Day 28 (31 KM)
Ruitelán – Tricatela
Fall has definitely arrived. The air is cool and crisp, our breath visible as we exhale. Today is the fabled “big climb” up to O’CEBREIRO. A Spanish peregrino, Fernando told us that today’s climb will be the most memorable of the entire Camino. Funny thing was he was not wrong, but it had nothing to do with the climb or the views. That story however, will come in a little bit.
Fully bundled for the morning’s chill, we begin our day’s trek. We walk upon a small country road through several small hamlets that remind us of scenes from Robin Hood, Men in Tights or Princess Bride. Today is supposed to our last “big” climb of the Camino with our day’s halfway point being O’Cebriero. Today we will also enter Galicia, which is supposed to be the most picturesque of the entire Camino, as far a scenery.
Steep rolling hillsides of farms and ranches fill the landscape. The greenery is amazing, but fall colors are starting to show, and a change in weather is sure to come sooner than we would like. Soon our “assault” on the fabled hill begins.
The trail first wandered up a densely wooded area of soft dirt, then steepens to hard cobble and then a mix of the two. Leaves have fallen into the trail, softening our footfall as we march onward and upward. Body heat is reaching maximum capacity requiring a shedding of a layer or two. Upon reaching the “top” at O’Cebreiro, we must bundle up again. There we are greeted by Orange tour buses and touragrinos dressed to the “nines” and smelling of fresh soap. They peruse the shops hawking peregrino paraphernalia. They smile and scrunch their noses as our stench obviously precedes the clack of our hiking poles.
The views are Remarkable with a patchwork of lush green pastures, dotted with grazing cattle, farms and forest. Giant power lines and black ribbon roads wind their way to the next valley and over the next mountain.
We continue down the rough cobblestoned road to the edge of town and spy a small church whose small Bell tower is accessible from the outside. No one is around so we decide to scramble up the steep rough hewn “stairs” to check it out. As it is not very tall, the view is not what we had hoped for, but we do see a long stiff wire attached to one of the bells.
Paul wonders aloud what it would be like to ring the bell. I caution him NOT to, and soon we discover the origin of the phrase, ‘A Bell that has been rung, can not be unrung’. Paul turns to look out the tower and his pack brushes up against the dangling wire and the bell begins to ring…softly. He tries to quiet it, but it only makes it worse. A quick scramble down the steeple and we are back on the trail with no one the wiser, except for the German who had stopped for lunch just outside the church. Crap! We continue our trek and that quickly descends and climbs once more to Alto San Roque.
We reach the top and are blasted by a head wind and greeted by a giant iron peregrino (Monumento do Peregrino) also bracing against the wind. It is well past lunch and I have been carrying a 1/2 bottle of wine for two days now from Cacabelos. We walk a little further and are about to stop and finish it off with a stash of cookies, before we begin another steep climb, of which we have no recollection of mention in our “guide book”, when we spy a signature yellow coat ahead and above us. Change of plans. We will first finish the climb, and see if that yellow coat belongs to Dave.
A short wander later and we are at a café, atop Alto do Poio. Whom should we find inside the café sipping a beer through a straw, but none other than Dave. We order our “signature” jamon y queso bocadillos, and a beer for Paul. I will finally drink my wine. We laugh and talk with Dave. A van pulls up and unloads two cyclists and their expensive tricked out mountain bikes. Peregrino scallop shells dangle from their handlebars. What? Before one of the young cyclist remounts his bike to “coast” downhill, he lights up a cigar and sips a beer. Seriously? I think we have seen everything now. In talking with Dave, we find out that he has ” shipped” his pack ahead via an Irishman of whose name he can’t recall. Neither can he recall specifically which albergue or town they were to reconnect. He thinks it is Triacastela, but hopes it is Filloval. So do we. We walk and talk together.
I trail behind admiring the countryside. Soon they are way ahead, but turn back occasionally to “check” on me as my instep has begun to hurt again. Just before we cross a road, I stop and watch as a farmer instructs his large German shepherds to stay and watch his cattle as they graze on the hillside with no fencing. I get to the road and Paul and Dave have disappeared!
…to be continued
Be Strong! Austin Strong!