(From our winter camino, late February to early March 2020)
Another lovely day, and a tentatively better ankle! We decided to forego the breakfast in the busy motel café and hoped there would be an open bar in Ambasmestas or Vega de Valcarce. If nothing else, the local shop would have some food and drink to take on the walk up to O Cebreiro – no guarantees there would be anything open in La Faba, or even Laguna, where we always stop for a celebratory drink and a long slow gaze at the views.
Off we went, into the pleasantly cool but not cold morning, pleased to be back on the road again. It is a beautiful walk along the river in the green valley, just don’t look up at the motorway high above you. I took a photo of the lovely Casa del Pescador in Ambasmestas, which was closed. As were all the other cafés in town. No matter, only a km and a half to Vega de Valcarce.
When we got to Vega, the bar Cazador was open, with its photos of boar hunting crews and other hunting parafernalia and mementoes. The coffee was hot and strong though, and the toast fresh and thick, and they had tomato and cheese for it instead of just butter and jam, so we filled our bellies and had a nice stop while watching the little local dramas unfold; the girl behind the bar was young and pretty and it certainly drew a crowd.
Well stuffed we stopped at the local shop and grabbed a few cold Aquarius to go as well, and then we carried on along the river. It was getting colder rather than warmer as the day wore on – we were definitely getting closer to the hills or mountains. In fact, as we passed through Ruitelán, we were getting a bit cold, so when we saw a lady with a pinny standing in the doorway of something that looked like, and indeed was, a bar, we accepted her invitation and went inside for another hot drink to warm our hands and hearts on. The lady told us there were very few pilgrims, and wanted to know where we were from and what we did – in part, I think, because she was there all day with her mother, who seemed to be suffering from dementia and kept saying the same thing over and over.
Then we carried on to Herrerias, where the cold and damp hung like a clammy curtain over the village. Hopefully the last bar would be open – yes, the one opposite the washing machine – and as we approached it a man came out. Yay! Only not so yay, because the poster on the door said it was closed for redecorating. As we stood there, a car came driving up and stopped right next to us. It was the taxi driver from the day before, come to see his uncle, who was doing the redecorating! We started talking and got an update about the carnaval (wet and cold), the bar (wet paint) and the washing machine (no hope). Then he asked about the ankle and said he was going up to O Cebreiro anyway, so we could have a lift at half price. We’d only walked 6 km but there would be no place to stop for the next 8, and they would be steep. After a short pow-wow we decided to go for it.
So suddenly we were up there again. I missed the walk, it is incredibly beautiful, but at the same time I would have worried all the way up that the ankle would play up again somewhere far from people. Instead we went to the restaurant overlooking the views on the other side of the hill and reminisced about our honeymoon and other walks while we had a good meal and shared a bottle of red.
We could also enjoy the O Cebreiro village itself without busloads of visitors and pilgrims coming and going. It is so beautiful and peaceful.
After the meal we checked in, did some laundry, had a rest, and then went back later to top up with some soup – both kinds, garlic and caldo gallego, for comparison – and a quiet time in front of the fireplace. There were a few other pilgrims, one of them seemed to be French and had a donkey with him. From what I could hear him saying to some of the others, he was planning on sleeping in the porch of the church … The evening was getting really bitterly cold and I hope I heard that wrong!
Our room had two single beds, but the radiator in the hall and the bedroom were roasting hot, so we were nice and snug all night. We slept for near enough 12 hours straight, so we must have needed it!