Monday, 17 October 2016

Camino Day 6 - castaño delights to Trabadelo

My foraging frenzy continued today with a breakfast of figs from a tree next to a building in the middle of a vineyard that was laden with ripe figs and looked totally untouched.

We left our comfy hostel at the end of Cacabelos a little before sunrise and despite the very fine drizzle we were stripping off thermal tops in next to no time. Although overcast and damp, it isn't cold. By the time we'd passed through the villages of Pieros and through the rolling hills of vineyards leading to Villafranca, our rain jackets were off and we were making good time.

We stopped for a coffee (mom) and hot chocolate (me) in Villafranca and then made our way through the town.

The Romanesque door of the first church we passed caught mom's attention immediately for its arches. As it turns out, this is the Puerto del Perdón (Door of Forgiveness). Those pilgrims unable to make it all the way to Santiago received absolution here, the same as they would in Santiago. The huge Castillo Palacio de los Marqueses (15th Century) was eye catching. Pity about the grey, overcast sky which didn't do anything for my photos today.

As we got to the bridge heading out of town, we bumped into the lovely couple - Liz and John - who sat next to us as dinner about two nights ago. They were going to head along the road (dedicated path winding between the road and a river), while we were taking the more scenic route up-and-over a big, big hill.

What a magnificent route! The first section was seriously steep and took us above the houses and town and onto a beautiful track. Think dampness and moss growing on the stonewall running along the downhill side.

And chestnuts! Castaños. OMG!

We have been surrounded by chestnut trees but it was only today that we saw the first 'popped' pods with shiny brown edible chestnuts peeping out or lying on the ground. I collected a bunch and stuffed them in my pocket, adding more here and there.

Up and up we went and into chestnut tree orchards. Hundreds of trees. Millions and millions of chestnuts falling out of their pods and on to the ground.

I love chestnuts.

The first time I ate them was about 10 years ago. I flew through New York on the way to the TransRockies Run. I stayed with my friend Alex in New York and he gave me a sachet of them to take to the race. A few days in I ate them and couldn't think of anything else. When I got home I discovered that my new addiction could be fed, sometimes (stock dependant) from a store in our local Chinatown.

Up in the hills we saw an elderly man collecting chestnuts. An American guy was with us and together we found out from the man that chestnuts are collected from the ground - once they have naturally popped out of their pods. He then roasts them in a drum, which he turns, over a fire.

On and on these groves are large chestnut trees went. I continued to collect the nuts from the road. My pockets were bulging!

A steep descent dropped us into the sweet town of Trabadelo, where we are staying tonight.

On the road into town we found a couple of walnuts, which I'll crack open a bit later. I don't know whether they are too young, too old or just right. My experience with walnuts is limited to buying them from a shop. I did sample two from under a tree at our albergue two nights ago. One was perfect and the other a bit raw.

Our municipal hostel is a small one and there are only a few of us here. I think many peregrinos went through to the next town - or further.

After a hot shower, I consulted Google on the best method for cooking my chestnuts. Without a good thick-base pan, I opted to boil them. The South Korean guy here says that they boil or steam chestnuts and they are sweeter than roasted.

I didn't find a knife in the kitchen but I did find a wine bottle opener and used its small knife to score the flat side of the chestnuts before placing them on the stove. I gave them about 25 minutes of boiling and then we all peeled them.

Heaven!!! These are sooooo good. There are dozens lying on the ground at the entrance to town so while I have a stove to use, I may as well boil some more tonight. 

Last night we skipped eating a peregrino menu in favour of a single dish. Many restaurants offer a peregrino menu, which offers a choice of about four starters and main course each - plus bread, beverages (wine or water and, sometimes, beer) plus dessert (something interesting or just a yoghurt). Prices range from 8€ to 11€. The portions are generous and they're perfect as a once-a-day meal supplemented with small snacks for breakfast and lunch.

But sometimes they are just too much, which is why we opted for a single dish each last night. To compare, we both had stews (5.75€), we shared a portion of rice and a beverage (around 1.25 € each). That was 18€ for both of us, including a tip. So when you consider that a pilgrim meal would have included a sizeable starter and a dessert, they are clearly good value - if you can eat everything. What we've done a few times is to select the yoghurt for dessert and to save it for breakfast the next morning.

Tomorrow our route follows the main road for about 10km, through four towns, before turning off to follow a minor road and peregrinos track to our day's destination O'Cebreiro. The route profile shows us climbing up and up - gentle initially and then steeper

Mom totally rocked the route today and wasn't even exhausted by the end, as she has been on the other days. She is adapting and should be on fire tomorrow.

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