Day 7 … Saturday, 8 August 2015
If Day 2 was like forever, today IS forever.
Walked 26km, not the longest but definitely the hardest so far. Uphill 5km to O’Cebreiro, a steep ascent to Alto do Poio and finally a 5km steep descent to Triacastela, I was calling it a day more than once.
Thankfully the view was amazing. Every gasp of breath with each step up was worthwhile. The scenery was simply breathtaking. Took many photos but they don’t do justice to the beauty of this hamlet before Galicia. I was ecstatic seeing the border marker which meant the peak was close by.
Arriving at O’Cebreiro, I was surprised to see many tour buses. Of course I should have known that this mountain village has a pre-Roman heritage with its traditional thatched roofed circular houses and is popular among locals on weekend visits. Though I had intended to stay for breakfast, I decided to move on because the cafes were all full and people seemed to have been waiting a long time to be served.
Walking for about an hour, I passed the Monumento de Peregrino without knowing. It was only upon seeing a crowd across the road that I noticed the statue.
Continuing on, I met a group of merry ladies – three walking freely and one had an enormous backpack. All were singing and joking, even the one with the big load. I wonder why. When I met them at a resting spot, they explained that each one took turns to carry the single backpack which contains all their things. What a nice arrangement!
Can’t tell how far or how long I walked after these ladies passed me and without proper breakfast, I was getting feeble. Just had an apple and somehow didn’t pass any cafe after O’Cebreiro. After the leaving the road trail into the woods, I came upon a fork that branches into two smaller sandy paths. Couldn’t see any yellow arrows and I can’t figure out which path to take.
Along came a teacher from China who walked from SJP without any guidebooks, just following the yellow arrows. She immediately knew which path to take – “let your shadow be your guide”, she said. Unable to think properly on an empty stomach, I followed her but couldn’t keep pace. Soon she disappeared round the corner and I was left walking alone, guided by my shadow in this lonely path. After some time, I saw the most welcoming, comforting vision – the white parasols of refuge!
Pilgrim tip: Though there are many cafes along the way, it is always good to carry some food eg. fruits, bread or energy bars in case you decide to skip a cafe and the next one may be a couple of hours away.
After drinking the most tasty regular coke and eating the most delicious ordinary sandwich, I continued with renewed energy and determination. Don’t know why, must be the coke but I walked really fast, so fast I may have missed a turn somewhere because there were no more signs or pilgrims for a long time.
Then I heard footsteps crunching the loose pebbles behind me. It was an Italian student, also walking very fast and was looking kind of lost like me. Having learnt from the wise young lady from China, we walked together guided by our shadows because westward is the way to Santiago.
After more than an hour, we saw the first Camino signpost. What a relief! and into the cool scenic tree-lined path towards Triacastela.
At Triacastela, I couldn’t find any available beds but my new Italian friend managed to find a room for five in a family home and so I spent the night with her and her three friends.
As the days go by, I’m getting used to walking up to 10 hours and realised that distance is not about how far it is from one place to another but how strong your mind is to get to your goal.
Take this morning for example, I was panting and dragging my feet all the way up the mountains when I met the young German man who sleeps on a hammock in the church to save on accommodation. “Come along. Galicia is just round the corner” he encouraged me. However he didn’t say it was after several corners. But he created the anticipation and my mind was so set to reach Galicia that I just kept going.
Suppose it’s one goal to the next till we reach Santiago, or wherever we want to achieve in life. It’s not the legs but all in the head that brings us to where we want.