Sunny winter walk to Triacastela

(From our winter camino, late February to early March 2020)

In the morning, when we finally woke up, we enjoyed the luxury of getting dressed in clothes that had been warming up nicely on the radiator. We headed out to visit the church and thank Don Elias, who is buried to the left of the altar, for reviving the camino which has given us so much joy. Outside we saw the French pilgrim’s donkey tied to a tree, and doing some odd jumps I failed at capturing on film. There was a mat, sleeping bag and blankets in a heap by the church door, so it looked like the Frenchman had indeed spent the night in the church porch! That must have been freezing … no wonder he was already in the bar letting people buy him glasses of house red. We stuck to coffee and juice, and offered him some of our tostadas, but he didn’t seemed very interested.

That signpost is still there indicating that the road is the main way out of O Cebreiro – it isn’t. Follow the ‘main street’ to the albergue and carry on into the woods from there. It is prettier, quieter and safer than the road!

We were both walking again, knowing that today’s walk to Triacastela would be a lot less taxing than the stony trail up to O Cebreiro. This first bit through the woods was such a great way to start the day, the air was just on the right side of cold and with hats and gloves we were fine. Quite a difference from the summery heatwave we had in the first couple of days, even though it was still sunny. Well, most of the time.

Following the rule that we’d stop whenever it was possible, we had our first little rest at Liñares, after getting to the bottom of the hill. Then off we went up a hill again. Reaching the Alto San Roque we could enjoy the views on both sides of the hill. It felt great being there again, and it was so quiet – no other pilgrims, hardly any cars. We took our time to really look at the statue, normally it’s just a quick snap in the lull between waves of other pilgrims out for a photo.

That wind he is shielding his face from was bitter! But still, spring flowers were starting to bloom everywhere.

You may have heard me hiss and boo about this hill – the Cursed Hill – before. It has only one redeeming feature: it leads up to the Blessed Bar. Juuuust too long and steep for me to walk up it in one. And then seeing the bar at the top … as we crested the hill, huffing and puffing and possibly swearing a tiny bit under our breath, a handful of other pilgrims enjoying a refreshing beverage in the sunshine gave us a roaring applause!

We had a well deserved lunch of eggs and bacon there, with a beer for pilgrim vitamins and rehydration. Just as we were leaving, another pilgrim came up the hill, huffing and puffing and possibly swearing under his breath, so we joined in the applause. Winter walker solidarity!

Ah, and then the gorgeous trail leads down towards Triacastela. All the bars were closed on the way down, but the one with a tractor in a glass house (?) outside had open toilets. Thank you, tractor bar! Much appreciated!

Up on the side of the hill we came across a young madrileña, Maria, who had been walking from Burgos and was completely smitten with Galicia. She looked like the queen of the hill, sat on her backpack with a banquet of bread, cheese, fruit and chocolate and a bottle of wine, just surveying the landscape stretching out in front of her. I recognised that contented smile, and we chatted to her for a little bit before we left her to it.

We had a great day’s walk to Triacastela that day. We even had the opportunity to photograph, read about and marvel at the old tree just before town, which is usually mobbed with multicoloured walking folk milling about. It is famous, after all, for being 7-800 years old!

Our home for the night was right next to St James’ church, which was closed. The room was lovely, light and warm, and the hospitalera kindly offered to wash and dry our laundry for us so we could go out and enjoy dinner; the clothes would be waiting outside our door by the morning. A hot shower got rid of the last lingering chill in our bones, and we huddled into layers of merino and went to enjoy the churrasco at the Xacobeo with gusto!

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