Tag Archives: Camino Sanabrés

Way Marks on the Via de la Plata: A Spotter’s Guide


The Vía de la Plata, like many other Camino de Santiago routes, is inhabited by a number of different types of signs and arrows that aim wandering pilgrims in the direction of Santiago de Compostela.

Overall, both the main Vía de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés variant are well way marked, although sometimes it may be necessary to pay serious attention, consult a map, or ask for help (it’s useful to speak Spanish in these cases).

Yellow Arrows

The majority of the way marks are painted yellow arrows. These are easy to identify by the fact that they are obviously painted, obviously yellow, and obviously arrows. They can be found throughout the route, from Andalucía to Galicia.

They are usually painted quite clearly,

[Arrow on rocks]

Between Los Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros.

but they may also be drippy

On the back of a sign in Camas.

or faded.

Between Torremegía and Mérida.

They’re usually just plain yellow, but in the area after Mérida, they tend to be outlined in red (and may be accompanied by a Saint James cross),

An arrow with a Saint James cross, between Aljucén and Alcuéscar.

and occasionally the yellow tends toward fluorescence.

Leaving Ourense.

Yellow arrows can be found on trees,

Between Almadén de la Plata and El Real de la Jara.

fences

Also between Almadén de la Plata and El Real de la Jara.

or fence posts,

Between Guillena and Castilblanco de los Arroyos.

rocks,

Between A Gudiña and Campobecerros on the Camino Sanabrés.

the front

Between Fuente de Cantos and Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

or back of signs,

Also between Fuente de Cantos and Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

little bridges over ditches,

Yet another photo taken between Fuente de Cantos and Puebla de Sancho Pérez.

pavement,

On the way into Alberguería on the Camino Sanabrés.

and occasionally even on fountains,

In Vilar de Barrio on the Camino Sanabrés.

stumps,

In the Parque Natural Sierra Norte between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata.

crosses,

Between Aljucén and Alcuéscar.

manhole covers,

In Bandeira on the Camino Sanabrés.

and random posts.

Between Guillena and Castilblanco de los Arroyos.

They usually indicate the Camino de Santiago route, but may also point to albergues.

On the way into Alcuéscar.

They may also show where a route divides. If you’re lucky, a sign will explain the division.

In Granja de Moruela, you can choose between continuing to Astorga, or taking the Camino Sanabrés through Ourense to Santiago.

If there’s no accompanying sign, a guidebook can come in handy.

Somewhat before Silleda on the Camino Sanabrés.

The most difficult part of using a yellow arrow can be to find it. Sometimes they’re everywhere, but other times they can be quite hard to locate. For one thing, they prefer highways and countryside to cities, where they can be more difficult to find or even disappear altogether.

On the way into Mérida.

Once you find a yellow arrow, the procedure is generally simple: you walk (or cycle) in the direction indicated. However, there can be difficulties. In the case of ambiguous arrows, which might point straight ahead but kind of sort of aim to the side, the safest thing to do is ask someone if they’re around, and otherwise to continue straight ahead.

Please note that some arrows appear to point straight up in the air. You should not take this literally.

Following an arrow on the way into Ourense.

Stone Markers

Stone markers come in many different shapes and sizes, but they’re easily recognized by their generally stony nature. Unlike the yellow arrows, stone markers stick to their own climactic zone. Different species are found in different places.

Some types include the Parque National Sierra Norte markers (after Castilblanco de los Arroyos),

Between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata.

Camino de Santiago rectangular markers (which I believe are native to Andalucía, although they may edge a bit into Extremadura),

Also between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata.

cubes with a sketch of the Arch of Cáparra on their top (these inhabit Extremadura),

Between Aldea del Cano and Cáceres.

short white stones with a yellow shell and arrow (which seem to be found only in the province of Zamora),

Soon after El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino.

pillars with “Vía de la Plata” in English and Arabic with a metal pilgrim staff and gourd (which appear for a while beginning in Baños de Montemayor),

Between El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino and Zamora

pillars that say “Vía de la Plata” and have a yellow shell (found in the province of Zamora),

In Roales del Pan.

large stones with the name of the town and advice and well-wishes for pilgrims (I believe these are native to the province of Zamora as well),

Leaving Granja de Moruela at the beginning of the Camino Sanabrés.

artsy arrows and sometimes stylized pilgrims (found only in Galicia),

In Lubián.

and short posts with embedded shell tiles (also found in Galicia; they occasionally have plaques with the distance to Santiago, but these generally seem to have been stolen).

Just before Santiago de Compostela.

The stone way marks work in different ways. If they have arrows on them, you can follow them in the same manner you would follow painted yellow arrows. If there are no arrows, you can take them as a sign that you’re going the right way.

The main exception is the Extremaduran cube marker. These have a dashed yellow line running through a picture of the Arch of Cáparra on the top, which indicates the direction of the route. Be sure to follow the ones with the yellow squares (or green and yellow). I believe the green ones indicate the precise route of the old Roman road; in any case, they tend to take you off paths when not combined with yellow.

Another possible exception is any marker with a shell, although these can be tricky. Sometimes they point toward Santiago. In Galicia, on the official stone markers, I believe the “rays” of the shell always point to Santiago. However, you can’t rely on this for non-official markers, or with shells on other parts of the route.

Signs

Signs are found scattered across the Vía de la Plata. Apart from metal signs, they tend to be far more endangered than their stone counterparts. Different types are frequently found alone, or in very small clusters. They may be wooden, metal, cardboard, or made of some other material.

The two non-road signs that are found throughout the route (with minor variations) are a small blue one with a yellow shell and an arrow,

Shell sign

Between El Real de la Jara and Monesterio.

and a sign with a stylized pilgrim.

[Pilgrim sign]

Leaving Ourense on the Camino Sanabrés.

Some examples of non-road signs that come in small clusters include signs with a photograph of the famous Santiago statue at the Santa Marta de Tera (found in the neighbourhood of that town),

Just out of Santa Marta de Tera.

signs with “Camino de Santiago,” a shell, and occasionally other words (found on a small portion of the Camino Sanabrés),

Just out of Rionegro del Puente.

and occasional “Vía da Prata” (Galician for “Vía de la Plata) signs (in Galicia).

Between Castro Dozón and A Laxe.

There are also some signs that seem to be the sole remaining member of their species.

[Que Dios te acompane]

Just after Montamarta. The sign says "may God accompany you."

In Laza, on the Camino Sanabrés. "Camiño" is Galician for "Camino"

[Small sign]

Just outside of Zamora.

A common road sign warns drivers that pilgrims may be passing, but is also helpful for walkers, since it suggests they are headed in the right direction.

[Sign for drivers]

Leaving Salamanca.

Another popular sign warns pilgrims they’re about to share a route with a highway.

[Share the road]

Between Montamarta and Granja de Moruela.

Occasionally, there may be impostor signs, such as construction signs with yellow arrows.

Soon after Montamarta. I believe the larger arrows were related to construction, while the smaller one indicated the Camino detour route.

Detour signs can also create problems.

Soon after Mombuey on the Camino Sanabrés.

In this case, I tried following the more permanent way mark, which led me to a sign that warned of potential explosions ahead. I backtracked, decided that “desvio” meant “detour,” and successfully followed more temporary signs until I was back on the normal route.

Way Mark Habits

Way marks generally live alone. When pilgrims are lucky, they stay fairly close together. Sometimes, especially in cities and on straight roads, they’re few and far between.

But occasionally, they congregate in great numbers, leaving passing pilgrims with no doubt whatsoever of the route.

[Lots of way marks]

Just before Terroso on the Camino Sanabrés.

[Cluster of signs]

On the way into Ourense.

So in conclusion …

As they say at the Dead Dog Café, stay calm, be brave … wait for the signs.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 6:52 pm
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The Vía de la Plata and Camino Sanabrés Overview


[Arrow on stone]

Before Fuente de Cantos, on the Vía de la Plata.

I can’t believe I’ve been home for two weeks! “Real life” still doesn’t feel very real….

I’ve scattered impressions of and information about the route throughout my Vía de la Plata posts, but I thought it would be helpful to bring them together. This covers the Vía de la Plata from Sevilla to Granja de Moruela, and the Camino Sanabrés variant from Granja de Moruela to Santiago, which I walked from April to May, 2011.

My Stages

I spent 44 days walking, and took five rest days, plus a week in Santiago. Much to my surprise, I could have done the walk in fewer days, but it was nice to be able to take my time—some days, anyway.

The longest stages I had no choice but to do were the 29/30 kilometres on Day 3 from Castilblanco de los Arroyos to Almadén de la Plata, and the 33 kilometers from Casar de Cáceres to Cañaveral. It’s usually possible to break up that last section, though—I was limited because the albergue at the Embalse de Alcántara was closed due to a water shortage.

My few other 30 kilometre-plus stages could have been broken up into shorter stages. However, there are definitely longer gaps between accommodation than on the Camino Francés, and sometimes you have to choose between quite a short day’s walk and a very long one.

Day 1: Sevilla to Guillena (23 km)
Day 2: Guillena to Castilblanco de los Arroyos (18 km)
Day 3: Castilblanco de los Arroyos to Almadén de la Plata (30-ish km)
Day 4: Almadén de la Plata to El Real de la Jara (15 km)
Day 5: El Real de la Jara to Monesterio (22 km)
Day 6: Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos (22 km)
Day 7: Fuente de Cantos to Puebla de Sancho Pérez (21 km)
Day 8: Puebla de Sancho Pérez to La Almazara (17 km)
Day 9: La Almazara to Torremegía (34 km)
Day 10: Torremegía to Mérida (16-plus km)
Day 11: Mérida (0 km)
Day 12: Mérida to Aljucén (17 km)
Day 13: Aljucén to Alcuéscar (21 km)
Day 14: Alcuéscar to Aldea de Cano (16 km)
Day 15: Aldea de Cano to Cáceres (22 km)
Day 16: Cáceres to Casar de Cáceres (11 km)
Day 17: Casar de Cáceres to Cañaveral (33 km)
Day 18: Cañaveral to Galisteo (28-ish km)
Day 19: Galisteo to Oliva de Plasencia (26 km, including 6 off-route)
Day 20: Oliva de Plasencia to Aldeanueva del Camino (I think about 28 km, including 6 off-route)
Day 21: Aldeanueva del Camino to La Calzada de Béjar (22 km)
Day 22: La Calzada de Béjar to Fuenterroble de Salvatierra (20 km)
Day 23: Fuenterroble de Salvatierra to San Pedro de Rozados (28 km)
Day 24: San Pedro de Rozados to Salamanca (24 km)
Days 25 and 26: Salamanca (0 km)
Day 27: Salamanca to El Cubo del Vino (36 km)
Day 28: El Cubo del Vino to Zamora (32 km)
Day 29: Zamora to Montamarta (20 km)
Day 30: Montamarta to Granja de Moruela (23 km)
Day 31: Granja de Moruela to Tábara (25 km)
Day 32: Tábara to Santa Croya de Tera (22 km)
Day 33: Santa Croya de Tera to Ríonegro del Puente (28 km)
Day 34: Ríonegro del Puente to Asturianos (26 km)
Day 35: Asturianos to Requejo de Sanabria (27 km)
Day 36: Requejo de Sanabria to Lubián (18 km)
Day 37: Lubián to A Gudiña (24 km)
Day 38: A Gudiña to Campobecerros (19 km)
Day 39: Campobecerros to Laza (16 km)
Day 40: Laza to Alberguería (13 km)
Day 41: Alberguería to Xunqueira de Ambía (20 km)
Day 42: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense (22 km)
Days 43 and 44: Ourense (0 km)
Day 45: Ourense to Cea (22 km)
Day 46: Cea to Castro Dozón (technically 14 km)
Day 47: Castro Dozón to Silleda (28 km)
Day 48: Silleda to Outeiro (24 km)
Day 49: Outeiro to Santiago de Compostela! (16 km)

Pilgrims: Very Rough Statistics

[Pilgrim sculpture]

A very modern pilgrim sculpture outside the bar at Valverde de Valdelacasa.

Out of the walking pilgrims I met or heard of, the vast majority were Europeans—German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, Italian, English, Belgian, Irish, Swiss, Hungarian, in more or less numerical order (there were a lot of Germans, and I only met one each from the last four countries). If I included bicigrinos, the number of Spaniards would jump drastically. There were also Americans, Canadians and Australians (also in more or less numerical order), one Japanese man, and a large organized group of Koreans.

The youngest pilgrim I met was 24, and those of us under 50 were definitely in the minority. The vast majority of walkers were retired. (Again the statistics would change if I factored in bicigrinos, who tended to be younger.) I met the greatest number of young pilgrims in the last week. They all seemed to be doing 40-ish kilometre stages.

There were a lot of couples and some other people who’d come with walking partners—in a number of cases they’d met on the Camino Francés years before. But there were also a lot of solo walkers.

More pilgrims seemed interested in solitude than on other routes—even some of the couples had come to spend time alone together. For future reference, spring on the Vía de la Plata isn’t the best time/place for solitude, although if you don’t want to bump into a constant stream of pilgrims, leaving a little late can really help.

A number of people occasionally took taxis, trains and/or buses, either because of injuries, to get to off-route accommodation, because they were running behind schedule, or to skip stretches of the route that ran along the highway.

Pilgrim Numbers

Several hospitaleros and other people along the way told me there were more pilgrims on the Vía de la Plata than any other year—one specifically said there were a lot more even than last year, which was a Holy Year.

The Pilgrim Office statistics suggest there were actually more pilgrims on the route last year, but I wonder if a much larger number of pilgrims just did the last hundred kilometres or so.

The relatively vast numbers of pilgrims was a problem in terms of albergue beds. It came up as a potential difficulty for me quite near the beginning, and the bed squeeze lasted until somewhere on the Camino Sanabrés. Some people told me the problem was tied to the Semana Santa (Holy Week, when apparently a lot of Spaniards and some other Europeans go on holiday), but there were full albergues after that, too, so I don’t know about the cause and effect there.

I was expecting the competition for beds to become more intense after Ourense—after all, it’s the logical starting place to walk the last hundred or so kilometres. However, it actually seemed quieter after Ourense, possibly because there were variants, like the detour to Oseira.

Landscape

[Near Granja de Moruela]

Near Granja de Moruela on the Vía de la Plata.

There was some walking through ugly parts of cities and a few small industrial areas (though nothing as bad as Burgos and León on the Camino Francés). There were gorgeous walks through countryside and along huge reservoirs and in forests (the types of trees changed along the way). And there was everything in between: run-down villages and pretty villages; heavily cultivated land with tractors everywhere and pastureland with crumbling stone walls and the occasional herd of cows or flock of sheep.

I guess the landscape is repetitive, with similar scenery for days at a time, but I enjoyed it.

Of course, this being spring, there were flowers everywhere. I can see how, without them, the landscape would be a lot bleaker.

Towns

At the beginning, there were long stretches with no towns or villages. By the end, on the Camino Sanabrés, some of the villages ran into each other, and there was often (but not always) somewhere to stop for coffee every five kilometres or even less.

Terrain

During the first several days out of Sevilla, I met some other people who had the same English guidebook that I did. We were all surprised to find that there were some serious hills along the route, as our guidebook had led us to believe there were no serious climbs from Sevilla to Astorga.

So for the record: there are some serious climbs on the route. They’re not frequent—it’s nowhere near as difficult as, say, the Le Puy route. But the terrain is often undulating, and some of the climbs and descents are seriously steep. They’re not usually incredibly long, but they can be difficult.

The Camino Sanabrés goes through the mountains, so of course is more difficult, with longer, often steeper ascents and descents.

Way Marking

[Way marks]

Sometimes it's easy to get lost ... and sometimes it isn't. I saw these way marks sometime after Lubián.

This was generally at least okay, though it varied quite a bit. Sometimes there were yellow arrows and other signs everywhere. At other times there was little to go on.

Sometimes I really had to look around for the way marks, which might be down low on curbs or up high on houses.

I found that if there was no sign of an arrow, it was generally safe to keep going straight ahead. Also, in Extremadura, I followed the cubical way marks. These didn’t technically show the pilgrimage route, but the yellow ones generally coincided it. The line on top of these shows where the route goes (though it’s not directional like the arrows).

Considering my lack of a sense of direction, I actually didn’t get lost all that often. And when I was lost, or about to become so, there was often someone around to ask.

Weather

At the beginning and end of my trip the temperature was in the low 30s Celsius, which when walking in the sun felt incredibly hot. From what I heard, this was warmer (and, at least in Galicia, drier) than usual, although not completely out of the ordinary. Other days started out quite cold: in the mountains on the Camino Sanabrés there was sometimes frost in the mornings.

Rain-wise I was lucky. I had a few awful days with downpours, and several days after that with intermittent downpours or drizzle. But after that, the storms came in the late afternoon or evening after I’d finished walking—making for muddy paths, but at least I didn’t get drenched.

Apart from that, there were some seriously overcast days that were great for walking, and sunny spring-like days that were a bit warmer and prettier.

Although weather can be radically different from year to year, from what I’ve read, the spring still seems the best bet weather-wise, at least if you don’t like insane heat.

Local People

I got so much help from local people, who would point me in the direction of albergues, bars, grocery stores, or even the Vía de la Plata itself. Some even escorted me all or at least part of the way to my destination.

In some sections especially, lots of people in cars honked and/or waved when passing, and tons of people wished me “buenos días” or “buen viaje.”

I had some of the most rewarding experiences of my trip when I made a real effort to strike up conversations—with people walking to the next village or people working in stores or bars. I found admiring the area—which I always truly did—was a good icebreaker: “Es muy bonita aquí.” After that, even people who’d seemed abrupt or slightly surly tended to chat.

Which brings us to….

Language

Obviously, the more Spanish you speak, the easier it is to get by. And of course it’s harder to chat—with local people or Spanish pilgrims—without a reasonable command of the language. That said, I met people who spoke very little Spanish and managed to get by.

As far as foreign pilgrims go, English would tend to be the common language, but there aren’t tons of native English speakers. French is a helpful language to know, for speaking with the large numbers of French pilgrims. And while German-speakers tend to speak some English, there would often be large groups of them (and Dutch people, who seem to generally speak some German). So a grasp of German would be helpful to understand a lot of conversations.

Of course, there’s often someone around who’ll translate for you, and a lot of big conversations are a multilingual muddle.

Dogs

I’d read before I left that dogs could be a serious problem on this route. However, I suspect this information is out of date.

Of course, there’s always a chance of being bitten by a dog anywhere you go, but neither I nor anyone I met had any problems with dogs. The big dogs generally weren’t interested in people walking by. The little ones might get excited and bark, but they were usually behind a fence or on a leash.

For some reason I never understood, I got barked at constantly for two days after Ourense (by dogs behind fences), before barking levels returned to their usual low levels.

Crossing Streams

[Submerged stepping stones]

Mostly submerged stepping stones, between Cáparra and Aldeanueva.

There are a lot of streams to cross (and a number of paths that pretty well turn into streams).

I managed to make it across most on stepping stones (sometimes makeshift). Once a stone tipped and I got my foot half-wet, but generally they were manageable—particularly with a stick.

The only time I really had to wade was between Cáparra and Aldeanueva. There were two places with very high water—the stepping stones had been submerged by the first stream, and I couldn’t even see any stones for the second.

Cost

Food: This got gradually more expensive as I got closer to Santiago.

I often had yogurt or something bready for breakfast, a cheese and tomato sandwich that I made myself for lunch, and assorted fruit, chocolate, ice cream, orange juice, wine and cafes con leche throughout the day. For dinner I’d generally have more sandwiches or go out.

I could often buy breakfast and lunch at a grocery store for under €5, though closer to Santiago it was often a little more than that. It also helped if I could find someone to split a four-pack of yogurt with, when I wasn’t allowed to buy part of it (usually in small stores they don’t mind if you break it up). Drinks and snacks were usually a euro or two each.

A three-course set meal was generally €8 to €9 at the beginning, and €10 to €11 by the end. A “mixed plate” (usually fries with some combination of salad, meat and eggs) was around €5 or €6. Pre-made sandwiches were anywhere from €3 to €5.

Accommodation: Albergues were sometimes free or donativo. The rest generally ranged from €5 to €12. In Extremadura, there was a stretch with only albergues turísticos, which were usually €10 or €12, often with breakfast for €2. In Galicia, the Xunta de Galicia albergues (and they’re almost all Xunta de Galicia albergues) are €5 and quite nice.

I don’t have nearly as much experience with other forms of accommodation, but towards the beginning, at least, you could generally get a cheap double room for €25 to €30, and a single for €15 to €20. It seemed to get more expensive toward the end—€35 to €40 for a double and €20 or more for a single. Of course, there were often more expensive options (I plan to stay in a parador one day … when I’m rich).

Other: I really didn’t have a lot of other expenses. Sometimes I had to replenish supplies (shampoo, dental floss, blister pads). And then of course there are souvenirs in Santiago. People who took taxis/buses/trains of course had to pay for those.

Theft and Loss

Theft doesn’t seem to be a huge problem, but it does occur. In Castilblanco de los Arroyos, I met a couple who’d had their bikes stolen. In Zamora a woman had her camera and sunglasses stolen from her pack in the albergue. And in Santiago, a man at my albergue had all his valuables stolen while in the cathedral.

As far as losing things goes, I talked a lot at the beginning about worrying about leaving things behind. I gradually stopped being so neurotic (at least in that respect) and in the end, all I lost was a pen, a few safety pins, and a thing of lip balm that someone gave me. This was a serious improvement on my last Camino, when I lost or left behind such important items as a pair of socks, a small bottle of clothes washing detergent, a pair of clip-on sunglasses, and a sweater.

So….

I hope this covers everything. If not, please feel free to add comments or questions.

Oh, and I’ve been meaning to mention this: Wim, with whom I spent a wonderful day on the Vía de la Plata, was walking partly to raise money for Shelterbox, an organization that provides shelter for people who have lost their homes due to natural disasters or other catastrophes. For more information, you can visit his fundraising page. Wim also has posted his beautiful photos from the trip, which show the route from Salamanca.

Also, Hermione, an Englishwoman I met at the beginning of my walk, has almost finished her walk from the Canary Islands to her home in England. I’ve just been going through her blog, and it’s a wonderful read. I even pop up briefly a couple of times.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 11:28 am
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Days 43 to 49 on the Vía de la Plata


[Pilgrims in the forest]

This photo, taken between Castro Dozón and A Laxe, is fairly typical of the beautiful foresty bits of the route in Galicia.

I’m actually here, in Santiago de Compostela. I’ve told people the trip was different this time because I knew I could make it (barring unforeseen circumstances). I knew I’d actually get to Santiago, whereas the first time 1500 kilometres seemed like such an incredible distance that I never believed deep down that I’d ever get there.

But now, four days after arriving, it still seems incredible that I’m here.

Days 43 and 44: Ourense (0 km)

[Modern bridge]

I don't generally get excited about modern architecture, but this bridge is really cool. And you can walk on the "wave" part—I did!

I figured I might as well take a rest day, since I had time and although my ankle was fine, my back was still intermittently sore. And then I was lazy and met up with a friend who was taking a rest day the following day, and one rest day turned into two. My Camino was definitely hedonistic on an intermittent basis.

The first day started with a bit of excitement, though. A French Canadian friend decided the bites he and I had were definitely bed bugs, and we spent the morning in the albergue washing our sleeping bags and all the clothes we weren’t wearing in the washing machine, and then soaking our backpacks in seriously hot water. If they were bedbugs, it seems to have worked, because I haven’t had a similar bite since.

[Cathedral]

The Ourense cathedral.

Ourense isn’t the prettiest of cities—it doesn’t have a serious old quarter—but it’s definitely less touristy and very busy. I think I saw five stores just selling perfume, whereas if the towns I’ve been passing through sold any perfume, it was a few boxes crammed in among food, toiletries, and more.

Like I said, I was lazy. I saw the cathedral. I drank tinto de verano (a mix of red wine and lemon pop) and ate tapas. I saw the hot springs—it turned out when the Camino takes you down a set of stairs only to take you back up again, it’s so you can pass the hot fountain. I wandered around.

Day 45: Ourense to Cea (22 km)

[Sign]

This was one of the more bizarre signs I encountered along the Vía de la Plata. (Are they trying to scare us?)

This was a hot day with a lot of ascents—possibly the longest steep part of the trip. It was mostly on asphalt, but on small roads rather than the highway. It started out going past a lot of houses, but by the end there were bits of forest, some with eucalyptus trees.

I left late, and by the time I got to Cea I was in quick-march mode, ready to collapse from the heat.

[Arrow pointing uphill]

The arrow is one of the beautiful signs on the route in Galicia—I believe each one is unique. The cyclists were creeping along up the hill.

I don’t know what it was, but this day and the next had by far the largest number of barking dogs on the route. My guidebook warns me to be careful of dogs, but up until this day I’d mostly been barked at by the occasional lap dog—the larger ones sometimes lifted their heads to watch me walk by.

The albergue was the usual nice but institutional building with a big dorm. If you stay there, make sure to find a bed at the back. The problem with the front is that if anyone takes the stairs, which they have to do to use the washroom, the motion-detecting light comes on. Very brightly. And it shines on the unfortunate sleepers. (I was lucky and in the back.)

Five of us ate out at a little bakery, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember. It was small, with only three small tables, and run by a very friendly family. The type of food was pretty standard, but the quality was better than average.

Day 46: Cea to Castro Dozón (technically 14 km)

[Castro Dozon]

Part of Castro Dozón, as seen from the albergue. Note the steepness of the mountains.

I was still happy to be walking, but I gave myself a break and took the “easy” route to Castro Dozón instead of the one past the monastery at Oseira. But everyone else who took the route agreed that it felt rather longer than 14 kilometres. It involved a fair bit of climbing, especially if you missed the Camino and ended up at a farm in the middle of nowhere asking for directions, as I did.

The day started out overcast and got quite sunny. The general trend for quite a while has been either that, or starting out sunny and ending up seriously overcast. Since before Galicia, there have been the occasional “tormentas” (storms—but doesn’t it sound so much worse in Spanish?), but in the late afternoons and evenings. I only got slightly wet that first day in Galicia, the province that is supposed to have constant rain. I guess I’ve been lucky.

The albergue, just outside town, was nice. It would be a serious pain in cold weather, though, since you have to go through a covered outdoor area to get from room to room.

Day 47: Castro Dozón to Silleda (28 km)

[Crosses in the fence]

Crosses created by passing pilgrims.

This was a pretty walking day, with some beautiful forests and a few steeply uphill bits but a general downhill trend. There was a lovely little bridge just past A Laxe, a middle-of-nowhere feeling town.

In a little town just before Silleda, a man (priest?) invited a few of us to visit his church, a nice change from the usually-closed churches. He even gave us an orange (and apologized for not having more). We ate it in the nice square outside, which had potable water—something that’s become rather a rarity since most of the fuentes for the few days before Santiago have signs saying they’re not guaranteed sanitary.

I can’t comment on the albergue, since I ended up getting a room from a bar in town. A night without a dorm room was amazing.

Day 48: Silleda to Outeiro (24 km)

[House with shell and arrow]

Even houses had signs telling us pilgrims where to go.

This was mostly a nice day, undulating through forests (there’s eucalyptus now) and countryside. At some point Luis, a Spanish guy I’d never met before, caught up with me and we ended up walking on together.

And then, approaching Ponte Ulla, there was a long, seriously steep descent. I was still feeling okay after it, but Luis, who’d walked a lot farther than I had that day, wanted to stop. Since I’d rented a room the previous night, I wanted to stay in the albergue, which was four kilometres farther. What’s four kilometres, after all? Luis decided to come with me.

Those four kilometres were some of the worst walking kilometres of my life. They were almost all uphill, and I don’t know how hot it actually was—I suspect in the low 30s Celsius. At first we walked through a residential area, where we stuck our heads over a fence to catch a bit of sprinkler water. Then we ended up staggering along through a forest. The road was wide, but we walked single file along the edge, since there were intermittent bits of shade there.

“If I stopped once, I’d never move again,” Luis said at one point, and I agreed.

Finally we reached a small Santiago chapel (closed, of course) with a fountain. The sign said the water wasn’t safe to drink, so we splashed it on our faces. Luckily, the albergue was only a few hundred metres farther.

There were only five of us in the albergue, probably because it was in the middle of nowhere. When I went down the hill (close to a kilometre) to investigate the food situation, I found one restaurant was closed (though later I was told it would deliver to the albergue). The other, in an utterly gorgeous hotel, was full up, but the father of one of the owners was incredibly nice and explained how I could get to a bar farther down the highway.

[Final supper]

Our feast in the albergue dining room.

Of the five of us in the albergue, the two Austrian women ordered food, and shared their Santiago cakes with the rest of us. Pietro from Italy had hauled a lot of food up the hill, and offered to share it with me and Luis.

None of us except the two Austrian women had met before, and we all (with the same exception) came from different countries with different languages. But all five of us ate together, talking mostly in Spanish although only Luis was fluent and the Austrian women could hardly speak it at all.

It was a quiet final evening, but very Camino.

Day 49: Outeiro to Santiago de Compostela! (16 km)

[Field and Santiago]

The houses in the background are Santiago.

Sixteen kilometres doesn’t sound like so much. After all, I’ve walked more than double that in a single day. But these 16 kilometres felt like at least thirty.

For one thing, there was a lot of steepness, both up and downhill. And then there was the heat, which hit hard by about nine a.m.

Apart from that, it was a nice walk, through countryside with fancy-looking houses and bits of forest. By about the halfway point, I could see the outskirts of Santiago sprawling up a big hill ahead.

[Santiago cathedral]

The Santiago cathedral. Unfortunately from an aesthetic perspective (but fortunately for its preservation), the clock tower is being restored and looks very lumpy.

I hadn’t realized that the Vía de la Plata has a much better view of the cathedral on the way in than the Camino Francés has. Walking through the Santiago suburbs, I crested a hill and could suddenly see the cathedral on the opposite hill. In that moment, I felt like I had arrived.

As I walked through the quiet streets, I couldn’t stop grinning.

Of course, the view came at a price. After I went down, I had to go up again to get to the cathedral, and the street was incredibly steep.

And then I was there, at the cathedral. As I’d been warned, it wasn’t as emotional an experience as last time. But all the same, it felt pretty good. I’d walked 1,000 kilometres, and I’d finally reached my destination.

Santiago

I’ll tell you more about Santiago, and why I’ve been here four days already, very soon.

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 4:41 am
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Days 40 to 42 on the Vía de la Plata


Well, here I am, two days away from Santiago. I’ve been dawdling lately. I have time, after all.

I don’t, however, have time to catch you up all the way. So I’ll take you to Ourense, and write about the past few days a little later (quite possibly from Santiago).

Day 40: Laza to Alberguería (13 km)

[Scenery]

It was rather uphill from Laza to Alberguería.

Right after I complained about not having anyone to talk with, things improved, of course. I ate dinner with a young German woman, her parents, and a family friend who happened to be a doctor. We had a nice discussion, and he gave me some wonderful concoction for my back that seemed to work wonders.

The next morning when I left Laza, I meant to do a 30-plus kilometre day, but obviously didn’t succeed.

The day started out with some very steep but beautiful climbs. As I walked, I saw some signs for a bar coming up, but didn’t pay much attention. I’d had my chocolate and peanut break, and didn’t need to stop at a bar.

But I was seduced by Leonard Cohen, walls full of shells, an albergue with personality, and two glasses of wine (in that order).

As I came up to the bar in Alberguería, I heard a song that seemed familiar. It took me a moment to realize it was a Leonard Cohen song. Now, since Leonard Cohen has provided the soundtrack (in my head) for a lot of my Camino, I thought I should probably stopped.

[Shells]

A few of the many, many shells in the Rincon del Peregrino bar.

Then I noticed the scallop shells covering the walls. Each had at least one name, often a country, and a date—pilgrims who’d passed through since 2004. Of course I needed a photo, and wanted to add my own name. I joined a few other pilgrims I knew for a cafe con leche, and wrote my name on a scallop shell.

I’d thought the music must be some sort of mix, but the next song was by Leonard Cohen as well. I commented to Luis, the bar owner, about how much I liked the music. As it turned out, he was a total fan of “El Cohen” and had been to several of his concerts. I asked if he had the song Hallelujah.

He did, but his remote wasn’t working and he couldn’t advance the CD. I’d have to stick around for a while.

So I waited. I chatted with a local man, who insisted on buying me two glasses of wine. I tried to help a Dutch pilgrim find her friend’s name. I went across the street to a new albergue I hadn’t known existed to use the washroom.

And at some point I decided to stay. The albergue wasn’t the cleanest I’d ever been in (though it was better after I gave it a serious sweeping) but it was free, I had it all to myself (!), and I got to hang out with Luis and listen to Leonard Cohen. I do believe Alberguería is my favourite place on this route.

Day 41: Alberguería to Xunqueira de Ambía (20 km)

[Donkey]

I saw a number of working animals along the route. This donkey was on its way to plough a field.

The day got off to a bad start, as I sprained my ankle falling down the last few stairs at the albergue. But I could still walk, so I listened to some final Leonard Cohen (fittingly, I walked out to the sound of the same song that had been playing as I walked in), had a quick breakfast, and took off.

It was mostly downhill to Vilar do Barrio, about 7 kilometres away. After I took my boots off I realized my ankle was seriously swollen, and considered staying.

But it was early, and I wanted to walk. So I kept going. It was a very pilgrim decision, I realized after a little while. I mean, in real life if you said you were just going to walk another 13 kilometres on an injured foot, people would think you were crazy. On the Camino, 13 kilometres really isn’t so much.

I passed through a bunch of small villages where I was wished buen viaje several times, and out into a valley full of farmland. It was flat, which was exciting.

[Valley]

Flatness! Briefly, anyway. The day began and ended with mountains.

I met my second Canadian pilgrim (both come from Quebec) while sitting behind a bush eating lunch. When I continued, I found that the valley ended, ad the last part of the route involved some more up-ing and down-ing, often through forest.

I had dinner that night with Antonio from Spain and a man from Switzerland. We spoke Spanish the whole time, and it was exciting to realize I could hold such a long conversation in Spanish, even if my tenses are a serious mess.

The albergue, like many in Galicia, was very nice, very clean, and rather institutional-feeling.

Day 42: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense (22 km)

[Arrow]

Wim decided to take the upward-pointing arrow literally.

This wasn’t the nicest walk, but I had a good day walking with a Belgian named Wim. We took it slowly, stopping at a few bars for coffee or juice. The industrial zone wasn’t as bad as I’d feared from walking into Burgos and León on the Camino Francés, and was actually followed by a very pretty little village on the outskirts of Ourense.

The way marking wasn’t very good into Ourense, but we followed the city centre signs and made it to the main plaza without problems. There, of course, we found pilgrims lounging outside bars who could direct us to the albergue.

The albergue is beautiful. Unfortunately, both large dorms and the common area downstairs share a roof, with ceilings that don’t go all the way up. So when the light goes on in one place everywhere is more or less lit up, and if there’s a conversation in the common room, you can hear it clearly in the dorms.

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 9:32 am
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Days 37 to 39 on the Vía de la Plata


About a week away from Santiago, I’m now among the walking wounded. It’s not that bad, though. And the mountains are beautiful.

Day 37: Lubián to A Gudiña (24 km)

[Mud]

This sort of mud was quite common on much of the route—the stepping stones weren't.

I met Steffen and Thomas, two young-ish German guys (one’s a bit older than I am; the other’s a bit younger), within half an hour of writing my last blog post. They were just finishing off dinner as I made a sandwich for my own meal.

As we ate, they told me about their Camino. Every day they get up at 7 a.m., have a leisurely breakfast, and leave around 8 a.m., after the sun comes up over the mountains and it’s no longer freezing.

After a few hours of walking, it’s time for their second breakfast, which is occasionally followed by a third breakfast. And then there’s lunch, and its accompanying siesta. Then they cook dinner in the albergue every night.

If they get lost, they used Steffen’s GPS to locate the next town (it would be no fun having all the Camino co-ordinates), and crash off in that direction.

They’d been walking from Salamanca, and planned to walk to A Gudiña the next day. From there, they’d take the train to Ourense, so they could walk into Santiago within their two-week deadline.

They invited me to walk with them to A Gudiña. I said yes—purely out of academic interest in such a hedonistic schedule, of course.

And so when everyone else was getting up around 6:30 a.m., I nestled deeper in my sleeping bag, re-applied my ear plugs, and stayed in bed until 7. Then it was time for First Breakfast and scrounging for food left by more weight-conscious pilgrims. And Steffen and Thomas were right—when we set out at 8 a.m., it wasn’t as horribly cold as it had been for the last few days, when I’d left earlier in the morning.

The walking was beautiful but seriously muddy, and in some cases the entire path had turned into a stream. The guys splashed through the water and laughed at me for my un-waterproof boots. It was also quite steeply uphill at times, but the ensuing views were more than worth it.

[Siesta]

Siesta time.

The guys gave me lunch from their vast stores—Coke, bread, sausage (for them), boiled eggs, cheese. We only had a brief siesta because the sky looked rather threatening.

After that the route went downhill, then up again into A Gudiña (after a scenic detour for an aerial view of the town).

The albergue was relatively big, with a huge dorm room, a well-equipped kitchen (surprising since we were now in the final province of Galicia), and no shower curtains (not surprising in Galicia).

Steffen and Thomas took off for the train station after farewells. I hadn’t even known them for 24 hours, but it was sad to see them go. I actually saw them again, though: a little later, I went for a walk, and saw them sitting at the station. It turned out the train wasn’t going to leave for over an hour, so I waited with them and chatted until the train pulled up.

Day 38: A Gudiña to Campobecerros (19 km)

[Horse]

The mountains were beautiful, but rather, well, mountainous.

This was another beautiful mountain-y day, also with rain in the afternoon/evening after I arrived. It went partly along a small almost traffic-less road, occasionally leaving the road for more rugged, higher paths.

I stayed on the road at the end because my back was suddenly quite sore. I’d actually meant to do the 35 kilometres to Laza, which would’ve meant I could’ve been in Ourense in time to meet up with Bob (the American I’d walked with before) and his sons (he’s had several changes of walking partners over the route). But with my sore back, there was no way I was walking farther.

The Campobecerros albergue is in the train station, 500 metres up a very steep hill—the worst walking of the day. It’s very new and clean, though, and although it doesn’t have shower curtains (so the floor gets ridiculously wet when you shower), it does have shower stalls. There’s no kitchen, though. Although it holds about 30 people, there were only six of us—I guess most go on to Laza.

The little bar/shop in town is great. The owners told me about the town (about 90 people; most commute to bigger places to work) and some of the pilgrims who’d passed through. The woman even took me on a five-minute walk to see a local statue.

Day 39: Campobecerros to Laza (16 km)

[Near Campobecerros]

Near Campobecerros.

It was a short walk along a road with nice views. I could almost have been in Canada, apart from the red-roofed houses and the trucks going around blaring political ads for the coming election.

My back wasn’t as sore as yesterday, but doing 20 more kilometres seemed stupid, especially with the looming dark clouds. (Apparently, Rob, I’m being forced into doing a slow Camino.) So I’ve now lost hope of catching up with Bob and his sons, which is sad.

The albergue is big and clean and institutional, with keys for the door of each small dorm (you get your key when you check in at the local police station). It’s also a little ways out of the town, which I quite like (the town, not being outside of it).

When I was in one of the small supermarkets and asked about a bakery, the only other customer volunteered to take me there … and brought me up the street to a van where I could buy a loaf of bread. We chatted a bit—I think she was talking a mixture of Spanish and Gallego. She was shocked that I had walked from Sevilla on my own, and told me that most people in Laza commute to other places to work, even though it’s bigger than the surrounding towns.

[Arrow]

Along the Vía de la Plata in Laza.

Antonio and Flo, the Spanish man and German woman I’ve mentioned before, appeared at the albergue, having skipped a few kilometres by train. I don’t know them well, but it was exciting to see familiar faces. I seem to have lost most people I know again, and am now surrounded by large numbers of German couples.

Really, I’m at the stage where I’m tired of meeting people—especially people it’s hard to communicate with. I wasn’t sure if I should mention that, because it sounds so anti-social, but I never pretended to be perfect, and I think this is a valid Camino phenomenon that’s worth talking about.

It hit me at about this distance last time, too. I’ve met so so many people, and it’s starting to be a lot of work to meet new people. I’m tired of the whole where-are-you-from where-did-you-start conversation with people I won’t necessarily see again.

I don’t know if this affects people who only walk the Camino Francés so much—after all, distance-wise, if I’d been there I’d have arrived in Santiago already.

“Why do you write so much?” an inquisitive German man I met this afternoon asked, as I was sitting at the common room table writing in my journal.

“Um, because I like to.”

He nodded, a little skeptically. “It’s like you’re talking to yourself.”

“I guess,” I said. “After all, I’m the only one I can speak a lot of English with.” I said it like a joke, but it’s really true.

I haven’t met any native English-speakers since I lost Bob and Greg (though Thomas and Steffen were great to talk with), and with such large numbers of pilgrims now, they tend to congregate by language: German, French, and Spanish. And while I can speak French and Spanish, I can’t follow much of a rapid-fire group conversation. So ironically, since as an English-speaker I’m supposed to be able to communicate with just about everyone, I’m the odd one out.

Anyway, I’ll get over it. I have before. Remind me to give you my “ups and downs” speech later, which I’ve had cause to give to a few people here and more often myself. (In a nutshell: There are a lot of ups and downs on the Camino both in terms of terrain and yourself—physically and mentally. And after the downs, the ups will come. Really.)

And of course my smaller walking stages combined with my current bout of anti-social feelings mean my blog posts are getting more detailed and, I hope, interesting.

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 8:33 am
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Days 32 to 36 on the Vía de la Plata


[Bercianos de Valverde]

Walking up to a bar in Bercianos de Valverde (Day 32). The bar owner told us to take a particular (marked) route out of town. The group of Germans and a solo Frenchman who left before us took the other route, since their books said it was better. We followed the bar owner's advice. I have no idea which route was ultimately the best.

I don’t have many more than 200 kilometres to go to get to Santiago (exactly how many depends on which source you consult). Crazy.

My last Camino took much longer than I thought it would—I ended up arriving in Santiago four days after my flight home would have left from Paris, had my airline not died. This time, barring unfortunate mishaps or serious physical problems, I should be in Santiago well over a week before my flight home, leaving lots of time for Finisterre and, maybe, more.

Day 32: Tábara to Santa Croya de Tera (22 km)

[Santiago in Santa Marta]

The famous 11th-century statue of Santiago on the outside of the church in Santa Marta (about 500 metres from the albergue in Santa Croya). As I understand it, this is the earliest representation of Santiago Peregrino.

I should probably mention that the night before, Didi the chef from Austria, cooked a bunch of us an incredible seafood pasta in the albergue. I think there were about ten of us and four different languages. It was a lot of fun.

The next morning I walked with Didi, and Bob and Greg from the U.S. We up-ed and down-ed through fields, with a few somewhat serious climbs, and stopped at a bar for a cafe con leche.

The food and water situation has been improving as towns have been getting closer together. Most towns have fuentes (literally fountains; often a tap), many have bars, and some have food shops, so we now don’t have to carry nearly as much. I haven’t used my second water bottle in ages.

Bar-hopping is now becoming almost as easy as on the Camino Francés, and pilgrims tend to congregate at bars along the route. (I think I mentioned before that Spanish bars are a kind of cross between a pub and a café.) Alcohol is optional … although I have had at least a glass of wine a day for the last while.

I stayed at Casa Anita, which I’d read was a must-visit, and it lived up to its billing. It’s a wonderful place, run by wonderful people. The food was great, the dorm rooms were nice if rather large, and the courtyard was a perfect place for everyone to bask in the sun.

Although the albergue is technically in Santa Croya, it’s actually about 300 metres from Santa Marta, which has a beautiful little church with the oldest ever stone representation of Santiago Peregrino. You pay €1 to get in, and the friendly receptionist then gives a tour.

Day 33: Santa Croya de Tera to Ríonegro del Puente (28 km)

The walking day began with a foggy walk along a river. Bob, Greg and I eventually ended up on the highway because we thought the Camino might be muddy, and Bob wasn’t up for that. I haven’t mentioned his continuing boot saga, but basically one of his boots doesn’t have a heel, and of course he discovered this right after the last big town, Zamora.

I should probably also mention here that the minor highway the Vía de la Plata route followed, and the new minor highway the Camino Sanabrés is following, tend to have very little traffic. For some reason I don’t understand, there are these small highways running basically parallel with a much larger highway, so of course most cars are on the huge highway. This makes the small highways ideal for walking on, when necessary.

Anyway, if we hadn’t been on the highway, we wouldn’t have run into a procession of people carrying a Mary statue and singing Ave Maria, which was a definite highlight of the day.

[Rionegro del Puente]

Ríonegro del Puente, as seen from a church tower. This was my favourite town in a while.

We rejoined the Camino route right before Ríonegro, and walked into town through a park that centred on a river, with a small waterfall. My feelings about a town are often based on first impressions, and that was a great one.

The impression was confirmed by the albergue, which is new and beautiful. The dorm rooms are on the large side, but everything was nice and clean, and there was a whole mini-library in the huge common room.

(It’s funny the things that can make you happy when you’re travelling. Oooh, I get to share a dorm room with a bunch of snoring people. But it’s a beautiful dorm room.)

After studying my guidebook, I got rather unhappy. There were a lot of people in Ríonegro, and the bed situation for the next day didn’t look good. And for whatever reason, I can face that kind of uncertainty better if I’m with other people, and I would be on my own the next day. Bob and Greg were going to take the bus as part of getting Bob’s boot fixed.

So I went for a walk, and marched around town feeling teary.

Now, I tend to be skeptical of epiphanies, but on the way back to the albergue, I had a sudden thought that’s helped me through the last few days.

Who do you want to be? I asked myself. The person who worries about things that may never happen and goes off crying to someone else about it? Or the one who faces up to problems as they arise?

The answer was pretty obvious, and it’s helped me deal with the albergue uncertainty over the last few days.

I also went to my first Mass along this route. At a few pilgrims’ request, Andreas, an Austrian pilgrim who’s also a priest, said Mass in the albergue courtyard, with the birds singing and the occasional truck roaring by. His liturgical light was a little lamp on a keychain, and he wore a ribbon that’s some sort of priestly garment (I’m very ignorant on this matters) over his polar fleece.

Day 34: Ríonegro del Puente to Asturianos (26 km)

[Detour sign]

Which way to go? I didn't know what "desvio" meant, so I followed the stone marker and soon arrived at a sign warning me of explosives ahead. I decided "desvio" meant detour and took that route.

I walked as far as Mombuey with Bob and Greg, before saying goodbye to them. After that there were a bunch of pretty little towns, each with a plaque with an inspirational message for pilgrims by its church.

I was hoping to stay at a six-person albergue in Asturianos, but I knew most pilgrims from Ríonegro were ahead of me so didn’t know if it would be possible. I was actually surprisingly calm, after my thoughts from the night before.

About an hour before Asturianos, I was sitting by the side of the route eating lunch when Nicole and Cécile, two French pilgrims I’d thought were going to stay in the previous town, walked by. They said no one could find the key to the albergue, so they’d also decided to go on to Asturianos. At that point I figured I was doomed, and would have to walk a total of over 40 kilometres to Puebla de Sanabria.

[Bell tower]

I climbed a lot of bell towers in this area. It made for some great photos.

Then, walking into Asturianos, I passed Nicole and Cécile. Cécile was lagging, and told me if there was no room in the albergue, she was going to collapse right there on the street. So I knew I’d face an ethical dilemma if there were only two spaces left in the albergue.

But as I walked up, another French pilgrim I know told me there were three beds left. Absolutely perfect … and I got to practice my French, since I was surrounded by French people.

The albergue was basic (a room with beds, a big empty hallway, and a washroom) but very clean, with a bar conveniently located next door and a bunch of picnic tables outside. If you stay there and hear a sudden loud spurt of gunfire, don’t panic. The firing range is right next door.

There wasn’t much to do but write in my journal, walk around, and go to one of the town’s three bars with Nicole, a world traveller with a lot of great stories.

(I figure you can judge the size of a French town by the number of bakeries, and a Spanish town by the number of bars. Three is really quite small.)

Day 35: Asturianos to Requejo de Sanabria (27 km)

[Puebla de Sanabria]

Puebla de Sanabria, a beautiful little hilltop town.

The day got off to a freezing start, with frost covering everything. After wading through mud at the beginning, I lost the arrows one town past Asturianos, and the only person around directed me to the highway.

[Intersection with lots of arrows]

Some intersections had no arrows, or ambiguous marking. Others were like this.

The Camino route wasn’t actually on the highway, but it was the only thing I could find, and I was supposed to take to the highway a little later anyway to avoid serious water between two towns up ahead, so I ended up on the highway all the way to Puebla de Sanabria.

Puebla is a gorgeous, touristy town with a walled area high above the river, and a castle and church you can see from kilometres away. I puffed my way into town, found a grocery store that was open on a Sunday, and made my way to the castle, because I have a thing about castles.

I should say here that I love Spain. I really do. But something I can’t understand is the tendency here to sanitize ruins.

I mean, you walk into a town and often a serious proportion of the buildings are falling apart—likely in a seriously unsafe way. There are numerous places in small towns where you can climb (and of course I always do) dangerous staircases with lopsided stairs and no railings.

And then you visit a castle, where you (or at least, I) want some serious ruins, and the thing has been rebuilt and turned into an interpretation centre without a single atmospheric corner. The castle in Zamora was just as sanitized as the one in Puebla, but lacked interpretive displays.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting now.

The woman at the tourist information desk/castle entry told me to take the route that ran somewhat along the highway, as the other was unsafe. So I did, and alternated between the highway and a beautiful river walk.

The last two kilometres were lovely and foresty, but also seriously muddy and winding and not always well way marked, so if you’re feeling tired at this point the highway is probably your best bet.

[Requejo]

One of Requejo's "canals."

I got to Requejo and found it full of water. There was water coming out of ornamental pipes, and little streams running along beside and under the streets. In places, it would be hard to escape the sound of rushing water. I really enjoyed it.

I went to the private albergue first because I’d read the public one was dirty. But there was only one pilgrim at the private one and she didn’t seem very friendly, so I went to check out the public one.

It definitely wasn’t as nice as the private albergue, and it didn’t have pillows, but it was clean enough, and had two people I knew: Santi from Cataluña (when he says “my country” he means Cataluña, not Spain) and Andreas the Austrian priest, as well as two Dutchwomen I hadn’t met before.

The hospitalera told me later that few pilgrims stop in Requejo, so the large albergue is almost never full.

Anyway, I had dinner with Santi and Andreas (got to say, I’ve never hung out with a priest before), and that was pretty much it for the day.

Day 36: Requejo de Sanabria to Lubián (18 km)

[Wind turbines]

After leaving Requejo, I spent a lot of time watching this wind turbines growing larger, until I finally passed them.

That would be today. I somehow missed the Camino turnoff and ended up on the highway (what is it about highways, lately?), going gradually up into the mountains—or rather, I suppose, a mountain pass. It was cold again, but not as bad as yesterday.

After about an hour, I turned off onto a side road to try to figure out if there was any way on to the Camino that wouldn’t require mountain goat skills (I figured it was far below me). But to my surprise, I found a yellow arrow right away, so I sat down on some rocks to eat some celebratory dried dates.

[Overpass in the mountains]

The highway, running through the mountains. The route I took went under it.

The route was often rocky—one of the worst walking surfaces—but, at least on the part I walked, there was only one serious climb.

Just before the little town of Padornelo, I ran into a German couple I know coming from a different route. It turned out (as Andreas explained later) that if I’d have been on the Camino from the beginning, I would’ve had two options. The one the Germans and Andreas took was more difficult but beautiful—like walking in Austria, Andreas said. Oh, well.

In Padornelo I stopped for coffee at a wonderful little shop with a bar section, a butcher’s counter complete with the huge pig legs that are so popular here, and a bunch of little items for sale, from earrings to folding knives to glass figurines. Andreas showed up after a little while, and then Santi.

[Forest]

The gorgeous foresty part of the walk.

The last section of the walk, which I luckily didn’t miss, was gorgeous. Much of it was a hike rather than a walk, and a long section of the path had turned into a stream (with sort of convenient stepping stones), but it was worth it. There were lots of trees and stone walls, and a few little waterfalls, with a river rushing along the bottom of the valley—my kind of scenery.

I’d thought I might go farther today, but I fell in love with Lubián and decided to stay. It’s a pretty little town with friendly people (though I’ve usually found people friendly). I spent a relaxing afternoon picnicking and writing.

I also met up with a few people I haven’t seen in a few days and—just before coming here—Marcos, the young German I met the first day. I hadn’t seen him since around Zafra, and he’s the first person who started the same day I did who I’ve seen since Mérida. He’s also the only other pilgrim under 40 I’ve seen since leaving Maria and Sanna in Salamanca.

Anyway, things are beautiful here and Santiago is scarily close, and I think I might get kicked off the Internet pretty soon so I’d better sign off.

I hope you’re all doing wonderfully. Muchas gracias for the comments!

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If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 9:50 am
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