Stage 29 – Vega de Valcarce – O Cebreiro
Total Distance – 11.6 km
Adjusted for Climb – 15.1 km (accrued ascent 700 m = 3.5 km)
High Point: O’Cebreiro at 1,330 m (4,363 feet)
CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE TO FULL-SIZE
I must say that other than crossing the Pyrenees the prospect of climbing up to O Cebreiro was the stage that I dreaded the most. This ominous foreboding began long before I actually left home for the Camino. It was based on my study of maps, especially those maps that only showed the elevation of all the stages. I would look at these maps and see the outline of a whopper of a mountain and think, “I’ll have to go up that!!” As I talked to experienced peregrinos in California and listened to them tell me about the steepness of the trail and the fact that horses were available that would take you up services that took up your backpack I got a little spooked by the prospect of the climb. It was for this reason that Sue and I decided to start the climb in Vega de Valcarce.
This beautiful scene in Vega de Valcarce began our day.
Cyclists were heading up the mountain also.
A bridge of the modern A-6 Highway overhead
An example of a sign written in Spanish that has been altered to Galician. Mysteriously this sign in Ruitelán changed from “La Braña” to “A Braña” Galician nationalism asserting itself on the border.
Ruitelán – this town is thought to have been the ancient Roman town of Autaris
The first part of our hike that morning was peaceful and blessedly flat. The views of the valley were beautiful and Sue and I decided to take a break and enjoy the scenery before seriously climbing. As I saw the views (below) just before the town of Herrerías I remember thinking that the next time I walked the Camino I would stay at the beautiful El Capricho de Josana Hotel Rural and Café and I vowed to bring my wife to this beautiful place one day.
The town of Herrerías in the distance. Notice the small river or stream running through this little valley.
A closer view of Herrerías.
The Paraiso del Bierzo
The Hotel/Restaurant/Bar Paraiso del Bierzo
The beautiful El Capricho de Josana Hotel Rural/ Café that was just before the bridge to Herrerías were Sue and I stopped for a morning snack.
Enjoying the morning coffee and the views!
As I sipped my coffee little did I know that minutes away in the town of Herrerías I would have a truly touching experience. As we were walking over the puente romano (that had been re-built in the 15th century) and then through the village I saw a little elderly lady with a makeshift walking stick walking in our direction. I called out to her and asked her, in jest, how her climb up the mountain had been. She laughed and then held my hand and very touchingly told us to drink plenty of water and the make sure that we shielded ourselves from the sun. I told her that she was beautiful and must have driven the men crazy when she was young and she looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes and said that she certainly had! It was one of those authentic Camino experiences that I still treasure.
Herrerías — this town was named after the iron forge that once existed here. Also beginning in the 12th century there was a Hospital Inglés that catered to English pilgrims.
The beautiful lady and me.
Leaving Herrerías – we still have another 8.7 kilometers and 620 meters (2,035 feet) before reaching our destination for the day!
The climb from Herrerías to the next village of La Faba promised to be steep. We would be climbing from 705 meters to 920 meters on mostly a shaded, steep and rocky trail. It was a challenging way to climb a mountain. Luckily for us we were equal to the task!
At first the road out of was a paved one lane mountain road.
Soon we were diverted off the road on to a steep rocky trail.
Sue moving up the trail.
You can see that some of the rocks were quite big! That’s Sue up ahead!
Cyclists were also tackling the trail alongside us.
We ran into a train of horse that were together and making their way down the mountain.
The horses were just following each other down as if they had done this thousands of times.
After much exertion we gratefully reached the village of La Faba. This village was known as Villa Oxa in the 12th century. In addition to its 25 inhabitants the village has the iglesia San Andrés that dates from the 16th century. There is also an albergue located here that is run by a german group based in Stuttgart named La Asociación Ultreia de Amigos del Camino de Alemania. La Faba was just 4.7 kilometers away from O Cebreiro but we’d have to climb an additional 410 meters (1,345 feet) to get there! We needed to stop and have a soda or a coffee before tackling that and happily for us there was a small cafe where we had a snack along with half a dozen other peregrinos.
The entrance to the village of La Faba.
Pointing the way we’d have to go but I don’t know what the little lizard is doing on the milestone.
The view from La Faba
A typical house in La Faba
Two Spanish peregrinas, that we met while stopping for a snack, walking on ahead of us.
Leaving La Faba we were steadily climbing up out Castilla y León and soon would be in Galicia! All along the way we saw beautiful mountain scenes of bushy open country with fields covered with gorse, white broom and laburnum.
Just outside of La Faba
The Spanish Peregrinas
Gorse, white broom and laburnum on the mountain
The mountain was certainly in bloom!
Happy to be climbing!! Words I never would have uttered before.
The view was spectacular!
The gorse bushes were colorful and beautiful!
One of my favorite pictures of Sue climbing up to Laguna de Castilla, the last hamlet before you entered Galicia
The next four pictures were taken in Laguna de Castilla and I loved how the farmer and his dog had the situation under control. Those cattle knew exactly what was expected of them.
At first I thought this was an unplanned meeting since the farmer and his dog came from an opposite direction than the cattle.
The bull is doing his best to intimidate the dog
The Dog won this battle of wills!
It’s hard for me to describe my emotions as we entered Galicia. Arriving at O Cebreiro I felt that we were about to enter a mystical and magical place and that we were not alone in doing so, either that day or historically speaking. How many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims or maybe even more must have felt the same emotions I was just feeling? Physically I was amazed at how fine I felt. The climb had been much, much easier that I had ever imagined it to be. Of course, I was fitter than I had ever been but I also know that walking with Sue and my other fellow peregrinos had made the climb easier too. It was truly beginning to sink in that Santiago de Compostela was getting really, really close and that the major obstacles in my path were behind me. It was a great feeling!!
Getting close and happy for that feeling.
We’ve reached the border with Galicia and take a brief moment to celebrate
Those little dots are peregrinos making their way up.
We are finally just outside of O Cebreiro
A plaque showing the village as it must have been
The view from the top
Sue making her way to the church at O Cebreiro
O Cebreiro was and is such a truly magical place that I will devote a whole post to it. Coming Soon!