(From our walk in late February to early March 2020)
It really wasn’t a promising start. The coffee was delicious but the weather … oh well. Only a few days left, we were determined to enjoy them! The lady in the café where we had breakfast just shook her head and pulled her chuncky cardigan tighter as we bid her farewell.
Just like in Sarria, I am amazed how quickly we are out of town. Just up to the church, carry on and boom! Countryside again. Well, apart from a short stint on a minor road to get to the iconic sign cluster.
Still not sure why some of the perfectly good camino trails have been branded Complementario, and the pilgrims are sent off on tarmac roads instead? Top tip: Follow the painted yellow arrows and turn right!
We were definitely entering eucalyptus territory. They smell so good when it is raining (apologies to those who hate them because they are bad for the environment). Lots of marvellous if soggy scenery.
Last time I went through Boente, the albergue run by the Man with the Big Beard and his lovely lady was closed. We met them on our honeymoon – the Scouse Spouse had gone quite stamp mad and filled his second credencial in less than two weeks, and we couldn’t get another after Sarria (because normal people don’t get every stamp they find and therefore don’t require more than one). The Man with the Big Beard knew what to do: he had a drawer full of photocopied credencial grids, and expertly trimmed it to size and sellotaped it into the overflowing credencial to make it twice as long – and twice as dear to us. He wouldn’t take any money for it, so we bought him a drink and were shown around the ski and camera collections he kept in the back (!). He had walked the camino himself several times, and his compostelas used to hang above the bar. I hope they are both well. Salud y gracias!
This time it was one of the few places that was open – the German bar and the albergue with the pool were both closed. We went in to see who had taken over and ended up chatting to the landlady about the previous owners, the new owners’ plans and the camino and pilgrims in general. The albergue is called Fuente Saleta now, and it’s juuust a bit further down the road, literally hopping distance, from where most pilgrims cross the road to pick up the camino outside the church. They both seemed very nice, so hop the extra metres and get your coffee/meal/bed there!
See? Not far at all. The camino carries on across the road.
After a few tapas and a drink to the previous and new hospitaleros’ health, we moved on, promising to be back in May, or September … little did we know just how much the world would be turned on its head, or how quickly. I hope they are still there next time.
Our next available stop was literally wallpapered with notes from happy customers, and who did we see by the bar with a glass of house red? The French pilgrim who had slept in the church porch in O Cebreiro! His donkey was parked outside with all the gear still on his back. I wished I could take it off so he could rest a bit too, but – not my donkey.
Not even the restaurant at Ribadiso was open! NO LENTEJAS! The albergue across the street was open though and let me in to use the toilet. Facilities were actually a bigger problem than sitting down and eating and drinking along the way – we could always bring our own.
Finally we arrived in Arzua, where we were supposed to stay in a place that wasn’t really open … from what I understood of the conversation. I called the owner when we arrived and he came over with the key, but it turned out our room was on the fourth floor with no lift … I can promise you that we double checked that we had everything we needed before we went back out. But go out we did, because the ribs at the Furancho are just too good (thanks for finding it, Sam!). Besides I like the decor!
We had just about finished our meal when a whole classload of young Spanish camino walking teenagers came in for their evening meal. Their energy and enthusiasm made us feel … well, old, really, so we went in search of a warm place with wine and football. We found the warm place, and it had wine, but the landlady couldn’t find the match amongst her many many channels. In the end the Scouse Spouse called on his brother in Switzerland to help us set it up on my mobile instead.
Some of the locals were surprised at us sitting there cheering over a tiny screen, but were more interested in the score than making fun. And the landlady, bless her, kept trying to ply us with food to make up for not having the match on the big screen. And we kept eating it to be polite, even though we were full of ribs.
The stairs back up to our room felt very long and steep that night.