Saturday, 2 January 2010

What a difference a day makes

Days 3 and 4 - Herrerias - Triacastela 28 kms Triacastela - Sarria 18 kms.

The Cebreiro expedition was very tough followed by a freezing walk along the road. There is a waymark to the right off the road just past Linares followed quickly by a granite waymark. Both point ahead. However in the snow corrective ground markings are obscured. It is easy to go wrong. We were lucky to be redirected by a kind man walking his dog. Later we found out that a poor pilgrim 5 days earlier who had successfully crossed the mountain then got lost and arrived in Triacastela 15 hours after his departure from Herrerias.

Eventually I'll post photos on the Cebreiro section. In many ways it was wonderful. We were concerned at the snow fall on the first section but two 4 wheel drive cars cut a path ahead of us. We walked in their tracks and made good time. We passed a car which had skidded into the ditch sometime the previous evening. When we reached La Faba we had a decision to make but as the morning was clear and we knew that the 4kms to Cebreiro was broken half way at La Laguna we turned right and headed up the snow covered path. All became white. Beautiful. As we ascended it got colder and the snow deeper but we checked carefully that the contour of the path was clear ahead and that our footsteps behind remained obvious. We were breathing and sweating hard with the work we were doing forging ahead. We hunched in a doorway for shelter in a silent La Laguna. That was a welcome rest and chocolate inspired us forward. Only 2 kms or so more. But the mist descended and the snow had been drifting, banking deep on the sides. We kept our eyes fixed on the borders of the path and checked our footsteps behind. Visibility was poor and if it had started snowing heavily we would have beat a hasty retreat following our own tracks. We had a rough idea of the distance we were covering. I had forgotten how tough it is to walk in deep snow. 10 paces then rest...20 paces this time...keep moving. We passed into Galicia. The wall heralding the final section to Cebreiro appeared. Then we were out on the road. All was normal. To our right a family were making a snowman. There were a lot of tourists around the village. Some stared at us. We had something to eat and set out for Triacastela. The sweat dried cooling us and we walked briskly to fend it off. Some drivers sounded their horns or waved in encouragement. As the miles passed energy levels sapped and I could feel the cold in my bones. When darkness loomed and the freezing mist came down I must confess I thanked God, Santiago and everyone else when Antonio and Paloma stopped to offer help. They had been on a day out from A Coruna and had decided by chance to take that particular road. We've swapped details. I'd like to see them again as we only spoke for a few minutes.

When we got into our room my teeth were chattering. Exhausted. We knew there was no food available anywhere and the woman in the hostal confirmed this. She gave us a loaf and some fruit. We unpacked the reserve we'd brought. I never thought a one cup kettle which cost £6 would prove so useful. After a cup of Bachelors Cup A Soup sipped under a blanket we had scalding hot showers which revived our spirits. Then a bocadillo we had brought with us followed by two Pot Noodles mopped up with some bread. Fruit finished the feast. We were in the middle of self congratulation at having decided to carry the additional 1kg of kettle and food between us when I fell asleep. We both awoke 9 hours later and after persuading stiff limbs into action and some bread and jam we set off having decided to make up the missing kilometres of yesterday. The contrast was total. White had turned to green. It had thawed. Snow remained only on the distant mountains. And so we eventually followed the arrows out of Triacastela. Two signs faced us - Sarria via Samos to the left - the other route to the right. A lady approached. "Feliz ano" we greeted her. "We have a choice routes," we said, "Which is best?" She drew herself up into full matriarchal mode and let rip like an opinionated London cabbie - "There is only one choice. If you turn left the route will be flooded with all of this rain, and if you want to go that way to see the Monastery, it won't be open anyway, they never let anyone in, and after all we have lots of monasteries so who cares about that one, turn right go down then up, it is lovely, you will enjoy it." Then she produced the most effective weapon in her considerable armoury, " AND the way I am recommending is shorter!" As she drew breath we bade her a hasty farewell and turned right. She nodded her approval and we felt like good boys.

With that decision we began a lovely day's walking to Sarria. The promised rain never happened. We walked without rain jackets, feeling free after yesterday. Nothing was open until 4kms before Sarria. We stopped and had a brief word with an Italian pilgrim who had started in Cebreiro.

The countryside was like parts of Scotland. We passed some long haired cows. I remember wishing them a Happy New Year. They just stared back. Frankly I don't care about that or anything else - this hotel room has a bath!
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  1. Sounds like 2 memorable days to me, Johnnie! Nice to have an easier day after the testing one.

  2. It's truly inspiring to follow your adventures! Rooting for you both!

  3. Oh Johnnie.... you are truly having a winter pilgrimage. It sounds like the descent to Triacastela was very difficult, but in hindsight, and after a good night's sleep, what an adventure. I took that road to the right to Sarria..... it was a lovely walk.... I hope you get to eat well in Sarria.... you must be very hungry by now!

  4. Actually Johnnie, an idea strikes me for a new winter thread on the Forum, that all those who blithely say they will walk in December/January should be referred to- with links to the real adventures the likes of you and Jo have had climbing O'Cebreiro at this time!!!