I had a tough ending to the previous day on the Camino. I was cold and wet and couldn’t even get relief when I got to my albergue in Alto do Poio.
The whole place was gross, from the bar to the bathrooms to the beds.
In an effort to reduce the amount of time I would actually have to stay there I decided to wake up earlier than I ever had up to that point so I could get the heck out of Dodge.
Morning couldn’t come soon enough. The room was so cold and damp that I had dreams that night about being cold and wet.
As soon as the darkness started to break I got up and got myself ready to head out. I was so excited to leave. I didn’t want to just leave I wanted to get far, far away from that place.
I walked the next 3.3 km faster than I ever had before. It wasn’t easy though. It was so, so cold and really windy. As I was gripping my walking sticks my fingers started to freeze around the handles.
I was walking on a ridge with the motorway down below me. Each time I saw a car go by I thought of how much easier, more comfortable, warmer this would be if I could just get a ride.
I continued on anyway.
I made it to Fonfría quicker than I’d ever arrived at a new town. I decided to stop for breakfast at Albergue A Reboleira.
This was the albergue I tried to make it to the day before when the cold rain altered my plans. As I tried to trudge through the terrible experience at Alto do Poio and thought about running for it I told myself that maybe the albergue in Fonfría wasn’t that great either.
Wrong. Albergue A Reboleira is really nice, and the staff is great. It’s even hard to write about this albergue now because I wish so bad I had stayed there instead of in Alto do Poio.
I got my standard bocadillo de jamón and zumo natural while I watched people head out for the day. Everyone was hugging and cheerful; a very different scene from when I left my albergue.
I spoke to Angela, the proprietor at Reboleira, and told her that I stayed at the albergue in Alto do Poio the previous night. Her eyes widened, she grabbed my hands and said, “I’m so, so sorry.”
She asked me if I wanted to look around so I would know what it’s like for next time and tell other people about it. I actually didn’t want to see the rest of the albergue because I didn’t want to feel worse, but Angela said it would give me better energy for the day.
Everything looked so warm and cozy. The albergue was so charming and inviting and even had a reading nook with library. Although it was a little lift it also made me feel worse about what I had been through the night before.
I asked for recommendations for albergues from this point forward. I was going to do everything in my power to prevent a repeat of the previous night.
Angela recommended Paloma y Leña in San Mamede del Camino. It was a good distance away, but I would try to make it.
I left my reminder of what could have been and continued with my walk.
I made it to Fillobal, where I happened to come upon a cute little café. There had been a little bit of rain, so I decided to stop. Here at Aira do Camiño I treated myself to a second breakfast.
It was well worth it. I had fried eggs, bacon, café con leche, and zumo natural. So good. I also positioned myself near the fireplace, which was my strategy wherever I went.
After a full belly and warmth from the fire I set off again. As I continued along my path I saw someone moving their cows through town. It was a cool sight.
At the town of Triacastela there’s an option to take an alternate route, which I did. This turned out to be the most disorienting section of the Camino for me. This was the one part of the Camino where I truly felt like I was completely out on my own and didn’t know where I was.
When I got to A Balsa I stopped for a snack, but at the albergue there was a dog barking angrily at me so I kept going. I planned to stop at San Xil, but there’s nothing there. It continued this way, hopes to stop for rest and food only to be faked out, for the next couple of “towns” that were listed in the guidebook.
There were a few times when I came upon a fork in the path and didn’t know which way to go. I would walk a little bit down each way before deciding how to continue further.
Although I chose to do the Camino on my own I rarely felt like I was totally by myself. Out here I felt deserted, and it was not a good feeling. It was the first time I truly worried about wandering off in the wrong direction and getting lost.
After walking and walking I finally encountered more people as I got closer to Furela. Once in Furela I stopped at Casa do Franco to eat. I was so hungry by that point.
After sitting down I looked at my map and realized why the last stretch made me feel so unnerved. I had just walked 8.1 km without seeing another person and without knowing where I was.
Yes, there were plenty of other times on the Camino where I was walking by myself, which can be nice, but it’s still helpful to at least see other people. This time I didn’t run into another person for over an hour. I was so glad to be past that.
I ordered spaghetti bolognese, which along with a bocadillo de jamón and zumo natural had become a staple for me along the Camino.
While eating I started chatting with some other people sitting next to me. I talked to a couple from Virginia and a group of students from UVA Wise. The best part of the Camino is the people you meet, and I loved meeting other pilgrims and hearing their stories.
After eating and chatting I left to continue on toward Paloma y Leña.
On the way there I saw more cows on the move. Was this some sort of big cow movement day I didn’t know about?
It had been raining off and on for the whole day, which was par for the course in Galicia. I took a path along the side of a roadway. Because of all the rain I stepped into what seemed more like a canal than a pathway.
After days on end of being wet my waterproof boots finally reached their saturation point, and I felt water come over my left foot.
I couldn’t even be mad because my boots had served me so well for six years, but it increased my urgency to get to Paloma y Leña. I was really tired and now wet, but I had to make it there. I couldn’t run the risk of staying in a dump again.
When I finally arrived at Paloma y Leña I felt such relief. I could finally rest and knew that tonight would be better than the last.
I checked in with Elisa and unloaded about the last couple of days. I told her I stayed at the albergue in Alto do Poio the night before and was once again met with pity and apology for having to endure that.
Elisa said everyone knows that place is a big problem. She said the government in Galicia is very strict about the sanitation of albergues, and they are all inspected regularly. When the inspectors go to Alto do Poio, however, the owner tells them it’s not an albergue it’s her house, and people voluntarily stay there. As a result the inspectors can’t go in, and the disgusting conditions continue.
It made me really angry that they continue to do this and that I, along with others, stayed there without prior knowledge. I felt scammed. I was upset and tired, and I just wanted a break.
After choosing a bunk I TOOK A SHOWER, and it was glorious. After being too grossed out in Alto do Poio to even step into the shower it felt truly amazing to bathe. And to top it all off the shower was hot and CLEAN! I nearly cried.
Now that I had clean facilities I also washed my clothes for the first time in two days. Blessings.
Once I was clean, which felt so good, I went to chill out in the common area. I’m so grateful to Angela in Fonfría for the recommendation. This was the best albergue for some much-needed relaxation.
Paloma y Leña is so peaceful. I sat by the fireplace and enjoyed chamomile tea and biscuits that were left out for everyone.
The dinner served at Paloma y Leña is vegetarian, which I wasn’t feeling. Not a problem though. They ordered a meat eaters dinner of salmon and charcuterie for me from a restaurant in town, which they delivered to the albergue.
It was so nice to eat with my fellow pilgrims from South Korea and Canada. It was such a switch from the night before, and I was so grateful to be here.