After a great night at Casa Lixa I got ready for what is widely regarded as the most difficult section of the Camino Frances: the walk up to O Cebreiro. Although Alto Mayor back near the Cruz de Ferro is higher, the path up to O Cebreiro is steeper.
I wanted to have a good breakfast, but I left before the restaurant in Casa Lixa opened. I would have to wait to eat breakfast until I got to the next town, La Faba.
As I started making my ascent I saw the Italian grandmas ride past me in a taxi. I guess they weren’t going to put themselves through that climb, and I don’t blame them.
The walk up to La Faba was really tough for me. At times I felt like I was walking up a ladder. It was also very rocky and very muddy.
Before I left the US multiple people said it doesn’t matter if you do the Camino in sneakers or hiking boots.
My Salomon hiking boots were waterproof, and I can’t imagine doing the Camino without them; especially this part. My feet stayed dry, and my toes were protected as I kept smashing them against rocks.
Too bad the boots didn’t help my hips. The hip weakness which has plagued me for a long time reared its ugly head as I tried to make my way to La Faba.
There were some points when I stopped and thought someone would have to come get me off of this mountain. In spite of all that I kept going and eventually made it into town. I was SO ready for a break.
I walked up to the café, and it was CLOSED! How could that be?! This was a very cruel joke that I did not find funny at all.
I looked around for sustenance and fortunately found a place that was open. At Casa El Arbol I sat by the fireplace for a while trying to warm up and dry off.
As I was leaving I saw another Camino dog. How cute! I didn’t even know this was a thing, and now I had seen two.
I kept walking and the rain kept coming. Thankfully though the walk wasn’t as steep as it had been before.
I continued in the rain to La Laguna, where I stopped again for a snack and made another futile attempt to dry off.
I left to complete the climb to O Cebreiro. In addition to the rain it felt like the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. They weren’t the most pleasant conditions, but it was still amazing to be in the midst of this experience.
I got up to O Cebreiro, and to be quite honest I didn’t see what the big deal was. It’s this place everyone on the Camino talks about as a major landmark, but I really wasn’t moved. I stopped for some lunch and kept it moving.
I continued my walk and made it to Alto do San Roque, which I had really been looking forward to. It’s a massive statue of a Camino pilgrim on the mountain. It’s really dramatic, and I found it to be awe-inspiring. I also felt as wind-whipped as the statue looked.
I really wanted to take a picture with it, but I didn’t see anyone else around. I wasn’t sure if most other people had already stopped for the day.
I decided to wait around for a little bit in hopes that someone would come by and take a picture for me.
I waited… And waited… And waited… Not a single soul walked by.
There’s a road that runs past the statue, and a few cars had gone by. I hoped that maaaybe a car would pull over and help me take a picture.
About a minute after I said that my knight in shining armor arrived. Actually, he was a knight in a white BMW.
Willem was from Switzerland and was doing a road trip through Spain. I told him I was doing the Camino, and he asked me how long I had been walking.
I explained that I started in León and had been walking for nine days.
“Nine days? I just left León a few hours ago.”
Way to rub it in.
Willem took my picture with the statue, and I took a picture of him before he left. What a lucky encounter.
I departed Alto do San Roque and wondered if it might be time to turn it in for the day. I stopped in the town of Hospital, but there was only a municipal albergue there and it didn’t really have the feel I was looking for. The woman at the front desk said it wouldn’t take me too long to get to the next town, so I left.
As I was walking I felt like I got a second wind. I felt good and thought I could maybe even go farther than the next town.
Just as I was thinking that the weather turned again and it started raining hard. It was also cold and windy.
After dealing with the wet weather for the whole day my gear was reaching its limit. I didn’t have rain pants, but my REI quick dry pants had served me really well. Now, however, they were thoroughly soaked through, so much so that they were clinging to my legs and had become so heavy they were falling down.
Taking all of this into consideration it didn’t make sense to continue walking like this and furthermore possibly risk getting sick. I decided to stop in the next town.
The next place was Alto do Poio, and the albergue is the first thing you see when you climb into the town.
I checked in, secured a bed and was shown to my room. It…was not good.
It was damp. There was a wad of chewed gum on my bed post. The beds didn’t seem great overall.
The bathroom… It didn’t look or feel clean. There was gunk around the shower and long hairs around the shower and sink. There were no other women there and my hair didn’t look like that, so when was the last time they’d cleaned this place?
This was the first time I didn’t shower on the Camino. I just couldn’t let myself get in that shower and felt like I would come out feeling dirtier if I did.
I thought about leaving and walking to the next town, but I was really worried about getting sick after being cold and wet the entire day with the rain still falling. I also didn’t know if there would even be a bed available, so I stayed.
I went to the bar to have some vino and write in my journal.
Things got worse. The wine wasn’t good. There was a giant mountain dog that seemed pretty dirty and shaggy just laying by the table.
There was a jar of some kind of unidentified gelatinous ooze on the table.
Someone brought in a bucket of potatoes for dinner, and they all had exceedingly long tentacles coming out of them.
The bucket of water that they used to “clean” the dining room smelled sickening.
There was an elderly woman sitting in front of the fire, who every so often would lean forward and spit on the floor. Not even in a jar or tissue or something, just directly onto the floor.
I couldn’t continue to sit there, and I certainly couldn’t let myself eat dinner there, so I went to the restaurant at the hotel across the street. My albergue and the other hotel were the only two places in Alto do Poio, so my options were limited.
Things were at least better across the street but not by a whole lot.
At dinner I was seated with a German woman who complained about absolutely everything from the Camino to life in general. The company left a lot to be desired, and the food wasn’t so good. At least it was better than whatever was waiting back at my albergue.
After dinner I was just ready to go back, although I wasn’t looking forward to getting in my nasty bed. I could only hope that the sooner I could get to sleep the sooner I could get up and leave.