March ’18 Camino Day 1: Santiago-O Cebreiro

After a fairly comfortable day of travel from Liverpool to Dublin to Santiago, I arrived in town in the early evening and checked into Anosa Casa, as I do when I arrive. Then I organised everything for the early departure the next day and went out for a bite to eat, ie going to the Café Casino, which I discovered served zamburiñas! Thoroughly enjoyed it and met some German gentlemen who were aiming for the prime seats to listen to a piano player later in the evening. I had to have an early night though so I turned down a generously offered glass of albarinho (gasp!) and went to my bed.

The next morning I got up early, fumbling with my packing like some amateur, and made it to the bus station in good time. The bus journey was uneventful and long, but the outside temperature that popped up on the display inside the bus at regular intervals made me uneasy and there seemed to be a lot of snow everywhere when we got closer to Pedrafita.


In the end I got off at Ambasmestas instead of Villafranca, thinking I could have a quick lunch at the café there, but it was closed for refurbishment before the start of the season. As was the next one. I got my first coffee of the day in Ambasmestas village, tried and failed to make the lady understand that I wanted a sandwich with ‘normal’ (ie square) bread instead of a huge bocadillo for my lunch, but was happy in the end – I really needed it. Then a quick taxi to Herrerias to save time and tarmac, and off I went up my all time favourite Camino etapa: The climb up to O Cebreiro.


No sooner had I got my pack on and everything felt good, than it started bucketing down. So I put my poncho on. Then took it off when the rain stopped and the sun and the hill made me too warm. Then it started raining again, and I started shedding the layers, keeping the poncho on. The trail was gorgeous, as usual – green, quiet, ancient, steep, and empty. I had it all to myself and I loved every step, every minute of it.


All of La Faba was closed, so I carried on up to Laguna, looking forward to a quick pit stop there. On the way there I could feel the temperature changing, the sky gradually changed from bright blue to white and then grey, and the trail was wetter and still had snow in places.


By the time I smelt the cow barns in Laguna, it started lightly drizzling. By the time I got served, it had started hailing. Before I had finished my drink, it was snowing. When that stopped, I was getting ready to go, but another pilgrim came in and we started talking. He asked if I would like to walk together up to O Cebreiro, and off we went. I was glad of the company and glad we chose to take the carretera, the road route – it started snowing again, then more forcefully, then the wind started whipping around us. By the time we were getting closer to O Ceb, it was practically a white-out, and the only thing I could see was the black, wet band of the tarmac road under my feet.

At one point I thought I could hear children laughing and it worried me – what would they be doing out in this weather? Were they lost? Should we try to find them and save them? But no – as we got closer to the old stone village, the snow covered fields on both sides of the road were filled with snow tourists from as far away as A Coruña! Children and parents in colourful padded snow wear, laughing and building igloos and snowmen or sliding down the hill on bright pink plastic round things while I fought my way through the wind and snow towards the warmth and caldo and reserved room waiting for me at Venta Celta. I was not disappointed.


That evening I met my fellow peregrino again for a meal, and met another who joined us and shared the rest of his pilgrim menu bottle of wine with us. Then off to bed in a properly snowy and cold and stunningly beautiful O Cebreiro.


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