Impossible

You spoke of a dream, and about the quest … how you must fight — and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose — if only you follow the quest. Aldonza (Dulcinea), Man of La Mancha, 1972.

Camino Day 27, Lunes 5th Octubre. 648 klms. Triacastela, Lugo, Galicia, España.

Today’s story, as with many, starts in the middle of the day. We were sitting in a small restaurant in O’Cebreiro around 1pm – “we” being the two of us plus Melie and Kerry, with whom we had traveled up from Las Herrerías (more on that later). Melie noticed a small relief print of Don Quixote de la Mancha, and wanted to take my photo next to it. (There’s a story as to why, but it’s her story to tell, not mine, so I’ll just leave it that it wasn’t a completely random act.) Here’s the photo:

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Melie was not to know it of course, but as much as I ever have one, Don Quixote is my hero. That might sound a bit silly at one level – he is after all a fictitious character. However to me it’s not silly – I won’t say more now … I have previously written extensively about this in the lead up to this trip, and these thoughts can be found at http://wp.me/p6mK7n-x

However this little experience sort of took over my thoughts for much of the rest of the day.

But let’s start the day at the beginning. Our initial plan was to leave Las H
errerías
relatively early, walk up to O’Cebreiro (~ 3 hours), wander around and check the place out; and then head down to Triacastela (~ 3 hours). That should have got us there about mid-afternoon. The 8 klm walk from Las Herrerías up to O’Cebreiro does not have a good reputation. A solid uphill slog, in our case to have been completed in steady rain. Enter the equine gods. Melie had suggested the day before that we do this section on horseback. Great idea. Horses booked. All set. Grab some coffee and toast at least Casa Polin and head up the road to find the horse man. No worries. He says … go wait in the bar, and points to the place 100 metres down the road. Great we say, better than standing here in the rain. Melie and Kerry then arrive from the adjoining village. She decides to check (wisely). Confirms we are a party of four. No worries. Back to the bar. Wait. Decide to head back to horse central. Insufficient horses (2 short, there was another couple doing the same). Horse man says no worries, and heads of to get two more horses. Count – 6 people, 5 horses. Hmmm. Animated (he he) discussions. Sighing. Roll a cigarette and think (him, not me). Final outcome, no more horses.

But really, what’s the problem. Only one horse short. Still got shanks’ pony, if I’m allowed to mix a few metaphors. So after a team meeting Kerry decides to walk and meet us at the village halfway up the hill, which is what happens. At that stage Kerry and Melie swapped – she walked the rest of the way, leaving J and I to horse all the way up. That was actually very sweet of her, since the horse plan was hers in the first place. Her thinking was that we still had another 20 klms to go after O’Cebreiro, whereas she only had about half that, and in any case she walks faster than us. Sweet, as I said.

I was on the lead hoss. I think she may have been the biggest, but for whatever reason she was the leader. I certainly didn’t have to do much – she knew the way. She was also quite headstrong – she’d stop quite regularly to have a munch of something along the path, despite any encouragement from either me or the horseman (who was walking along beside us issuing horse instructions). It was lots of fun, and we probably got there well before what we would have done had we walked. A couple of horseback photos follow:
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The horseman, above, was no more or less happy than this at any time.

Anyway, by about 12:30 we were at O’Cebreiro, time for a quick bite, a brief look around, the possibly to become infamous Don Quixote photo, and then off for the next 20 klms. I was disappointingly underwhelmed by O’Cebreiro. I had read somewhere that it is the most beautiful town on the Camino. It certainly is quite unique in its architecture, and a couple of photos follow:
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What these photos don’t show are the tourist buses, the many cars, the hordes of people, or the overtly commercial tiendas. My guess is that O’Cebreiro is a regular stopover point for the Camino tours which start from Sarria, only three-quarters of an hour away by bus. I certainly don’t blame the people of O’Cebreiro for capitalising on what their village has to offer, but it didn’t have a Camino feel to it to me.

Anyway, we had a 4 hour walk ahead of us, which in fact turned into nearer a 5 1/2 hour walk. It’s a fairly steady downhill, at times quite steep. No worries. It was also raining pretty steadily. Also no worries, as we were well kitted out. But, we were accompanied by wind which I estimate was blowing at 30/40 kph, and gusting to double that a times. It wasn’t a particularly unpleasant walk, just long and hard. We arrived drenched into Triacastela (the rain seems to be able to get into all sorts of places, and where it doesn’t the perspiration from the effort does the rest. From along the way:
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This first photo is at Alto San Roque, 1270 metres. It shows a medieval pilgrim leaning into the wind – I knew exactly what he felt. The nearby HV power lines were arcing horizontally at what seemed to new a 15 or 20 degree angle.

The rest, below, are just a few shots of the lovely Galician countryside when the rain permitted. I had read previously how beautiful this countryside is, and the reports have not exaggerated.

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This last shot is the welcome view of Triacastela appearing around a bend.

Our accommodation at least Casa Simon is lovely. An old multi-story house, right in the middle of the older part of town, with a few rooms on the first floor. We were warmly welcomed by Natalia Simon, who along with the normal check-in stuff gave us newspapers to stuff on our boots to dry then out. A nice touch. No time for exploring the village. After the normal showers etc we set off for dinner somewhere, and as we were checking out the albergue across the road we chanced upon Carol and John so we had a lovely pilgrim’s menu with them if Galician soup and paella.

And finally, to today’s ramble. I have read extensively that the Camino changes you. I have read also that these changes may not become apparent until some time later. I’m not looking for changes, if they appear well and good, and if they don’t, also well and good. But I have found the experience very meditative, which suits my nature anyway. I find it impossible to walk along for many hours, even if someone is nearby, and even if the scenery is wonderful, without losing myself to the rhythms and the resultant thoughts.

So today’s thoughts, especially from my quixotic nature (about wishing for the world as a better place), were about the important things of life. The important ones are Janet, Natalie and our close friends. The material things – house, work, toys, etc – are nice, but they do rate further down the scale, and really by quite a fair bit. Did I need the Camino to “tell” me that? Not really, but it is valuable to be reminded of this from time to time, and today was one of those times.

[Re reading the above I’m not sure that I have expressed that as well as I would like, but no matter, I have captured the essence of what was going on in my head. ]

Until mañana. In relative terms, easy day tomorrow, then a rest day. Yay.

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