Camino de Santiago
Day 27 Cacabelos to Vega de Valcarce 19 Miles
This article is the twenty-third in our series of walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago with my husband Scott. Some articles will be only about one day of walking, and some may include a few days of walking, for the lengths will vary. To begin with the first article click here.
Silently, we made our way in darkness down the streets of Cacabelos. The only sound was the tap, tap, tap of the rubber tips of our trekking poles. As was our usual routine, we were all on the road by 7:30 a.m. to begin the day’s journey.
We came upon an old man selling produce in front of his garden. He was very friendly and I used my small amount of Spanish to wish him a good day after I bought a pear from him. Scott was buying some fresh figs for he and Blythe and was caught up in a huge conversation with the man. The girls and I moved on, leaving Scott with the old man to chat. He did manage to catch up with us a little while later.
Villafranca del Bierzo
We entered town and passed right by the Castle of Villafranca. It was impressive and from the outside appeared to be fully intact. There wasn’t time to stop and explore the castle, as we still had a big day ahead.
Then, just minutes later, we passed the imposing Convent of the Pardes Paúles.
It was cold outside and we needed to warm up as we filled our bellies with breakfast. We took a short break inside a cafe to make our plan for the rest of the day. During breakfast we looked over the Wise Pilgrim app and discovered that just ahead we needed to make a choice between hiking over a mountain or taking a flat path next to the highway. Thankfully, we were all in agreement and came to a quick decision.
First, we spent some time in the town’s flower garden. It was beautiful and full of many different kinds of flowers, all in bloom.
Let’s Hike Up and Down a Mountain!
On our way out of town we crossed a huge bridge spanning the Burbia River. Then, we turned right up a steep street with a few homes and began climbing the mountain. The path quickly turned to dirt, and there were no more homes around.
I was glad we had agreed to take the more challenging route. Hiking next to the highway didn’t appeal to any of us.
We spent a good part of the morning climbing the mountain. I would say it was pretty strenuous. My calves were burning and I was overheating and had to shed some layers of clothing. I always kept my mantra in my head to just take “little French old lady steps.”
As we neared the top of the mountain, we walked through groves of ancient chestnut trees. Being October, we thought it must be near the harvest time because there were chestnuts everywhere.
The views we experienced were absolutely stunning. We could see the town we had stopped in for breakfast.
Most pilgrims didn’t choose the “hike over the mountain” option that day. We only saw one other couple on our way up.
At the Top!
At the top, we ran into a group of pilgrims. They didn’t have packs, and appeared to have just got off a bus in a town near the top of the mountain. They seemed to be a friendly bunch and had a lot of energy. Eventually, leaving us behind.
Scott, Blythe, Jenn and I started the downhill portion of our hike. At first it was on pavement, but quickly switched to steep, dirt roads.
Once we reached the valley floor we walked next to the highway for a while, crossing the same river many times, it seemed.
We came upon a store across the highway, so we ran in and bought iced tea and snacks. Iced tea had to be my favorite Camino energy boost.
Vega de Valcarce
The rest of the afternoon was pleasant walking near a small river and through tiny villages. Upon arriving at Vega de Valcarce, we decided it would be the town we spent the night.
I went into a bakery/pension and asked if they had rooms available. The host walked me up the street to a Casa Rural and showed me the available rooms. The rooms were nice and clean and we moved right in. We cleaned up and washed our laundry, hanging it on the line in the yard to dry. It was late in the day and there wasn’t any sun, but we were hopeful it would dry.
The four of us walked up the street to find a restaurant for dinner. We met two pilgrim women and had a nice evening of wine and conversation. One of the women was a nurse and I told her about my sore throat and welts on my arms and neck. She felt I had a virus and not bed bug bites, (yay) so I was glad I had talked with her about it.
Scott didn’t seem to mind being the only man with five women. He was a good sport.
Returning from dinner I saw our laundry was still wet. I brought it inside to try to towel dry it. When I reached for the towel hanging in our bathroom it was really warm, almost hot. I thought we had a heated drying rack, but Scott said the bathroom lights were putting off heat. We hung our laundry around the bathroom and strategically aimed the lights at the laundry. I left them that way for the entire night, and our clothes were dry in the morning!
We went to bed early that night because the next day, we had another mountain to climb!
Day 27, 19 miles.
Day 28 Vega de Valcarce to Triacastela 22 Miles
The morning of Day 28 began with a quiet walk in the valley, near the river, passing through tiny villages. There was a layer of mist hovering just above the grass and it felt like we were in a dream. We stopped early for breakfast because we needed energy for the long climb ahead.
Climbing Another Mountain
Just as we started to climb, we turned off the paved road onto a steep and rocky, dirt road. I couldn’t even imagine hiking it in the rain. That would have been a major challenge.
Several times we needed to stop and remove layers, take a drink of water and catch our breath.
Part way up, we came upon a small village and saw a few pilgrims sitting at an outdoor cafe. Miss Belgium was there, the teacher we had met at the beginning of the Camino, but had not seen in awhile. We said our Buen Caminos as we trudged up the mountain. It was the last time we ever saw Miss Belgium on the Camino.
Finally, we reached the top of the mountain. The views were amazing and we could see way into the valley where we had began our morning.
Our option was to stay in the quaint town of O Cebreiro (the Gateway to the Galicia region) or keep going on to Triacastela, which would make for a very long day. We walked around the small town, with its signature round buildings and thatched roofs. It was very crowded with pilgrims and tourists who had been bussed up the other side of the mountain.
The four of us sat down and enjoyed a picnic style lunch of salami, cheese and fruit. We came to the conclusion that we would keep walking, in hopes of taking a rest day soon.
For the next couple hours we passed small towns and farmland, sometimes walking next to the road way.
After a short, very steep climb, we arrived at a cafe and stopped for a few minutes rest. There were huge dogs roaming around and I wish I had taken pictures, but I was too tired. The dogs seemed much bigger in Spain, than back home in California.
After our break we separated from Blythe and Jenn and went on ahead. It was mostly downhill for the rest of the afternoon. There were few pilgrims, so Scott and I were alone. We did see a snake cross our path, our first on the Camino.
We ended our walk at 6:00 p.m. after 22 miles of walking. We sure were exhausted.
As we walked into town we came to an outdoor cafe, and who was sitting there enjoying a bottle of wine? Ted and Eve from Texas! We told them we were trying to find a place to stay, but everything was full. They recommend Casa Olga’s up the hill. After walking the entire town for about an hour, with no luck, Scott went up the hill to Casa Olga’s. There was no one there.
We were standing on the street watching for Blythe and Jenn, when a woman pulled up in her car and asked me if we needed a room. I said “Yes, please” and just then Blythe and Jenn walked up. Perfect timing. She gave Blythe and Jenn her last room, which turned out to be sub-par in the basement, but they got it for a cheaper price. At least we had a place to clean up and sleep.
The four of us ended our day enjoying a very nice dinner. We tried Pulpo (octopus) which the Galicia region was famous for. The Pulpo was a bit chewy for my taste, but at least I did try it.
I ordered fried eggs and sausage for my dinner. I must have been in desperate need of protein.
Finally, we discussed our plan for the next day, and decided to press on to the next big city where we could enjoy a rest day.
Day 28, 22 miles, a very long day.