Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-Eight: Las Herrerias to Fonfria (Four weeks walking) Exhileration

28 04 2018

We slept so well in our quiet little stone room with the sound of the rushing river outside that the abrupt and powerful voices of the Spanish and Italian guest (only three of them!) were jarring to me. It’s rough being a night owl on the Camino. I just am not so friendly in the morning. I try to focus on writing up the rest of my blog and such and stay out of the fray. Breakfast was basically coffee and bread, not my kind of meal but not much else in that town really. We had really done our best to rise early and get out the door at 8, but then I had some blog issues. Finally at 8:05 we hit he road and about a block from the Albergue Suzy and I both realized how damn cold it was! Be careful what you wish for because our early summer had turned into winter with 40F, wind and overcast conditions! I had a short sleeve and a long sleeve on but quickly pulled out my favorite puffy jacket and even gloves. Today was all about changeable weather and adaptation. I literally had to change my outfits probably five or six times! Suzy ran back to get her cozy hood and gloves and soon we were back on track.

We passed through Las Herrerias and saw a lot of cows with their melodic low bells clanging and munching on the very green grass. We also saw a few of the horses that they rent to summit O Cebreiro. We had learned last night that one of the hospitaleros Gabrielle from France and most recently there from San Francisco has a day job riding the ponies back down to Las Herrerias. No one had rented them today.

The climb began on a quiet road and eventually wound down then up a road alongside more grazing bovines and the ever rushing river. Very idyllic to hear the birds, the water, the low clanging of their bells as a backdrop to the rhythmic tick tick of my poles.

Soon we entered a very verdant switchback trail through a lush almost tropical area. We began to leave the cows below and were surrounded by stone walls with wild flowers popping out of them, trees erupting through rock outcroppings and green ferns. I was struck by the amazing vibrant colors of this almost hidden wonderland. I also saw big black slugs basking in the shady dampness. The temperature was perfect, cool and damp, almost cold but we were walking up a steep and rocky trail so our bodies were warm.

We got to a cute town La Faba which would have been a cool place to stay. There was a cute place on the corner but we were feeling strong so we didn’t stop, but we really liked the vibe. We headed in to the next town La Laguna where we saw that every house had a barn underneath it. Other than a small bar there didn’t seem to be much else in the town but the cows as evidenced by quite a collection of cow squirts making brown Jackson Pollack splashy polka dots all over the bright white roads of the town.

We now reached some rougher road that was more open and less protected by foliage and began to see sweeping vistas and mountains covered in purple scrub brush. It got hotter, so the jacket came off and I went with just the shirt. We kept climbing. We joked that it was always steepest before the flats as we polished off each section of incline. As we rose we were unable to see the top of the hill due to fog keeping it out of view.

Eventually we started wrapping around and around the mountain and constantly going up. We crept out of sunshine and Into the fog which was spitting little droplets at us, and the wind picked up so the jacket and gloves went back on. At a certain point we hit the border with Galicia and with it a post that said we were about 156 km from Santiago! We kept going and as we climbed up into he gorgeous town of O Cebreio. As we went in I felt an incredible sense of exhilaration. My legs burned a bit and I did have to pause at times to catch my breath but basically we had climbed about 100 meters per km walked in told. According to the iPhone it was 49 floors in 5.2 miles, and we had done it in just three hours.

We took some time to visit the primitive house structure of this region a palloza. There was a great tienda (store) selling all types of Camino souvenirs but of really high quality along with local cheeses, meats and honeys. If I’d been driving I would have loaded the car.

Somehow we have a sixth sense when it comes to food so although some of he cafes close to the main part of the town looked cute we walked just a little further and then a little further than that to find Meson Anton pulperia.

As we entered the chef and bartender was running in with a good sized veal chop to present to two Korean men. Before Suzy could get settled in I’d ordered what they mean to eat for dessert for our starter, I just had to try the local O Cebreio cheese with O Cebreio honey.

The cheese came out like a huge slice of cake drenched in darker golden honey that oozed all over the plate. This was a fresh and crumbly cows milk cheese that melted easily in your mouth with the honey. The honey itself was very complex with lots of floral notes but a lot of deep almost nutty earthy notes. It reminded me of chestnut honey. It was decadent and amazing!

While we pondered our next step menu-wise the ternera (veal) chop came out sizzling. We knew we had a long day and that much god would slow us down so we opted to go for the specialty the pulpo. It came out on a wooden plate drenched in very tasty olive oil. Perfectly chewy and toothsome this version finally had some tentacles, my favorite, but was less spicy than the one from Ponferrada. The portion for 13 Euros was also huge. A lot of the time the pilgrim menu is worthwhile but sometimes it’s more cost effective to load up on protein. I’m not into dessert anyway so sometimes the menu isn’t the best bet.

Upon leaving the restaurant we found O Cebreio even more socked in with fog almost San Francisco style. It was blowing and so bitterly cold! The San Francisco feel was foreshadowing because the hills we were about to traverse were as steep as San Francisco streets. The “descent” went up down and around many times around the mountain and was covered in fractured slate which was easy to slip on. For each descent I loosened my pack straps to focus the weight on my heels and then for the ascent had to cinch them up again. These downward slopes can really mess with your knees, so the poles were helpful to prevent slipping and to take the weight off the knees by placing them further in front.

Finally by the time we got down the mountain I’d warmed up and the sun appeared and the jacket came back off, and the shirt. We continued to climb and we picked up an area along the road. Still climbing we reached an area where the wind and the clouds increased and the jacket had to come back on.

After weaving through some towns and seeing some chickens running around we reached the end of a small town to find a very steep ascent. Despite some cold wind and cloud we took the jackets and shirts off to hit this hard knowing we’d end sweating by the top. This was the highest climb to Alto de Poio at 1335 meters. It was so steep that it would have been hard to stop in places without losing your footing. Once at the top we were greeted by a flock of chickens and a cafe where we got two glasses of vino tinto to celebrate our accomplishment and watch others including cyclists come up the difficult hill. We enjoyed the chickens and also a huge very sweet dog.

After eating some toasted corn snacks and nuts (and feeding some to the chickens) and a selfie with the dog we felt invigorated by the wine and took off on a quick 40 minute jaunt for the last 3.5 km to our Albergue A Reboleira. We got there just ahead of a large group of pilgrims and it was good we’d reserved as there were not many beds left despite it being a large Albergue.

We settled in and found that the showers and the room were very clean and comfortable. The showers were roomy and had boxes inside with hooks where you could store your clothes without them getting wet. They hosted a communal meal in their very own palloza across the street where we were brought steaming tureens of vegetable soup, and then steaming platters of beef stew with mushrooms and the sweet red piquillo peppers. Bottles of house wine were popped and drained and then more popped and replaced. As soon as. Plate was almost empty it was replaced. Food was available in abundance and was absolutely delicious and satisfying. We couldn’t believe the value of this meal, more than you could eat or drink for 9 Euro. After a nightcap and some fun discussion with some Bavarians who suggested I come to Oktoberfest (and why not?) it was off to bed.

Tomorrow is another big jump. While today was only 12.8 miles we did the equivalent of 77 floors! Tomorrow to Sarria, a big distance but will be worth it, we are hoping to jump ahead to miss the rains and/or snow predicted.

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One response

28 04 2018
Kerry Taylor

Nice . Hope things are good. CIA . 

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