NOTE: For some reason, some of you might have gotten this section attached to the Cacabelos post, and I’m not sure why . . . but here it is in its final form, with photos.
Saturday, October 5, 2013. After a great evening with Matthew and Livia, I was awake half the night, trying to think about whether I brought my hiking poles into the cab yesterday, and finally decided I had not. An early morning search around my bed and the reception area of the albergue confirmed this. GEEZ! I carry them across a country and can’t get them ten steps into a cab in the dripping rain.
So this morning, Matthew calls the hotel and they quite kindly say they have the sticks at their office. Matthew drives me back to pick them up and we return to the albergue so I can load myself up for the walk to O’Cebreiro.
The day is very overcast, but apparently it is just the mist, which should disappear slowly over the next few hours, leaving me with a clear blue sky, emerald green surroundings, and an “up and down the rabbit hole” walk that will take me through tiny villages and on up to the top of this particular clump of mountains. The weather does clear up beautifully, though the humidity is like a sticky blanket that envelops everything. This is why it’s so green here.
For all the time I worried about this climb before I got here, it is only half the elevation gain as that of the Pyrenees from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles, though the fact that I’ve had a bit more than a month of walking myself into much better shape might have a wee bit to do with how much easier it seems. I pass familiar fellow travelers who have opted to stay overnight in Ruitelan or Herrerias or La Faba, pass dogs and cows and signs that say I can rent a horse to make this section of the trip, but I am fascinated by the fairy-tale quality of the woods. We’ve come to Galicia.
I continue until the path pops out of the woods and becomes a groomed walk. To my right is a neatly constructed stone wall, about hip-high, and to my left is a drop-away view of the hillside deep below.
Elderly local people are taking a morning stroll up this walkway, and before I know it, I have reached,
of all things, a parking area for those who have come up here for their Saturday afternoon outing. Thatched roofs on rounded stone buildings give way to a tiny mountain-top village with souvenir shops, bars, small hotels and two tiendas. It is a hobbit-land.
I try for the first hotel I see, and have to go through the bar to get information. There sit Shirley and Len from Toronto, from Cacabelos two nights ago and Molinaseca before that. They have searched to no avail for a room, and finally settled on beds in the only albergue, so I head off to secure one for myself. Another large building with two or three large sleeping spaces housing 100 beds. At least I get a bottom bunk. I’ve learned to be grateful for many tiny things.
The settling-in routine is always the same. Find your bed, then a spot for your pack, gather the cleaning necessities for becoming half a civilized human being again: quick-drying towel, mesh bag with soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste. Open the now much-appreciated Eagle Creek Pack-It system zippered cubes, light as a feather, and pull out clean underwear, clean shirt, black capri pants and black pull-over hoodie. Take off socks and slip feet into the Crocs sandals and head for the shower. This one happens to be in the basement with another large room full of bunk beds and inhabitants (including Shirley and Len).
I always long for my own shower and bathroom at this time of day, but again, am grateful if the water is relatively warm, the cubicle is large enough to segment for the dry clothes separate from the spraying water, and the whoosh of the cleansing wet as it rinses salt-sweat from my face, hair, body. I am coming back to being a reasonable respectable- feeling human being.
Returning to my bunk space, clean, dressed, and nearly dry, I edge sideways past my bunk-neighbors, all of us apologizing in our various languages for practically stepping over one another. Hang up my travel towel, put dirty clothes into a bag for hand-washing tomorrow, and slip on my Teva sandals. It is windy on the top of this hobbit hill, so I gather the long-and-wide multicolored scarf Sharon H gave me last spring, wrap it around me and head for the outside.
Back to the original bar where they have wi-fi and wine. Lovely combination for what energy I have left at the end of this, another day on the Camino. Shirley, Len and I will have dinner together in a couple of hours. More hot and delicious Caldo Gallego (the cabbage soup, with actual cabbage this time, rather than kale). We have a grown-up conversation, just the three of us, and then shiver back to the albergue in a very brisk wind at the top of this mountain. Maybe I’m grateful the bunks are so close together in my part of the municipal facility. I’ll be warm just from the mass of bodies shivering together.
I look forward to a good sleep and another spectacular day in Galicia . . . all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.