14.11.16 – 15.11.16 Pieros to Vega de Valcarce 21.6km; Vega de Valcarce to Liñares 14.7km
The next day I rose even earlier than usual, and performed my T’ai Chi routine through twice. I relished the exercise in the freezing morning air, teetering on the bumpy slope as the sun appeared.
Coming in from the cold, the dining room was cosy, and I was impressed by the healthy and satisfying breakfast. Afterwards, however, I was summarily kissed goodbye, not once, but twice, on the lips, by the ‘friendly’ hospitalier (see blog 20). I think that behaviour was a sort of unwelcome show for the other walkers preparing to leave. It was uninvited, and something which prompted uncomfortable comments for days to come. Walking in the sunshine undoubtedly frees the spirit, and I witnessed all sorts of happy meetings along the way. Despite that, the men I met were chivalrous, except this one who took advantage.
‘..everything recommences, everything sets off once more, and the dawn banishes the past along with the night.’
Walking out of the Léon region, I admired the multi-coloured vines lined up neatly in the fertile valley below.
By 10am, rucksack on my back and getting into my stride, I passed through Villafranca del Bierzo, with its round tower.
Villafranca is another town heavily dependent on the Camino de Santiago, and it gets a mention as far back as the Middle Ages (791), for its wine producing monastery. Now it boasts at least 4 churches, 2 palaces and a castle!
In Vega del Valcarce, I was happy to take my night’s rest in a private room, available presumably because there were considerably less pilgrims now the year was drawing to a close. The lady of the house was welcoming and generous, offering us eggs and veg from her garden, and I laughed out loud watching the kittens play and sending photos of them to my daughters.
In my diary for 15th November, I wrote, simply, ‘A beautiful day in every way’. It was a frozen morning. The sun was rising very late now, and I needed a jacket, gloves and hat to keep me warm.
To wake up with nothing better to do than don the backpack, feed oneself and walk out into this. Wow! Fresh air in the nostrils, cheeks reddening, and the best of companions by my side.
The harvest pumpkins were like great, gleaming gems in the frozen patch.
As the day mellowed, the warm sun conjured the grass smell up out of the undergrowth, and produced….da-dah!…..blue sky.
‘breathe and surrender to a well-being slow as a forest path.’
‘Serenity is the immense sweetness of no longer expecting anything, just walking, just moving on.‘
‘And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.‘
Fern Hill, Dylan Thomas
Oh the beautiful views, vistas of violet blue hills and lime green fields, framing the orange slopes and meadows of Galicia!
The guide book said the next place was O Cebreiro, and knowing what was ahead encouraged me to keep going. Stumbling and crawling now, straining thighs, panting up tumbles of rocks, rounding a corner and thinking we were there, no! Passing a woman getting her breath back. And finally, the summit, with noble cross, 9th century church, thatched pallozas (huts), ground-hugging stone and slate buildings, all a mere 150km from the city of Santiago.
Instead of staying in this pretty windswept place, we travelled a little further to Liñares, a very modern hostel of metal and glass with a picture window over the valley at dusk, and another private room. Bliss.
All quotes taken from A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros.
Other Camino blog http://www.elcaminoasantiago.com/caminos/frances/etapa26.htm