alto de San Roque. There was once a hermitage here dedicated to San Roque who made the pilgrimage in the 14th century from France. Now the spot is marked by a bronze statue of St James with his head down fighting the strong winds.
Fonfria is the largest of the small hamlets we have passed through today so far with about 40 inhabitants. The villager make their living from pilgrims and production of a local cheese known as Queixo de Cebreiro. The smell of the dairy industry is everywhere and the road littered with “cow bombs”. Here we got some wifi and finally reconnected with our friends Daniella and Theresa (who like most others had stayed in O Cebreiro last night) and asked them to save us a bed in their reserved place in Triacastela. Since they had at least a 5 km head start on us this morning we would then not need to worry or rush to get one of the limited beds.
After Fonfria the Camino Frances starts to drop, over the length of 9 km by 600 meters, some of the descents are quite steep.
Triacastela is small town founded in the 9th century, (about 700 inhabitants), has the slightly grandiose name of the Three Castles – none of which still exist. Though the Triacastela provides a good selection of restaurants, bars, hostels, and hotels for pilgrims.
This Canadian woman with one leg was faster than most people except on the down hill sections. She has an anatomic prosthesis in that pack too.
Chestnuts were underfoot a lot of the journey.
These dairy towns really smelled like cow pies!!
We were happy to have a nice place to stay in town and near all the restaurants. The municipal in way before the town and way off the road. It is rainy and cold and trudging back and forth would have been a drag. We also managed to get the 4 snorers into a room together and not with us. The other girls had snagged the private room too.
We all enjoyed the Galician style Pulpo!