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Day-39 (May 23—Thu) Xunqueira de Amabia

Today was an exceptionally easy day more than making up for yesterday. But sadly we lost one of the Danish fellows to an injured ankle that swelled up during the night—he had a taxi take him to a hospital in Ourense. I covered 14.2 km (8.9 mi) with little climbing and the landscape was fabulously covered with broom flowers—apparently the name comes from folks drying the stems and using them as brooms.

Here are a few memorable pics of today’s scenery: the first is one of the Galician granaries called hórreos—I just love them; this encounter was guaranteed to get me a little muddy; here’s the broom flower that dotted the landscape; proof I was there; and finally the paths in between two granite slate fences—my favorite routing, but there are only limited sections of this kind.

Day-38 (May 22—Wed) Vilar de Barrio

It was a long and exhausting day coming about because others and I arrived at the first planned destination (15.3 km—9.6 mi) much too early (about 10:30 AM); so after a coffee break at Laza, we went on to the next option (another 12.2 km—7.6 mi) but discovered their one and only lodging (an albergue) was shut down because they weren’t handicapped compliant. At this point we had already climbed a total of more than 2000 ft and felt exhausted. Fleming a Dane and I made a pact that if beds weren’t available at the next place (Vilar de Barrio 7.7 km—4.8 mi), we were going to split a taxi and go directly to the next big city Ourense and enjoy the geothermal baths. So by now it’s nearly 5:00 PM when I arrived and luckily lots of bunks are open, only about half full. Bottom line, I walked 22 miles (35 km) and climbed over 2000 ft and of course came down that amount over gravelly, stony trails.

Here are some memorable photos: first, one of a number of building sites for Spain’s high-speed train; then a photo of forestry operations since the trail led through timberlands; next a shot of the forest landscape; this photo has a few of us getting some energy at about 2:30 PM before tackling the last unplanned five miles; and last, a touching self-service snack stand for pilgrims with a donation jar (that came just at the right time)—I was enjoying a snack with Thomas, the Buddhist monk—we’ve been chumming around somewhat, but his pace is incredible.

Day-37 (21 May—Tue) Campobecerros

No cell service. I’ll make it short. Great day: 21 km (13.1 mi) and some climb. Left a little before 7:00 and arrived a bit before noon to get the last lower bunk—lucky me! Great camaraderie with Australians and a fellow from Denmark. Coffee on the road and in front of albergue.

Day-34 (18 May—Sat) Requejo

I left the albergue in Puebla de Sanabria at 6:40 AM in bitter cold and wind: 38 deg F and with the windchill at freezing (I just wasn’t dressed for it). I could have used the gloves. After walking 12 km (7 mi) and meeting my German friend, Thomas, it became clear that the 12 beds at my planned destination of Lubian would already be gone, so I decided to stay here with him. We nicknamed our short stage: Urlaubsetappe (vacation stage). It’s crazy—Lubian doesn’t even have a store and only an albergue with 12 beds, whereas Requejo has two albergues (we‘re splurging and staying at the private one—the first albergue ever that had two sheets for every bed (fitted lower one and an upper one) and a coffee machine!! And Requejo has two hotels.

Here are some memorable pictures: the first shows the planned route of 29 km and the blue dot, my actual stay; my friend Thomas dressed in his north Vietnamese monk’s attire (from his days of studying meditation with a Vietnamese monk); third, having fun with Perry the Peregrino; then our hall of beds (18 beds, but only 4 occupied); and lastly Thomas and I having lunch with food we bought at the local store.

Day-33 (17 May—Fri) Puebla de Sanabria

I managed to get an early start again before 7:00 AM, but it was fairly chilly in the 40s and didn’t warm up very much. The path of 10.8 mi (17.3 km) was nice and easy to negotiate—not very rocky and not many muddy obstacles. The destination was Puebla de Sanabria and here’s its location in Spain:

The municipal albergue is super clean and with 30 beds has ample space for the wave of peregrinos (including me) passing through—a situation I hope will continue the rest of the way. Everyone I missed from yesterday seemed to meet here today. The town is definitely a tourist attraction with its castle dating back to the 12th century. It’s such an attraction that it has a cake similar to tarta de Santiago, but it’s known as Tarta de Sanabria and has its castle in the middle (instead of the cross of St James)—and I had a piece which was delicious.

Here are a few impressions of the day: trees along the path or stone walls; then the view of the castle from the bridge over the River Tera; the small street approaching the church next to the castle and finally the Tarta de Sanabria.

 

D-32 (16 May—Thu) Entrepeñas

This is just one of the reasons I love the Camino so much: space and time contract to where your most urgent problems are today’s, like finding lodging and knowing that the town you set as a goal (at 15.5 miles) only has one albergue with six beds! You hear there’s a Casa Rural (a step up) less than 2 miles before but figure others ahead of you will already take their only available six beds. So you start preparing yourself mentally for a 25-mile walk to the next biggest town you know has plenty of lodging. However it turns out, you’ll be elated beyond words that you’ve solved the most important problem of the day—nothing even comes close at home!
How did it turn out? I was able to get one of their last two remaining rooms at the Casa Rural. The Camino gives and the Camino takes—today I’m ever so grateful that it gave. Some pics from today’s route and the last from my balcony:

 

Day-31 (15 May—Wed) Rionegro del Puente

Spectacular scenery today over a stretch of 27.3 km. (17.1 mi) but essentially no store and only one bar/albergue open at 5.5 km near the end. Although I had a 6:50 AM start, I felt exhausted by my 2:00 PM at arrival. Much of the walk was along either the Rio Tera or a canal that was an aqueduct from it and then fed small irrigation canals.

These are some of my memorable pictures from today: first, standing in front of the Rio Tera that was dammed up at this point and almost felt like a lake; the river downstream from the dam; five of us who happened to arrive at that bar/albergue; the canal I walked next to go miles.

And after arriving, everyone flocked to this gourmet restaurant that featured a dynamite three course menu (no choices) for 10€  that included pate, a local cabbage soup, pork cutlet, desert, water, wine, and digestive.

Day-30 (14 May—Tue) Santa Marta de Tera

Before looking at today, I have to comment on yesterday’s albergue—absolutely fantastic in terms of hospitality—the hospitalero (Jose Mari Tekane) made you feel so comfortable. He had prepared a 3-course meal that included egg drop soup, paella, and desert plus wine and three different home-made fruit liqueurs. And, Jose’s passion is writing poetry. We only had room for 12 at that municipal albergue, so the others had to sleep at other places. Here the choices of other places are more limited; one decided to give up his spot here and sleep outside on the ground. I elected to take their only spare mattress and put it on the floor finding that it’s quite comfortable.

So, today was a great walking day: 20.9 km (13.1 mi) over rolling sparsely forested hills. A 77-year old Italian was picking herbs along the way (see next to last pic)—never did get the name of it; here are some memorable photos: the first two from last night’s communal dinner; third was of me leaving by 7:30 am to get a bed here; then there’s one of the German, Thomas, who’s been on the Camino for about 20 years straight—could write a book about him—he’s as close to being a monk as you can get w/0 taking the vows—he’s studied meditation with north Vietnamese monks and teaches it on invitation. . . Then there are my feet looking around while on a mattress on the floor.

Day-29 (13 May—Monday) Tabara

I had a very challenging day not so much the distance of 16.5 miles (26.4 km) but there was a 1+ km section (0.65 mi) that was a narrow rocky path along cliffs with a steep drop off to the river that slowed me to a crawl. My balance is just shot. And I noticed several others actually skipped this section—smart!

The scenery changed dramatically over the past week which was mainly agriculture to going through forests interspersed with fields of grain. Just before that challenging section I had a spectacular view of the bridge over the River Else.

Here are a few memorable photos: first, we’re reminded that last night’s town was the bifurcation point of the two Caminos, one going via Orense (mine) and the other going via (Astorga); next the Else River and the bridge; and finally that challenging path. I wish I knew the name of those white blooming flowery bushes??

 

Day-28 (12 May—Sun) Granja de la Moreruela

First, for all mothers reading this: HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!

Cold this morning and I kept my jacket on almost the first 2/3rds of the walk. Then it heated up. The stretch was 22.7 km (14.3 mi) and I felt it. I arrived at the bar where they issued a sheet and pillow cover, then after my beer, I walked the 100 to another building where the alberge was located. Of course all the lower bunks were already taken. BUT, you know you’re getting up in the years when three people offered to move to an upper one—muy amable!!!

It was a real treat walking through old Roman ruins of a castle. Then it became known as the ancient town of Catrotorafe, popularly known as ‘Zamora la Vieja’, are in San Cebrian de Castro, emplacement already located in the XII century. So it became a medieval defensive site which appeared on the banks of Esla River.

Here are a few memorable shots: first the saying of the day (seen at breakfast) and the route; then, everyone on the Camino must experience negotiating one’s way around sheep, and finally a shot of the old ruins of  Castrotorafe.

It’s exciting for tomorrow I make a left turn to start Camino Sanabres.