We rose fairly late, around 7.00 and didn´t start until about 8.00 as we were intending a fairly quiet day. O Cebreiro was about 10 km away and we didn´t think we´d go much further. From our bright spacious little albergue we began to climb up through the valley, past mountain hamlets perched on the side of the hill, through farmyards.
We were following the road some of the way, but after a while branched off onto a track that I suspect was on old Roman road. The stones were large and regularly laid but 2,000 years of use had left them foot trippingly jumbled. The farms looked prosperous. For the first time since Navarre we saw cattle outside; beautiful sleek glossy cows that looked like jerseys only somewhat bigger, and with bells around their necks. It was harder than we had anticipated. The 10 km involved a 900 metre climb and most of that was during the last half. Somewhere around 11.00 we crossed into Galicia and it was midday before we wheezed our way into O Cebreiro.
The settlement at O Cebreiro is a tourist mecca. Perched on the top of a 1300 metre mountain the views are spectacular, and the little settlement has been lovingly reconstructed. The village looks like that of the indomitable Gauls in the Asterix comics. The artwork and the music seem very Celtic, and, given the name of the Xunta, I suppose there is a connection. We bought food, looked through the souvenir shops at various Camino memorabilia and tat, some of it of very high quality and most of it far too heavy for any real peregrino to be much interested in. The busloads of lightly shod turistas, however, were snapping it up. We went into the church, and my breath was sucked out of me. It is a Franciscan place, fairly modern, wide, simple and holy. Before a side altar containing the holy sacrament was a table on which were dozens of open Bibles, each in a different language. It looked great.. In many places, perhaps this one more than most, there have been object lessons in how to set up open, inviting holy spaces. We lit a candle before the madonna and spoke to the friar at the reception desk. When he learned that I was a bishop, even though a Prostestant one, he kissed my ring and asked for blessing. I left humbled.

We walked on, rising and falling through a couple of small passes and began the descent towards Triacastela. We intended to stop somewhere on the mountain, but none of the albergues we passed looked very appealing. We entered one and there was loud music and a beery fug and a set menu that seemed to contain lots of carcase parts. We walked on. And on. At 4.00 we had walked 31 km, and we entered the little town of Triacastela and found a room in the very comfortable little albergue. We wandered into the town and I bought una cervasa grande, por favor, a beer of, I´d guess, close to a litre in size. It disappeared remarkable quickly, a testament to the fact of our water pouches being empty for the last 3 or 4 hours of the walk.

We slept for 11 hours or so, and this morning set out for this place, the home of the oldest monastery in Spain. The walk was only 12 km, on a soft earth path through oak and sweet chestnut forest winding beside a shallow, slow moving river.

Every ten minutes or so we passed small farmsteads and tiny hamlets built of the local schist. There were stone walls and blackberry and wild apples. It was like walking through a Constable painting. Around midday we stood on the top of a hill and looked down on this magnificent place.
The monastery is huge and surrounded by fields, orchards and ancient stone walls. We walked down, found coffee in the adjoining village and went to the monastery door where an elderly monk invited us in to take the 3 euro tour, which we did.
So we have spent the morning gawping at the magnificent chapel and wandering the fresco clad cloisters. At 3.00 we will return and find a place in the monastery´s albergue, and tomorrow carry on to Saria.


Merv said…
Wonderful prose. I'm right there with you.