It wasn’t supposed to be this hard

The good weather continued today with partly cloudy skies and highs forecasted to be in the low 60’s. As we made our way to breakfast it was 46 F so we made a mental note to gear up accordingly just to get started. Layers would certainly get peeled off as the day warmed up and we started climbing. We opted to jump ahead to a small village called Alvaredos. This reduced today’s walk from 26.3 kms to just a bit over 19. As it turned out this was a wise move.

Today’s terrain was ever changing at best. We did have some nice flatter sections, but those were more than offset by a seemingly endless sequence of challenging climbs and steep descents. The spectacular vistas that were gifted to us as we wandered the upper reaches of the river valley offset the effort required to get there. But, in truth, it was a challenging day’s walk that eventually brought us into Quiroga at 2:45, after 5.5 hrs of non stop high energy walking. We were tired, and footsore, as we were buzzed through the door of the Hostal Quiper in search of a room. Good fortune was with us and we got our (very clean) room. Now with the post walk chores of showering, doing the laundry, and finding  something to eat are finally in hand (we even made a reservation for our hostal for tomorrow night) we are just kicking back and relaxing until tomorrow rolls around and we get to do this all over again. It seems crazy, but Robin and I love it. Buen camino.

A quiet day by the river

Due to the need to break up what otherwise would have been an unnecessarily long stage we opted today to walk only 11 kms to A Rua. This will set up a 26 km day tomorrow, but we might reduce that a bit as well. It seems 20 kms is a nice distance for us these days. As we had such a short day we lingered over breakfast and lounged in our room until around 10:30 when we started to saddled up to head for A Rua. It was right at 11:00 when we stepped out of the hotel.

This camino route is all about the River Sil. It is always close at hand. This morning we ambled along close aboard the river simply enjoying the sounds and sights. At one point a guy in a truck pulled up alongside of us and asked if we wanted to get our pilgrim credential stamped. He had the stamp in his hand and was gesticulating with an up and down stamping action. Of course, we chimed in and out he sprung from his truck eager to get the stamp onto our credentials. We thanked him, wrote down our names and where we were from, took a photo, and off he went smiling like he had just won the lottery. My guess was that he was a member of one of the local camino associations that is actively promoting this beautiful camino. We have encountered a few others in the short time we have been walking, and Robin has been actively engaged with the Spanish Camino Invierno Facebook page. Lots of chatter and energy are flowing from a variety of sources into making this a more well known and mainstream camino. I believe it should and will be in the near future. That’s my Nostradamus moment for today.

 

What has caught our eye is how much effort the various local camino associations have put into making this a safe, comfortable, and therefore enjoyable camino. So far from what we have experienced, they are succeeding. Well done to all involved.

All good things must come to an end (I guess bad things do as well for that matter) and our delightful stroll along the river finally led us up a hill and then down onto the main street of A Rua. We got our bearings on where we were booked in for the night, did a bit of resupply shopping and then headed uphill to our night’s lodging the Casa Rural Pacio do Sil.

Julia, our host, and her husband met us at the door and made us feel right at home. We made arrangements to have dinner at 7:00 and in the meantime a plate of cold meats, cheese, bread and wine were delivered to our room. All is well. The laundry is done, Robin has had a nice soak in the tub and the smells from the kitchen argue that a delicious dinner is near at hand. I’ll confirm tomorrow. Buenas tardes from A Rua in Galicia.

 

On the pilgrim super-highway

The door to the Hostal Torre creaked open   at 8:30 this morning as Robin and I crossed the street to the cafeteria where we would find life sustaining coffee and settle our account. It was a warm still morning that gave one the feeling that someone had hit the pause button and we were stuck in some sort of time warp waiting for someone to make the first move. It felt stagnant yet surprisingly hopeful. A crazy mix of feelings indeed, but Camino mornings can do that to you.

The señora was quite kind and cheerful as we ordered a couple of cafe con leches while waiting for our bill. A few stragglers drifted in, coffee cups rattled, the espresso machine wheezed away and a faint gray started to creep across the black windows. Another sleepy town in Spain was awakening. Two guys, obviously pilgrims, said hello and wished us a buen camino as we made our farewells and shifted out the door. The bar owner had gifted us with a little swag, a logo’d buff, and a pen for both of us. Very kind.

So out the door we went into the muggy dim dawn and set out for O Barco some 20 kms down the road. It was a still quiet world that embraced us us daylight slowly illuminated the Sil River valley. In short, it was a perfect start to another wonderful day on the Camino Invierno. We climbed out of Puente De Domingo Flórez and set a good pace to O Barco. It was at this point we realized that Robin had lost our guide book printout for the day. No worries we had a pdf. So off we went, up and down, enjoying the beautiful walk along the Sil River. We could see particularly between  the villages of Pumares and Sobradelo a great deal of work was going on to grade and level the trail. Someone had funded some significant trail maintenance. Bravo.

We pulled into Sobradelo around 11:45 and shortly thereafter our two Spanish pligrims arrived, and lo and behold they had our lost guide book pages. As it turned out they were from Salamanca and had walked this route five years ago, and were doing it again. We thanked them for their kindness and after wishing them a Buen Camino we shoved off for O Barco where we arrived, in the center of the city, at 1:30. We made good time today in large part due to the beautifully prepared trail between Pumares and Sabredelo. It truly was like a super-highway, wide, level and dry. We stopped for lunch at the Restaurante Casa Galaica, which was packed on a Sunday. A table was found for us and a most enjoyable lunch followed. We jumped in a taxi after lunch and found ourselves at the Hotel Calzada in neighboring Arcos a few minutes later. We only have to walk about 10 kms tomorrow to arrive in  Rua so an easy day is at hand. I could get used to this. More tomorrow. Saludos.

An up and down day

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Robin and I emerged from our room at the Hotel Rural O Palleiro in the pre-dawn half light gingerly negotiating stairs hidden in shadows. We carefully made our way to Isabel’s welcoming and warm dining room where breakfast awaited us. It was the usual toast, cake, juice and coffee, but the coffee was served French style in a bowl instead of a cup. Isabel, who was born in France, and lived there for 21 years, simply stated a cup was too small. Who could argue as we nosed into our coffee bowls. Our amigo, Saturno, from yesterday arrived on schedule at 8:30 to return us to Borrenes where we would continue with today’s walk to Puente Domingo Florez. As we arrived back in Borrenes Saturno dashed off to his hotel and returned with two Camino Invierno pins for our backpacks. Apparently Saturno and his wife Marisol are very active on the Camino Invierno Facebook page. Robin recently joined and posted some pictures and they were thrilled to have her as a new member.

It was just about 9:00 when all farewells were made and we set off once again on the road to Santiago. It really was a simple day. All we had to do was climb for half the day (to just past the village of Medulas) and then descend for the other half down to the river at Puente Domingo Florez. The path, once again, was very well marked. We walked over a mix of senda, forest tracks and quiet rural paved roads. No problems and quite enjoyable. The first two days of this Camino are being scored very high for beauty, signage, and services. If this continues we might never go home. Having a fabulous Camino. More later.

 

 

Las Medulas

Robin and I have been relaxing this afternoon at the Casa Rural O Pelleiro in Orellán. What we did not realize was that there was a scenic overlook to the Roman Las Medulas gold mines only 1.5 kms from where we are staying. Our host Isabel kindly offered to drive us there to see this remarkable site. What you see in the pictures is what remains of a mountain after decades of hydraulic excavation in search of gold.

Off to the Castillo

Today was our first day on the Camino Invierno, and it did not disappoint. We try to be easy on our bodies for the first few days of any Camino. So this morning we caught a taxi from our hotel and got dropped off in Villalibre de la Jurisdicción which reduced today’s 20 km walk by 8 kms. In short order we were off the main road and walking through decaying villages that are sadly very typical in Spain. The Camino followed quiet village roads and the moved onto double and single track lanes. We pushed along looking for the split where one has a choice to climb to the ruins of the Castillo de Cornatel or continue along the road towards Borrenes. The trail to the castle scribes a roughly horseshoe shaped pattern. The road option would be the short distance connecting the ends of the horseshoe. So in short the climb to the castle is all about seeing the ruins and enjoying the elevated views than advancing along the Camino track. But, as we were only looking at a very short day, off we went climbing up to the castle.

The grade was, at most, moderate. We simply chugged along slow and steady following switch back to switch back as we ascended. I must admit that when we first glimpsed the castle ruins high above us in the mist I thought, no way are we going all the way up there. Yet, that is exactly what we did and it really wasn’t difficult. In fact it turned out to be a gorgeous climb that provided some breathtaking vistas as we continued along. The trail took us through what looked to be another abandoned village, but a dog was barking and someone (maybe the only one) was playing some loud music. No neighbors to complain. As we approached the castle we were gifted with broad open views of mist carpeted valleys and snow capped peaks. It was simply stunning scenery. Absolutely breathtaking, and well worth the climb.

The sun was now out, the temperature was moderating as we started our descent. Robin and I couldn’t believe our good fortune that on day one we had such a perfect experience. Once at the bottom we saw we only had 1.6 kms to go to the village of Borrenes where we would be spending the night. Having heaps of time at hand we just ambled along enjoying the simple gift of being present here at this moment. I can’t imagine anything better.

Borrenes was very quiet save for a passing car, the driver of which, called out a “buen Camino” as she kicked up some gravel seemingly anxious to get to town. We found the main square and our hotel, and a bar across the square from it. We headed for the bar. As it turned out the owner of the bar was also the owner of the hotel. He was behind the bar with one customer nursing a coffee. His face lit up when we walked in. He likes peregrinos, and is a big promoter of the Camino Invierno. We ordered a couple of cervezas and once they were on the table he disappeared. Not long thereafter he reappeared with two bowls of sopa de ajo (garlic soup), and man was that good. Once all this hospitality was shared he broached the more immediate problem. His hotel (across the street) was having a heating problem and we could not stay there. However, he did have a solution. He whisked us away to a the neighboring village of Orellán and introduced us Isabel and her casa rural (bed and breakfast). So this is where we are encamped for the night. We will be picked up after breakfast tomorrow morning and returned to Borrenes where we will resume walking the Camino. A perfect (if short) Camino day. Off to Puente de Domingo Florez tomorrow.

On the road to Ponferrada

 

Today was a repositioning day. We had to get from Logroño to Ponferrada and the only viable option was by rental car. So after another delightful breakfast at the Hotel Calle Mayor we called a taxi to take us to the train station and the Avis rental car agency. 30 minutes later and many euros lighter we were wending our way through Logroño to get to the freeway that would eventually take us to Ponferrada. The gps was set up and Google maps handled the rest. A previous road trip in Spain proved quite costly when I received an invoice for some photo radar speeding tickets. I duly paid them and made a mental note to, in the future, just stay at the speed limit. So that’s what I did, and lo and behold, we arrived safe and sound in Ponferrada around 2:30pm. Of course the rental car agency was closed for siesta when we arrived so we headed off to our hotel with Google maps screaming course changes by the second in the tight confines of the old town. Nonetheless we arrived unscathed but a little rattled from all the “where the hell are we moments” we hadas we drove down one alley after another in search of our elusive hotel.  But a few hours have now passed and we are in a much better state of mind. In fact the number one restaurant (trip advisor) is right next door. Things are looking up. All this aside we are looking forward to starting the Camino Invierno tomorrow. Now let’s see what happens. Ciao for now.