Camino Day 19, Sat 15/6/02:

41 km today
652 total


Today's walking had some of the most beautiful scenery on the whole camino. Had a café solo in Vega de Valcarce to get the ould heart started; I started walking in earnest around 7:15 AM. The way goes through lush countryside, following the river Valcarce at first but climbing slowly from 600m at the start to 1300m in O Cebreiro. It's all very gentle, though, and I had ample opportunity to admire the incredible scenery.

Cycling peregrinos

with motorway flyover (42K)

Climbing to O Cebreiro

following River Valcarce (38K)

Halfway up

to O Cebreiro (35K)

Cattle and Hills

on the climb (40K)

Galicia is the Celtic region of Spain; the similarities between it and Ireland are hard to deny. Both are wet and subsequently verdant. Both are (or were until very recently) predominantly rural and poor societies: I was struck by how many old women -- some very old indeed -- could be seen working in the fields, often singing, seemingly oblivious to their lot. I confess such sights from time to time awoke a yearning in me for the "simple" life; alas I suspect I am tainted by having supped at the table of consumerism... is it possible to be thus content, having known relative "wealth"? It would be interesting to find out...

But enough of the semi-philosophical warblings. Speaking of warblings, I understood absolutely nothing of the Gallego, the Celtic-influenced Galician dialect of Spanish, that I heard a husband and wife farmer couple calling to each other across the fields while driving their cattle up a winding cow-track. It sounded more like Arabic! But then, they could just have been driving their cattle...

The view backwards

towards Laguna de Castilla (30K)

Galicia! (Province of Lugo)

only 153 km to Santiago (61K)


in O Cebreiro (70K)

Tourist shop, O Cebreiro

with Santiago statue (84K)
The village of O Cebreiro ("O" appears to be Galician for the definite article "El", "A" for "La" - hence "A Coruña") is a Spanish national monument - a village consisting of round thatched pallozas reputedly of Celtic origin, some more modern buildings, and the lovely little church of Santa María. I did some sightseeing, as it was 9:45, breakfasted in a local bar on a glass of the locally-brewed sidra and a slice of tuna empanada (a rather large round tart-like affair about an inch thick in which the generally savoury filling is completely envoloped in a thin crust of pastry.) Yum.

Surrounding countryside

O Cebreiro (40K)

View West

from O Cebreiro (38K)

Ermita de San Roque

Alto de San Roque (65K)


Striding purposefully westwards (40K)

I was lucky with the weather - there were magnificent views to be had from this vantage point. The way undulated slowly up and down over the hills for a few km, and then spent the next 12 km slowly winding down to Triacastela at 650m. The way - as it was to be in nearly all of Galicia - was nearly all shaded, and so can be walked even in the heat of the afternoon.

Galician Waymarker

Hospital da Condesa (91K)

Ermita de Santa María

Alto do Poio (41K)

Dublin John gets his crêpe

Filloval (52K)

Aussie Alex, Dublin John

and the crêpe lady (50K)

In Galicia, there is a marker stone every half a kilometre on the camino, not only telling you how far you have to go, but also the name of the townland you're in. Drawn by curiousity, I wandered into the simple Ermita de Santa María at Alto do Poio (1415m); the little chapel was suffused with the incense-like smell of the Cistus bush that someone had placed as an offering near the altar. Very Peaceful.

Shortly after this, I bumped into two guys walking together - John Costelloe from Dublin (only the second Irish person I'd met), and Alex from Australia. John had a small guitar and strummed as he went. I never did find out if he could play :-) We walked together a while. In places, the camino literally passes through people's farmyards; at one such, a little old lady came out and offered us sugared crêpes and a seat in the shade. We were very touched by her generosity.
... And more than a little nonplussed when, on our getting up to go, she demanded a euro per crêpe! (Apparently this is another example of "euro inflation" - it was well up on the year before when, I'm told, it was only 50 pesetas - or 30 cents. Tsk!)

More Panoramic Views

Triacastela (44K)

Don Quix

Who, us? (80K)

Typical Galician Path

Shaded - Nearing Samos (98K)

Monastery Facade

Samos (55K)

We met a Dutch couple who were using a donkey to carry all their gear, and, having come all the way from Utrecht, who could blame them? The donkey seemed to be enjoying herself, anyway.
As the way was nearly always shaded, we decided to head for Samos, and ambled along, taking our time and all going at our own speeds, though we were never more than a kilometre apart, so someone sitting down for a cigarette break or whatever would soon find that others would catch up with him. We eventually arrived around 6pm. The Benedictine monastery at Samos, a national monument, is also the refugio for us pilgrims. It was once home to 500 monks, but only 11 were left (so there's plenty of room.) The sleeping and sanitation conditions are very basic, but no one was complaining. Some of us managed to get a quick tour of the monastery before vespers; the 8 or so monks doing plainchant were far more impressive than their numbers suggest.

After vespers, had dinner con vino with the lads in a local restaurant, and returned to the monastery before lights out at 10pm. After a tough but memorable day, my own lights went out very shortly afterwards...