Friday, 21 October 2016

Camino Day 10 - dew and spider webs to Vilachá

We have had the most magnificent walking weather. Mist, that shrouds the landscape in a soft veil; cool temperatures that are just warmer than 'cold' and even 'warm' (when you are walking) and no rain. These conditions make the passing of time deceiving as noon feels like 7am.

We set out in the dark, at 8am, from Barbadelo. We met up with Ashala (she was staying at the albergue up the hill).

The track today has been fantastic - mostly wide trails and stone-walled lanes that wind through forests. Quite undulating and very pretty.

We saw a load of spider webs today - pretty with their dewdrop jewels. The web construction caught our eye - like a hammock.

The settlements we passed through today were really small. Along the route there were a couple of cafes, which serve coffee (and some snacks and light meals)  to passing peregrinos. Not a single place with a tienda (shop).

The book describes these settlements as "straggling hamlets with no clear boundaries". These are very much working dairy farms with more tractors than cars and with cow-farm scents everywhere. It is magnificently green and scenic.

The distances passed pretty quickly and we saw a lot of people on the route - many who would have started off today from Sarria.

We passed through the '100km to Santiago' distance marker - took photos - and continued.

Edible finds included apples, pears and berries. As I have a good stash of chestnuts, I had to resist the urge to pick up more. There are so many magnificent chestnut trees all over the place!

We are staying in Vilachá tonight. This is a small settlement 2.5km before Portomarín (a town). This is the place where, five years ago, mom met the South African guy who was in the process of setting up an albergue. Casa Banderas, has been running for five years now.

We have spent a good deal of the afternoon chatting to Gordon, learning about how he ended up starting an albergue here, about renovating and fixing up this old house, which has original walls that date back 1000 years (plus later add ons), about life in this small hamlet and a dozen other topics.

It took him a few summers to transform this place, which had great walls but no floors and rotten wood all over. It hadn't been used in 30 years. We've seen some of the before photographs. Incredible. He did all the work himself, with the exception of the roof. The original main beams are still there but the ceiling and slate roofing is new.

Our dorm, with four bunks, is spacious and divine. I've got a bottom bunk tonight (I usually get the top). There are five of us here - me, mom, Ashala, a German lady and a French lady. We'll have dinner here tonight. From the smell coming from the kitchen, Gordon is cooking up a storm.

I asked him about his cooking. Like most of the private albergue owners, he does everything. Cooking, cleaning and all - he has no hired help. He says he cooks the same meal all the time. As peregrinos are only here for one night, it doesn't matter. We had a good laugh. He says that sometimes he needs something different to eat and then he makes something else.

This is hard work, seven days a week for the summer season. He's looking forward to a rest.

This village has a resident population of about 40 people.

We've been curious about so many things, like the wildlife. We've learned that there are bears here - small, berry-eating bears. There are also foxes and wolves and deer. There should also be squirrels, which he has heard about but never seen in his 11 years here.

He will be closing up the albergue soon. He closes over winter and returns to South Africa for a few months, coming back here for the Camino season in March. He says it gets really cold here and one time when he stayed here in a winter month, just to heat his one room, it cost 300 € for a month. A flight to south Africa is 600 € so it is well worth heading to warmer climates for the winter.

We'll chat to him more over dinner and look forward to learning more about life in rural Spain and also what Camino was like before it became popular - sounds like it was my kinda fun.

As I finish up this post it is now after the delicious dinner and we've had some great conversations, especially as Gordon first did the Camino in 2002. A lot has changed since then. More on some of these discussions in other posts to come.

We'll be going through to Plas de Rei tomorrow and fortunately have accommodation booked (with thanks to Gordon). With more people on the route there are more places that are booked and taking a chance to get a bed at a municipal hostel, where we have been mostly staying, could be risky as it is first - come, first-served. And we also need to know where we are staying for the night to get mom's bag sent through.

It is going to be a long day tomorrow at 27km. Mom says that with regular stops she will be good for it.

Ah... Julius, the graffiti property defacer (see yesterday's post)... I saw a date on something today - he was here on 1 September 2016. Here is an example of his work on a new (in the last year) route marker (see photos below). The other two women staying here (French and German) have also noticed his marks and commented that they have seen them for days and days. That's how noticeable his marks are - and how many. Often his name, sometimes just the symbol. I must have seen at least four today.

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