A pear and banana for breakfast, plus two steaming, frothy glasses of tap water – yes, it was that cold this morning.
The day looked like it was spoiling for an argument, gloomy and grey and short-tempered. But it never really came to that. There was, granted, a shower en route out from Ponferrada (which, far from being the cartographic labyrinth as warned by my written-from-hearsay-in-a-pub guidebook, was a straightforward mapread and line out). But I sat it out in a cafe-bar.
I thought was a dive when I went in, with a few shouty blokes at the bar downing liqueuers; but they were just joshing, and it was friendly, all bark and no bite. I had a breakfast with plenty of bite, though: nice cafe con leche, free croissant, even tot of orange juice and bonbon. Ah, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
Out I went, a better person, along dual carriageway, into vineyard country, up and down a straight road, through Cacabelos and eventually Villafranca. I stopped a few minutes to take pictures in front of a castle thing on the way in to see the square, and sat out another shower in a nice little bar with another cafe con leche.
Then a climb, long and slow, up a quiet road with only me on it: the N-VI, or as my guidebook insisted on calling it, the NV-1. I sometimes pushed, gradually I wound my way into the hills, and the distant, hissing motorway viaduct shifted from being way above my head to way down below me.
The col town ignored by the motorway, Pedrafita do Cebreiro, was a bit of a nonentity; the most exciting thing I could find about it was the banana I bought for a bench snack, but it reminded me of the Alps a little. From here was the climb to the highest point of the entire Camino, the village of O Cebreiro.
I’m not sure what I hoped for, but the (picturesque and very cobbly) village with accomm and shops and church seemed very artificial and full of yabbering students. I just didn’t want to spend time there. So I carried on, as it was only 3ish anyway, along the rollercoaster road up in the picturesque mountains, enjoying the sprawling spectacular of the hills and valleys and motorway down below.
I ad another coffee treat at the very summit, Alto do Poyo at 1350m, then revelled in the long delicious downhill… though into some ferocious winds that almost slammed me to a stop down 1 in 14s, and some small but hard, carpet-tack rain.
I decided to stay the night in Triacastela (thanks, but I don’t smoke…) as it was now 5ish. The first two pilgrim hostels were completo, which took me aback a bit and sowed seeds of worry, but the third one had space.
The town seemed a bit run down, shabby, poor and underinformed, but it turned out better as the evening went on. My fellow guests were fun if noisy (a French-Canadian woman and her entourage), I had a bottle of nice wine from the supermarket and some bread and fish, and triumphantly found free wifi from some unsecured local source.
Miles today: 50
Miles since Pamplona: 381