Zen top-up: O Cebreiro to Triacastela

The next morning we had breakfast in the Venta Celta, which is under new management, though still serves very good café con leche. It was a gorgeous morning, perfect for a lovely long walk down a hillside, and it would be getting warm so we had our coffee and got on our way. From the end of the street we skirted the dangerous road and took the new path winding through the woods, up and down, up and down, getting a good eyeful of the valley on the other side.

At last we came out of the woods just ahead of Liñares, where sadly the shop and bar was closed and the landlady studiously ignored us so we wouldn’t ask to use the bathroom (we would have), so we just rested for five before we soldiered on to Hospital. Which was open, hurrah! I met some more people Nicole had seen before, among them a lady who was walking with her small baby in a covered road buggy stroller type thing. It amazes me that people do this – it seems so hard, and yet they seem so happy, or maybe we just don’t see them when they’re not. The little boy was loving it, getting attention and cuddles everywhere and probably quite a few sweet treats. Nicole and I argued that M&Ms were health food on the grounds of being colourful and could be eaten raw, and snuck him a few with his mother’s permission.

The views were absolutely stunning and the weather beautiful as we carried on towards Alto do Poio, home of the Cursed Hill and the Blessed Bar, so called because even though the hill is short, it is Steep. And Sweaty. And Sweary! And surely put there to test any wavering pilgrim’s faith by proving that after the long uphill slog of life, there is indeed a heaven – or in this case The Blessed Bar, which is a peculiar form of heaven on earth even for atheists. My God! (see, it’s working), coming up that hill and enjoying a cold refreshment outside while watching others gasp and swear their way up, is just bliss. Tenderises the calves and fortifies the soul.

Nicole and I took our time, not that that improves the experience in any meaningful way, and tried to not swear. I lost. But in the end, there we were, at the top! Grinning like loons while everyone who had already made it, gave us knowing looks and an approving nod. The place was full – who wants to leave? – so we sat down with a lady who was leaving, and once we had our hot hands on a blessedly large, ice cold beverage, we sat near the edge facing the path to people watch a bit. I must admit I don’t remember quite how it happened – maybe it was when we saw Yo, the Dutch lady, who we had met a few times since the evening in the Pizza Place, come up the hill shortly after us? – but we started clapping and cheering someone on to give them an extra lift up the last bit of the hill. And once you’ve started, you can’t stop! Yo joined in the cheerleading, and it spread to other tables, with many surprised looks from pilgrims coming up the hill. Yo told us she had passed two British ladies struggling further down, so we made an extra effort for them – turns out it was our little Canadian ladies from O Cebreiro! They huffed and puffed as we carried them up with our enthusiastic applause, and after them there were more … and more … until in the end our hands were too sore to clap any more. It was great fun though! Nothing like some industrial strength positive pilgrim energy to boost your day.

After all this hullaballoo, Nicole decided to walk alone for a bit to enjoy the silence, and I bimbled on a short while after. On the way I saw a man who looked confounded by the signs just after the Alto do Poio sculpture; they basically point both ways with no explanation. I have never wondered what lies the other way, I just walk straight ahead as I have always done. So I was very little help to the man, who spoke mainly Spanish. I think both our Foreign was on par. However, as so often happens on the camino, the impulse to communicate overrides the language barrier – I have always said that you’ll get further with broken English than the whole one. Soon we were chatting away in simplistic versions of our own languages, with smatterings of the relevant foreign words where available, plus extensive hand gesturing. Turns out he was an author, and with me being a translator, we had lots to talk-ish about! We walked at a pleasant pace in the pleasant day and spoke of pleasant things and it was all good.

When we came to Fonfría, I noticed a brand new place on the hill which looked open. Always curious to see new things, we went up to the purpose-built albergue, which looked really good, and had a little look around and drank a glass of albariño in the sunshine. A group of American ladies came up shortly after, asked what we were drinking, and soon the bar was busy pouring albariños like never before. I am happy to spread the word: When in Galicia, drink albariño!

Now it was starting to get really hot, and I realised I should have followed Nicole’s example and headed off down the hill earlier and faster. The Author and I made another short stop to top up on water, chill in the shade and put on my sun shirt, and then walked faster on the downhills towards Triacastela, most of it with no shade. On the way we came across a young man who seemed to have an injury – my guess was shin splints, based on the hobbling style, but neither the Author or I understood him very well. I gave him a small tube of Voltaren I had handy and mimed rubbing it on the shin; he thanked me profusely, but I wasn’t sure he’d understood, or if I had the wrong idea. Rubbing it on the shin won’t help your Achilles … But it was all I could do, and then we had to set off again to get into town before it got even hotter.

As you get close to Triacastela, there are some typically Galician tree tunnels, and I was soo glad to walk in the sun dappled shade. The only highlight of the last few kilometres, apart from another pit stop for water at Filloval, was The Old Oak (I think?) which has seen pilgrims come and go for ~800 years already and won’t be offended if you sit down in the shade and admire (or talk to, or hug) it.

Finally we entered civilisation again, marked by a bar with lots of outside seats in the shade. The Author greeted some people and seemed to stop there, but I wanted to get to my room. So I waved goodbye as he headed for the bar and carried on. On my way down the road I passed the Atrio, where Nicole was staying in the albergue part. She was sitting in the garden and couldn’t move, as she was being slept on by a cat – which she is allergic to – so we agreed to meet up for dinner after I had cleaned up. I checked into my place at the end of the main street, a huge room with accessible shower, which was lovely. They even did my laundry, which was such a joy and relief. I was so hot and tired I wouldn’t have had the energy. As I was leaving, into reception comes The Author, who communicated that he was miffed that I had ‘run off’! It turns out that miming ‘I thought you were staying with your friends up there and didn’t hear you over the noise from the beer garden and I did wave goodbye’ isn’t as easy as you’d think. Anyway, he had a room, he had friends, and if he was that easily miffed, there was little I could do about it. Que sera, sera; not all camino acquaintances are meant to become friends. I wished him Buen camino and went to meet Nicole.

Not only did I find her, but we found the Canadian ladies; they had snapped up an outside-but-in-the-shade table at the Xacobeo and invited us to join them for dinner. Guess five times what I had for starter:

It was a lovely evening after an eventful day. People seemed to know us as ‘The ladies that clapped’ now – I’ve been called worse. As it got dark, Nicole went back for an early night. She hadn’t decided on whether to walk the San Xil or Samos route out of Triacastela, but she had booked a bed in the same albergue as me in Sarria, so we would see each other there, if not on the road. The Xacobeo got quieter as we approached the 10 o’clock albergue curfew; those of us who had our own keys insisted on staying out at least ten minutes longer just because we could … and then I went back to my room and my lovely huge bed.

3 thoughts on “Zen top-up: O Cebreiro to Triacastela

  1. Greatly enjoying following along on your Camino. So nice to see sunny photos of the walk from O Cebreiro to Triacastela! When I did that day in October 2019 it was rainy and cloudy. I remember going up that steep hill, and so nice you clapped for everyone as they got to the top. 😊

    1. Thank you, Michael, glad I could provide some sunshine after the fact and sorry you had a grey day. The solution is, of course, to do it again … The clapping thing was fun, and anyone who gets up that hill thoroughly deserves an applause!

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