CF21 Day 17 – Villafranca to Vega de Valcarce

I was late again leaving Villafranca, as it seemed cool and damp and the forecast was threatening rain later on. I remembered a café that opened early near the bridge leaving town, so I went there for a bit and dawdled with a pan au chocolat and the internet. There would be no Pradela route this time, I had decided to follow the road past Pereje and Trabadelo and see if Susi from Casa Susi was about. I had heard and read many good things about her, her partner Fermín and their albergue, and was hoping they had got work started on the leaky roof (you can still donate to their GoFundMe page if you would like to).

Walking past the innocent-looking street leading up to the steep, steep Pradela route felt like a relief…

Fog hung low over the hilltops but the sky was blue and it warmed up nicely, so even though I was following the boring road it was a good day on the camino.

Pereje was closed, so I carried on to Trabadelo and stopped at the first bar, where I met one of only very few British people so far. Then on to find Casa Susi – but when I did, it looked very closed and the sign outside said it opened at 13.00. I stopped for a second and decided not to knock, they were probably busy cleaning, and I wasn’t going to stay, so why disturb them? But as I was thinking that, the door opened and out popped Susi and threw a handful of pale pink rose petals on the pavement! I have never been showered with petals on the first meeting before, but that broke the ice nicely.

I stayed there for a bit chatting about life, the camino, coronavirus, albergue etiquette, roof repairs and people we knew, and after promising that I would stay over nest time, I was on my way.

The language police have been out, changing the Castillian article ‘la’ to a Galego ‘a’. There would be more of that coming – J and G to X, for instance.

Another place I had wanted to visit was the newly started Rock’n Roll Pizza place on the way to Ambasmestas, the Vagabond Vieiras in Portela. They must have just opened as I passed, as the place was empty and the chef was busy prepping. Still, he made me a slice of meatball pizza, which I enjoyed with a small beer for my lunch. Absolutely recommend stopping there and not just passing by, like my fellow pilgrims did!

When I finally managed to peel myself away from the pizza and the very friendly dog Oreo, it was just a hop and a skip to Ambasmestas, where I knew the Musicians would be staying. I popped my head in the bar to see if they were there yet, but the bar was empty. But when I turned to leave, there was a knock on the window in the dining room. There they were, mid meal, and offered me a glass of a rather delicious albariño which of course I couldn’t refuse! After a good while I reluctantly decided to leave the vino and the conversation to try and claim my bed before they gave it away, and guess five times – no sooner was I back on the road than it started raining. I considered just speeding up and gambling that I wouldn’t get too soaked, but in the end I had no other choice than to fight my way into the big blue poncho and trudge along in the pouring rain.

Well worth it to end up in the warm welcome of El Paso albergue in Vega though, where a chair was still standing mid stream for pilgrims to cool their feet after a long walk on tarmac. This is one such chair three years ago, with my friend Yogi in it, being spoonfed sweet rice pudding by the hospitalero:

And this year’s model:

Cold and wet I was given a bottom bunk in a room with only three girls – one of them was Maria, the solo peregrina I met at Acebo. She had taken a rest day there to nurse her foot and recharge her batteries, and it seemed to have done her the world of good. I invited her along to the nearest bar for an anchor albariño, which she said she’d never had before, and they had exactly the same brand as the Musicians were treating me to at the hotel down the road! Maria seemed to enjoy it too.

The local restaurant was closed so a few of us ended up eating in the kitchen, and I got to know the Cutest Couple, one Dutch and one Danish, who were camino and hospitalero veterans and recently married. They were buying a house in the area and taking the opportunity to hike some of the trail, I can’t say I blame them. I had a lovely night there with more of the same albariño, courtesy of Maria, who’d found it in the shop, and chatted with the owners, Maria and Lalo. Lalo showed me where had planted an apple tree in honour of the Camino for Good project, which had helped them with a donation during the lockdowns. If you haven’t heard of it, basically participants walk at home and plot their distances into the app to see where they ‘are’ on their virtual camino, with photos to jog the memory or whet the appetite. The monthly fee goes to helping albergues who are struggling financially after the covid restrictions. I was so glad I had taken part when I saw that these good people had benefitted from it. And the tree was already bearing fruit!

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