Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-Seven: Cacabelos to Las Herrerias-Encouragement

27 04 2018

It’s amazing you could spend all day trying to get to a town only to then forget where you’re sleeping. Life from town to town is like that though… and you pass through so many places! Some you want to remember… others you’d rather forget. But tonight I’m in a great town, it just took forever to get here to… Las Herrerias.

We awoke in our awesome semi-private room. We’d been granted a three person room with a balcony at La Gallega in Cacabelos and luckily had another woman with us and a bathroom attached to the room. Amazingly clean and comfortable to be able to shower without a trek with all your gear. Yesterday I’d made a ploy to make a big move in terms of the distance and we opted to go all the way to Las Herrerias, I checked the guides this morning only to chuckle to myself that it was funny I’d picked a town based on metal, Herrerias are iron workers or blacksmiths. My last name Chapa has everything to do with any type of metal apparently… in Venezuela it means the tab in a beer can, in Barcelona a top/cage on a bottle of Cava, in other southern parts of Spain a tin roof. In the last few days auto body repair… ironically the name I’ve discovered really comes from an Italian name, Sciapapria, shortened to Chapa when they reached the Americas.

its a crazy story, while trying to get my father’s birth certificate from Mexico, which by the way he was never able to get while living…, I found it a ton of information about my ancestry.

The founding father of the town where my father was born in Mexico was named Juan Batista Chapa. He came to the town from Liguria in Italy and became the scribe of General Leon writing the history of Northeastern Mexico and Texas in the mid 1600’s. Back in Italy his family owned vineyards.

As a wine writer the similarities to my family ancestor seemed uncanny to me, but honestly not really a surprise.

Whenever I’d travel to Italy the Italians would say, “Italiana?” And I’d reply, “No,media Mexicana!” And then they’d say, “Ma, no… Italiana!” knowing my features even better than I did. Juan Batista came to the Americas from Cadiz in Southern Spain, but I wonder…

Maybe the Roman group of Chapas or Sciapaprias roamed these lands. Could this be why the route at some points is so familiar to me? Or is it an angel that guides me through the big towns? I have had an unusually good sense of direction navigating these towns.

We fueled up with a big breakfast and once more headed out just as the bells rang 9. My toe is much improved and I can almost bend it without wincing in pain. I think it’s related to the day coming down the mountain from Cruz de Ferro. I honestly believe it’s related to the fear I had, when I’m scared I think I tense my toes in my boots trying to grip the terrain so as not to lose my footing and this aggravated the joint. So yesterday and today I opted for a new strategy. Relaxing my toe while walking, moving my water bottle to the opposite side of the pack to redistribute the weight and also wearing my Darn Tough socks, they’re thinner and leave some extra room in my shoe. Darn Tough by the way have a lifetime return policy and these are replacement socks for some I wore out!

We meandered on our route making some good time through some vineyard areas. In spots when you first glance at them the vines look almost like a flock of geese landed in a field all haphazard. Most of the day led us through small towns. Some cute and quaint, others literally falling apart and abandoned ghost towns. We wished we knew why and how some made it while others languished. Then it was on to the larger town of Villafranca where we took a break to get a snack and regroup.

Villafranca is a lovely valley town but we didn’t have time to stick around and kept on leaving our idyllic small town scenery and hitting the highway. It’s important to note that there’s a variant of the route you can take up and over the mountain. No doubt it must be nicer but it’s a lot more strenuous. Luckily a local was there as we were looking at that junction and promoted us to take the low road.

We wound around the road which was tight and had very little shoulder until we got to a larger stretch with a concrete barrier protecting the pilgrims. Very few pilgrims out here for some reason. We joked that they must be on the bus being transported to the next pretty location. Luckily we had the roaring bubbling river to our left which added scenic interest and a good breeze going but it was another very bright sunny day and as the afternoon wore on got hot. Small bits of shade became less and less and the asphalt we walked on was also giving off lots of heat. Occasionally we’d pass a small town and we stopped once more in a tiny town for bar snacks and a beer so we could use their restroom. We refilled our waters and headed onward. We even found a place with fair trade coffee in Trabadelo and Suzy stopped for an iced coffee there.

It seems that despite being a town focused on work and its wood business that this town is too busy selling wood to actually make a sign for pilgrims, and all the wood we saw was unfinished so thus must explain why they couldn’t paint any yellow arrows at the edge of town. After the coffee shop we saw nothing to indicate where to go. We started walking in what we thought looked like the right direction and a man said to us that we were going to get a lot of sun today, so we figured we were going the right way. We ran into a curve that looked like it went to the same place and stumbled upon a stable, it was empty but if you had a horse you could board it there. I really wished I had a horse! It was so so hot and we started going uphill again. Suddenly it looked like we were totally leaving the highway, so we stopped and pulled out the guide. Turns out we were heading on the high route but in the opposite direction. If we were to continue onward we would have ended up back in Villafranca at that crossroads where we took the low road.

So we went back down, luckily we figured out our mistake soon. We went on and back to the highway. There was a sign telling pilgrims to stay off the road but eventually our cement guard opened us out into the highway proper again but now with no shoulder at all. Trucks were whizzing by us as they were exiting the bigger highway to get to the truck stop hotel. Once again we referred to he guide to be sure we were headed in the right direction.

On and on and on. The road offered up a little shoulder as we walked along and the scenery and towns were lovely but walking on the highway is stressful as you have to be constantly vigilant. Luckily the scenery was gorgeous despite being on he road, although it was strange to see the huge highway supports now popping up around these small towns with the huge span stretching over the fields and some of the small hotels and homes. We enjoyed communing with some ducks as well.

The afternoon wore on and got hotter and hotter, about 75 which doesn’t seem hot if you’re not walking with a 20 pound backpack. The shade went away. We sweated and I wanted to start crying. But I didn’t. I was becoming crabby and even more so. Cause I was the one who orchestrated this ingenious plan to make a big jump forward.

Encouragement comes when you need it. Having a walking partner helps as they help make you feel like you’re a whiny bitch and urge you forward.

Every now and then we would get a brief respite from the wind, a little cooling breeze to urge us onward. Like a small ember that breeze would reactivate our energy just briefly enough to keep one foot in front of the other. A little burst of water coming off the mountain let us wet our bandanas briefly and wash our hands in its welcoming icy water. We would take turns hollering “Ultreia!” which means “Keep going!” Occasionally a car or cyclist or ladies sitting on a bench would honk or yell “Buen Camino!” We might see a pretty field of cows. And this would inspire us to keep walking. I’m not sure how I’d be able to do this without these bursts of inspiration and encouragement. It helps that we have a deadline. It helps that the bag gets dropped. Y Jacotrans at the next Albergue, we cannot stop before that… we have to hit our mark daily. And each night as we plan for the next day our adrenaline and clean showers and a little red wine help encourage us to keep going. We forget the feeling of exhaustion and the pain that comes once the feet stop moving as soon as we see the map and see how close we are to getting to Santiago de Compostela.

Our Albergue was sweet, a little hippie spot with a vegetarian menu which I knew wasn’t going to be enough food for what I am accustomed to. It’s called Las Herrerias Miriam. It was gorgeous, all stone with lots of woodwork and exposed beams. Very clean and comfortable. They had a great double room for 21 Euros and there were only three other people there.

We had a great bottle of Biezo wine and a pilgrims menu at a bar next door, Bar Lixa owned my a woman from Holland. She has been in business just one year and her mother was in town to help her with reopening for the season. The food was great and it would have been a great place to stay as well. Important to know that the list given out at the pilgrims office often doesn’t include all the albergues…

I also had a chance to marvel at my very special pilgrim tan, many weird lines that I feel are going to be with me for awhile, a badge of honor I suppose! Tomorrow is a steep climb so we are going to keep the distance somewhat short and are happy to be poised ready for the steep ascent!