DAY THIRTY FOUR: 11 November 2012 from O’Cebreiro to Triacastela
I woke to the softness of a snowy silence. Cosy within the stony walls of the Santuario de Cebreiro, tucked up in bed, the white glare of the first snows of winter reflect playfully off the window glass. A quietness that is hard to bear when you have tinnitus but the warmth of bed and the heavy hand of an alcoholic slumber hold me at bay. Kevin, in the other bed is dead to the world. Just me and morning’s breathy Snow Queen alive so it seems. Slowly but surely the pilgrims emerge to a blinding morning, the sharp air slicing through the remnants of hangover. We are edgy and disorganised, stopping and stuttering, avoiding the fate that is our due as pilgrim walkers. Coffee, breakfast, photos and lingering as we watch the footage of winters arrival on Galacian TV. Eventually we depart into the freezing mist. We ask a local for the Camino and he points down to the wet slop of the tarmacadem road. This is the first but will not be the only time that we are misdirected from the ancient walking path to what many of the locals think of as the quickest and fastest route to the requested destination. Well it would be if we were in a car. It is not pleasant in this weather walking on the road and we quickly ascertain that we should be on a forest path so we double back. Danny & James have long gone – up early to ensure that they could collect their bags they were probably having lunch somewhere as we skirt the Municpal Hostel and step into a snow portal. Magical and Christmas like it was on this early part of the route that I snapped the photos for my Christmas ecard. I was very excited to be wearing the snow gloves I bought in Virgen del Camino just outside Leon.
We four, Kath, Carolyn & Kevin get into our own rhythm and groove as we wind our way loosely strung across the top of these mountains. We hit the high point at Alto de San Roque where a snow coated statue of a medieval pilgrim of giant proportions shoulders into the wind. The magic of the fairy dust in the quiet of the forest gives way to freezing breeze, wet snowy rain and the darkness of a soggy sky. We hunker down and bar hop our way through Hospital de la Condesa, Alto do Poio, Fongria. At Biduedo our descent starts in earnest and the snow gives way to emerald green undergrowth, startling in contrast.
It is Sunday, holy and a day of rest, but the cows still have to be milked. I flatten myself up against a stone wall as they pass me on their way home just above Triacastela. The road is thick and slippery with cow pats, methane rich and body warmed, fertile and fecund. It feels like Spring – what a contrast to the sterilised winter earth of the morning. The town of the three castles is castel-less, a long string of quietness, nothing stirs, no one is about but with compass heart of a sociable pilgrim it doesnt take long before I discover Kath, Carolyn & Kevin at the modern Complexo Xacebo; a warm, practical, comfortable, spacious accommodation just right to support our withdrawal from the hotel luxury of the night before. Now that we are in Galacia the letter ‘J’ is replaced by the letter ‘X’ – it strikes me that if there is a Galacian version of Scrabble there would have to be more Xs, with a lower score of course, to account for its ubiquity. I hadnt really appreciated how undervalued this letter is in English; like a forlorn long suffering substitute on the bench of a football match.