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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
O Cebreiro was and is such a truly magical place that I will devote a whole post to it. Coming Soon!