We start with Regina’s photo of Galicia from the high pass of O’Cebrerio — 4,297 feet. Cruz de Ferro was higher, at 4,940 feet, but the climb up to O’Cebrerio seemed tougher. Luckily, we had blue skies and sunshine — by all accounts, not that common in Galicia, the province we are now in.
We left in good spirits from Herrerias at 9:00 a.m. Regina — who says she likes to go fast uphill — arrived at O’Cebrerio (a distance of about 6 miles and an ascent of something over 2,000 feet) at 11:00. Anthea — who got distracted by a yellow cat and a black puppy in a small town along the way, as well as getting briefly on the wrong track — arrived at noon. Jim and I — I am very slow — arrived at 1:00 p.m.
The town’s 50 permanent residents had been joined by a steady stream of peregrinos who arrived, got their pictures taken by each other and whoever else was handy, ate some lunch, and drank some beer. People milled around the souvenir shops in the small main plaza. Regina pointed out that much of what they sold — clay pilgrim figurines and weighty knickknacks of standard tourist sorts — would not be attractive to the actual peregrinos, who by the time they have reached O’Cebrerio understand intimately the weight of worldly possessions. The guidebook says that the town has become a tourist destination, and it had much more of a cheery holiday air about it than almost any other place we’ve been. It also had the other aspects of tourist towns — when we tried to order our standard lunch sandwiches — a baguette with cheese and tomato slices, the answer was “no tomatoes.” It was hard to find a table for sitting to eat lunch, and we were OK with leaving soon after checking out the church and getting our credencials stamped.
In order to meet my sister Peg and her husband Tom in Sarria tomorrow (they are in Santiago now, having left Des Moines yesterday), we took a cab to Samos, home to a famous Benedictine monastery. From here we will walk about 12 kilometers to Sarria. The cab ride down that long mountain and all the way to Samos took about half an hour, enough time for the girls to doze off after the morning’s climb and the celebratory (and cooling — it got hot by about 10:00 a.m.) beer. Thus we have had the rest of the day to do laundry (in a washing machine!!), give some thought to the next week’s scheduling (because it is rapidly becoming more difficult to find rooms), see the monastery (Regina and I took the last tour of the day; it was in Spanish, but we had a brief printed English guide that helped); and get some dinner (good pizza, actually homemade and not frozen). And, as is too often the case, we’ve spent a couple of hours trying to get the wi-fi working; finally the cheerful young manager figured it out, so we have it at least for the moment.
Other notes: Cows. Cows are big. Their bells jangle as they wander about the meadows or crowd you out on the narrow paths that constitute the Camino much of the time. They come in small herds — a dozen or two in a field is the most we’ve seen. They don’t look at you with much sense of recognition or curiosity. They leave cow patties on the paths, mentioned several times by the guidebook, and their smell often permeates the area.
The distracting yellow cat — this cat has figured out peregrinos. Its spot in the sun at the end of a stone wall next to the Camino path means that some goodly percentage of the people who walk by will say, “Ohhh — cute cat” — and want to scratch its head. The cat obliges, rolls over to let you know that it needs its tummy rubbed too, and generally entices you (me) to keep on paying attention to it long after your walking companions have grown impatient.
The hippies in La Faba — They run a bar for peregrinos. The guy fit into that category that I mentioned before — men in their 40s or 50s, deeply lined faces, bad teeth, scruffy hair, thin, and a general air of having seeing a great deal of many sides of the world. We went into the bar for a Coke, and I wandered around a bit fascinated by the beaded earrings for sale, next to the ankhs and peace symbols on cords, the Indian print bedspreads, the up-to-date TV, set so that the owners could be working in the kitchen and watch it. I pulled out my camera to take a picture, and the woman half of the partnership caught sight and said, “No photo!!” She was wearing the white peasant blouse, had the dark hair pulled back over her shoulders, had a frown that belied the atmosphere of peace and love — I’ve met a dozen women like her since 1966. I wandered back outside, and the guy brought out a plank of wood the size of a dinner plate with a wonderful smelling curry of fresh vegetables, served one like it to a couple of peregrinos, and then sat with them eating his lunch with chopsticks. Ganesh (the Indian elephant-headed god) smiled on them all from a niche outside the bar. They were part of the 1960s, part also of the medieval tradition of the Camino, but wholly in 2012 with the TV and appliances and no doubt a car and Internet.
A Casa do Ferrerio — we ate dinner last night and breakfast this morning at the bar here, and because the guidebook mentioned that there had been a forge here we asked if it still existed. The woman of the house took us in to see — it was her father’s most recently (and apparently his father’s before him), and when he stopped working it, no-one moved any of the pieces.
Anthea and Regina, ready to tackle the mountain — the morning started off cold and clear. At 7:00 a.m., Orion shone bright just above the mountains to the south.
The rio Valcarce — it continued as our companion for a ways up the mountain. It was such a pleasure to see and hear the rivers, after passing so many of them in the rest of Spain that had dried up for the season.
Yellow primrose, opening to the sun.
A cow on the path — there’s no question about whose path it is if the cow wants to use it.
A fence near the mountain top made of branches tied together. Scenery beyond.
Ganesh on the Camino, with some of the rinkets for sale at the bar in La Faba.
The boundary marker for Galicia, with standard amounts of graffiti.
Jim at the top of O’Cebrerio.
A dozen happy pilgrims sitting on the wall at the entry to the town of O’Cebrerio. Jim is at the far right.
The bustling plaza in O’Cebrerio; souvenir shops in the background.
A palloza in O’Cebrerio — a traditional round building with thatched roof, shared (I think) by a family and their livestock.
Nereids (Sirens) holding up a fountain in the cloisters of the Benedictine monastery in Samos.
Pilgrim laundry drying on bushes at an albergue in Samos.