Despite some aches and pains, week five has been a fantastic one, full of interesting walks and great food. We’re starting to sense that the end is near though, and we’re both sad and excited to think about finally reaching Santiago — it’s looking very promising that we’ll arrive next Friday as planned.
Monday 9/4: Monday had a lot to live up to after our wonderful Easter Sunday, and it made a pretty good effort. We made a late start after a pleasant sleep-in in the warm dorm room, and made sure to have a coffee with breakfast to give us a kick start.
Luckily the temperatures were a lot more pleasant than the day before, and the first leg (to Mombuey) was only 9km. We had a coffee there and stocked up on food for lunch, which we ate 8km down the road in Cernadilla. After that, it was only another 10km or so to Asturianos, where we were thinking about stopping but decided not to, though we did have a truly excellent glass of wine each at the bar beside the albergue.
Instead, we trekked on another three or four kilometres to Palacios de Sanabria (naughtily not following the detour and being told off by a roadworks foreman), where we got a private room and spent the evening in first one, then the other, local bar.
Tuesday 10/4: It was a cold morning, which made getting up a little difficult. We managed it though, and headed out the door at 8:40, running into José outside the bar where he’d just had breakfast. The walk was pleasant, through forests and tiny towns, and it only rained lightly. We arrived in Puebla de Sanabria at about 11:30 and got coffee and a light snack in a bar — except that the two tapas Craig ordered turned out to be enormous. We decided to call it lunch.
Further along, we visited three ATMs before being able to withdraw cash, and although we finally managed we were left wondering what the problem was. Surely our bank hasn’t blocked our cards again?
The next 12km or so to Requejo were full of beautiful views and painful feet, and we were happy to arrive and have a long afternoon stretching in front of us. There were two albergues on offer: the basic, cheap one and a private one with all sorts of mod cons for €12 — which we chose so that Craig could get some work done using the wifi.
After a merienda (okay, second lunch), we worked for awhile then headed out to find wine and tapas in a local bar.
Wednesday 11/4: It was a latish start, as we enjoyed the warmth of the albergue before heading into the cold wind and relentless drizzle that awaited us. The road led us along the highway for awhile, and we decided to continue along it rather than take the marked route into the forest, as it would have added another kilometre or two to our journey — this was proved by the fact that we had been installed in the bar in the first town for a good twenty minutes when a French woman, who had stayed in the albergue and left at least 45 minutes before us, arrived.
We used the iPhone to check the weather and make an informed decision about when to leave the warm bar, which had been very nice to us in terms of coffee and food (mmm morcilla and tortilla). The next leg was a lot less windy and quite a lot less rainy, but we still arrived in Lubián soaked through.
We’d only walked 17km by that point, so although the albergue was warm and well-equipped, we decided to brave the second ascent of the day and head to Vilavella, where a new albergue was waiting for us.
This stretch, between Lubián and Vilavella, was without doubt our favourite section of the walk so far. The route was interesting and a bit challenging, with narrow paths, stream navigation and a pretty steep ascent to handle; but the weather was fantastic (no wind, only a little rain on the way into Vilavella) and we saw corzos (a type of deer). It was very exciting!
However, despite a bevy of signs pointing us out of town towards the old railway station, it transpired that the albergue was closed for repairs. When we were told this (in the town grocery store) we were literally speechless, and the shop attendant took pity on us and called the guesthouse to see if she could get us a good deal. Well, €30 is a lot more than we’d planned to pay, but at least we got a place to sleep out of the (by then quite heavy) rain. The menu del día on offer was tasty and we ate in a romantic corner of the otherwise-empty dining room. On the whole, a win of a day.
Thursday 12/4: The forecast seemed to think the weather would improve after 9am, so we slept in and left at about 9:30, after coffee in the bar downstairs. The wind was pretty fierce and the drizzle came and went, but it was a lovely walk through a rocky and barren landscape. We’d decided to have a short day, just 14km to A Gudiña, so although Craig was still having problems with his leg, it felt like a holiday. We took a break for coffee at O Cañizo, then only had an hour or so to go to get to A Gudiña, arriving at 1pm. Being the first to arrive, we had to call the hospitalero to let us in; Craig waited for him while I went to find bread for lunch, which we ate outside.
Friday 13/4: Looking out the window of the albergue in the morning, I saw nothing but blue skies. Unfortunately, out the other side was a wall of cloud — a juxtaposition which neatly summarises our day. We had to climb up into the clouds then walked along a ridgeline in the bright sunshine, enjoying the views of rolling hills covered in heather, a lake to the left, and the occasional glimpse of snow-topped mountains. A rainbow appeared and accompanied us for an hour or so, and we walked through several tiny villages — one had sheep being driven through it, another had a picnic area where we took a quick break.
Our goal was Campobecerros, a small town where most of the other pilgrims were planning to stay for the night but didn’t. We saw Gunter and Paco (a Spanish guy) in the bar, where we ate a delicious vegetable soup for lunch.
Very soon after we set off, the rain set in, quickly drenching us then hanging around as drizzle to keep us miserable. After three or four kilometres of climbing, the rest of the walk was a steady downhill on a secondary road — not particularly exciting, and with the low cloud hiding everything from view, not particularly visually stimulating either.
We arrived in our destination, Laza, at about 5:30, and checked in with the Civil Defence. The hot water wasn’t working so I headed out to find dinner instead of taking a shower — and it turned out to be a mission. The small shops didn’t offer much in the way of variety and the bakery remained steadfastly closed despite my three separate attempts (with the help of far too many locals) to find a way to buy bread. Eventually there was success and we had a tasty dinner of green beans with garlic and sausage, a vegetable omelette, and bread with olive oil. And wine, of course.
Saturday 14/4: The weather was fine when we set out at about 8:45, but it didn’t stay that way for long. As we started to climb the hill that dominated the terrain, the light rain got heavier and heavier until we were both soaked through. We had half an hour of respite before our break in Albergueria, where we had coffee in El Rincón del Peregrino, where the walls are covered in scallop shells bearing the names of other pilgrims who have passed there.
We were drenched again by the time we got to Vilar do Barrio, where José and the Germans stopped for the night. Craig and I had soup and coffee for €2.50 each in a buffet restaurant, then headed out into blue skies. We passed through several small villages and were in the middle of a long boring stretch of secondary road when the thunder clapped off to our right (to the left was blue), and the hail hit. Luckily our jackets are pretty robust, so we just kept on going; it felt more like an adventure than a tragedy. It was, however, inconvenient to be wet through again.
We arrived in our final destination of Xunqueira at about 5pm, as some more hail started to fall. Luckily the albergue was open, so we had a short rest there before heading into town to buy food for dinner. It was a much more successful trip than the day before; we managed to buy everything we needed (including bread) in the first shop we came to.
Dinner was oil on bread, followed by soup, then pasta with chicken and veges in tomato sauce. Pretty good, actually.
Sunday 15/4: Once again, the day started with good weather, but this time it decided to stay that way — there was just a bit of drizzle now and then to break the boredom.
The walk wasn’t particularly interesting, being along the road for most of the way. We had a break in one of the chain of small towns, the first that offered an open bar (after about 9km). The next break was within sight of another bar — we ate our lunch on a park bench then had a glass of wine inside. It wasn’t until after we’d eaten that we realised that we could have had pulpo (octopus) from the temporary pulpo stand across the road… We decided to have some anyway and negotiated a small serving. It was tasty.
The rest of the walk, through an industrial estate and into Orense, was unremarkable except for the small town of Seix Albo, which was charming. We reached the albergue shortly before 4pm and the hospitalero kindly let us check in early, which was good because we were ready to collapse. Luckily the beds were comfortable because we spent the afternoon lying in them.