Day 30, Wednesday, May 8: O Cebreiro to Triacastela (22.5 km, 14 miles)

Things aren’t always as they seem or as you are lead to believe. This town I have arrived at today, for example. Triacastela. Three castles. Only… there are no remnants of any of them! We must take it on faith. (And three? Aren’t castles for kings? Did each one replace the other, being constructed with more grandeur, more turrets and towers than its predecessor? Or did they exist simultaneously, owned by three noblemen who would-be kings?)

Or take today’s weather, which is going to come up several times in this post. With an angry, bruised sky like we had today, with the low clouds whipping across the mountain tops, with the mist dropping down into the valleys, trapped there at times, how could we not get rained upon? It looked like a sure thing. Unavoidable.

Or take the guidebook’s comment that this stage is “mostly downhill” and its reminder to be very careful because “most injuries are sustained going down”…. Downhill? What, then, are we going to say about the 222 floors that my Fitbit recorded for today? If it looks uphill, and it feels uphill, and the highway below looks ribbon-like and the cows ant-like, and in addition your Fitbit tells you you climbed the equivalent of 222 floors, then… it’s probably not “mostly downhill.” Sorry, John Brierley, but in spite of the elevation chart in your book, I know otherwise. So do my toes.

But, hey, it was 50 floors less climbing than yesterday, and, besides, I’m a mountain goat in training. And besides that, I had an absolutely marvelous day, so who’s counting floors anyway?  And one more thing: today’s paths were gravel, none of those life-and-limb threatening stone slabs with foot traps here and there and everywhere. No. These hills, up and down, were “flat,” “level”; it was just a matter of putting one foot in front on the other.

Easier said than done, though, with the wind that whipped and howled and bit and frothed and otherwise did whatever it took to try to earn the main role in today’s play.

It might have succeeded if it hadn’t been for

  • The lush green hillsides, covered in sloping pastures divided by rock fences
  • The melodious tinkling of cows’ bells as the bovines attacked the hay that had been set out for them
  • The magnificent castaño [chestnut] trees that begged to be photographed. (One of them 800 years old, with a 28-foot circumference; others where the roots had grown together so that it appeared to be one grand double-trunked giant
  • And speaking of one becoming two: ever seen a two-headed donkey? I did today and I’d prove it if the strange creature hadn’t rearranged itself into two donkeys by the time I got out my camera

Yes, the wind might have been the main character if it hadn’t been for

  • The huge bowl of just-now-ready Gallegan soup I had around noon
  • The path I chose (1.5 km longer than the one everyone else seemed to follow) which gave me a good half hour to sing as loud as I wanted and not fear being overheard and sent to the nearest lockdown institution (I needn’t have feared singing at any point today because I wouldn’t have been heard over the wind, but it felt luxurious, anyway, to be alone up on that “forgotten” path)
  • The wonderful art work in the bar/cafe of O Tear, each piece hung on the stone wall and each depicting a “typical” (as in “folkloric”) Galician scene. I wanted to figure out how to bring a pallet of these paintings home with me
  • The conversation I had with the woman who made aforementioned soup and who was patient with me as she explained the finer details of butchering pork and–once the vet has taken samples and declared the now-dead pig “clean”–turning it into sausages and chops and all manner of things in between
  • The dozen or so laborers during a pause in their building a stone-fence in a little hamlet who proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Spain has changed since I was last here 46 years ago. How so? Not a piropo [whistle, comment, or innuendo] or even a second glance out of one of them…. and surely that can’t possibly have anything to do with the way I have changed in those intervening 46 years. Surely not….
  • The song gifts that came to me as I walked in the wind. I had been looking for the simple melody of one of them since Easter morning. An “alleluia” song I learned in Orange. Beach, Alabama, and for which I couldn’t for the life of me come up with the melody until today, when, totally unsolicited, there it was. I brought it out “to air” for quite a while. The other came out of the blue, but was oh, so appropriate. Harking back to the 60s and, if I’m not mistaken, from an album by a woman known as “The Singing Nun,” it was about the Spirit of God, blowing, blowing where He wills. More than appropriate for the day. [Aside: we’re often told to listen for that “small, still voice” of the Spirit. I’m here to say: it’s not always that way!] [Aside #2, added on May 8, 2020, one year to the date of this walk: in the intervening year, I had occasion to locate the song I refer to above.  It is called “Spirit of God” and is found in an album released not by The Singing Nun, but by an entire group of singing nuns known as the Medical Mission Sisters.  The album, entitled Joy Is Like the Rain, was released in 1966.]
  • The fun of watching and listening, while waiting for my soup at lunchtime today, to the young Italian and the young Spaniard who had slept at my end of the dorm last night. They met each other right at the beginning of their Camino a bit over a week ago in León and have been a duo ever since. They spend a good bit of their time–it’s obvious to the casual observer, but they also told me so directly–swapping language instruction. A bit more time with them and I think I would have been speaking Italian! As a language instructor, I took delight in watching their interactions. (I was also pleased to learn that the Italian’s blister was doing much better thanks to the “surgery” that was performed on him by flashlight last night in the hall outside our large room.)

So yes, the wind was truly a main player in today’s drama, but it shared the stage with other noteworthies. Never doubt it.

In conclusion

Can you tell I really enjoyed this day? What was not to enjoy? I had perfect clothing for staying warm. The clouds did not open up for us, just did their acrobatics, at no charge.

And then: I arrived in Triacastela of the No Castles and, as the first drops of rain began to fall, without much thought or effort, I took a bed in this albergue which not only has real sheets–a top and bottom one (and “real” means not disposable paper ones) but has a (fake, but still….) fireplace next to which is a cupboard labeled “Secador de botas/Boot Dryer.” Boot Dryer! I am sitting right now in front of that “fake” but warm fire and I am one happy pilgrim who is about to go upstairs to bed.

But not before mentioning the super nice priest who offered such a heartfelt mas and blessing to those of us attending the 6:00 pm pilgrims’ service. Although I appeared to be the only Spanish-speaker in the bunch, he acted as if everyone in the congregation understood him and he preceded to modify many of the words of the mass to give it a pilgrims’ “slant.” My guidebook mentions “the delightful Fr. Augosto.” Must be one and the same.

It’s a top bunk night, but in my little “upstairs cubby” I am equipped with a private, shine-it-right-down-on-your-book-or-phone-or-tablet light and a place to charge up my phone. A blanket, too.

Ah, life’s simple pleasures….


Puzzling questions I take to bed with me

  1. Every village through which we pass seems to have large dogs kind of stationed at the entrance. What has been done to these dogs to make them so totally, unabashedly, absolutely uninterested in even bothering to stand up when pilgrims come into town? And what might I do to encourage all dogs to be likewise bored by my presence?
  2. Why are there so few wind turbines in Galicia? Is the wind too strong for them? Are the roads too winding and curvy, thus making it impossible to haul those huge things up the mountains? Because, in case you haven’t guessed it from everything I’ve said already, there are some noticeable breezes up here….