Our route today has again been fabulous. I can never get enough of forests, winding lanes and moss-covered stone walls. I got all of this and more today.
We left our albergue in Palas de Rei with our rain jackets on as it had rained most of the night and there was still a light drizzle. Within a half hour the drizzle had stopped and we didn't get rain for the rest of the day.
Coming out of Palas de Rei we were caught up in a tour group of Spaniards and, we think, possibly also the Japanese tour group. There were so many people on the trail!
We got into the first town, San Xulián (3.5km), and ducked into a café. The owner was just about to close but he left us in and made coffees and hot chocolate (for me). Today he closes his place for the season and said something about going to Brazil until the season opens again.
This stop got us clear of the groups - thank goodness. I did speak to the one tour group guide and what I could figure out from him is that he takes more mature clients out in the Camino route. They can't walk the whole thing so they go by bus and walk some sections - which I'd figured. He spoke in a rush of Spanish so I couldn't quite get all of it. So he is a local version of what the Japanese and Koreans are doing.
This was a really sweet hamlet and from here we meandered through farmlands, forests and more hamlets - and over a medieval bridge or two.
I carry the guidebook in my hand to read what they have to say about hamlets we're passing through. Coming up to the medieval bridge crossing into the village of Furelos, I read the following:
"The route brings us to the main road opposite the Romanesque Church of San Pedro & San Roque beside it's famous 14th Century stone cross reputed to be the oldest in Galicia 'Cruciero do Melide' - Christ in majesty facing us and Christ crucified on the reserve".
"We best not miss that," says Ashala, totally deadpan.
We howl with laughter.
It is fair to say that we have seen hundreds of churches and hundreds of crosses (it feels like it!!!). Even the smallest hamlets have a small stone church. Incredible! We go into very few. I can confess to have rung two church bells.
For much of the time we had blue sky overhead but with very dark clouds threatening. On the walk into the big town of Melide, where we stopped for lunch, a strong, cold wind came up and we were sure that a storm would hit.
Our guidebook said very little about the place where we were planning to spend the night so we weren't sure if there would be much in the way of a place for dinner. Having lunch was a safe bet.
Leaving the town the dark clouds were still ahead but fortunately we didn't get caught in any storms. Instead we enjoyed the green fields and trees and stone houses against this magnificently dark background.
Mom remembers the route from O'Cebreiro as being flat (another man here who is doing his 4th Camino has a similar recollection) but it is anything other than flat. The route profile is deceiving and even though it shows gentle and undulating gradients, in reality there are some steep uphills and steep downhills every day. As the guidebook says of the section from Melide, "We cross several shallow river valleys during these final stages so our path is more arduous than the contour plans suggest". Indeed!
We needed to make good time through the villages of Boente (where I really had to work to get a bunch of grapes from a high vine outside an abandoned house - Ashala got a video of this) and Castañeda to get to our end at Ribadiso.
This section, especially the last three kilometres had a lot of climb. Two days ago were thinking of staying there but after that climb we're glad to be on the other side of the hill (steep up and down).
A small medieval bridge over the Rio Iso led us straight into our albergue for the night. This is my favourite of all of the municipal albergues thus far.
This one is in a reconstructed pilgrim hospital - one of the oldest still in existance. It dates back before the 1500s and has changed hands a number of times. A rental agreement in the 1700s included a proviso that the buildings are to be maintained. In 1992-1993 the municipality renovated to turn it into an albergue for pilgrims. It has won awards for environmental architecture.
We had a delcious dinner (their lentil soup is highly recommended) at the adjoining café-bar and are snug in our spacious dorm. I love being surrounded by old stone walls.
We have been marveling at the construction of old buildings. The thick walls were made to last and often more than 600 yrs later they're still standing. I have no idea how the stone masons cut the stones - especially the corner stones and also the curves for the walls. (Note to self to read up on Wiki when I get back.)
We clocked almost 26 kilometres today!
Tomorrow is shorter at around 22km. The book says we start with a steep climb up to the first town (a big one), which is 3km away. I've only just read this so I haven't told mom or Ashala. All they know is they get their morning coffee at the town - perfect motivation. Coffee in the morning; beer in the afternoon.
The book does say that the middle section "we have a largely level path with just three shallow river valleys".
As we get nearer Santiago (less than a marathon to go) an energy is kicking in - like at the café tonight between Camino friends. Nonetheless, the distance still has to be covered and we still have two seven-hour days ahead of us.