I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend
Last night’s bed was good but the dinner not so much. We stayed at a Hotel just outside Padornelo… it promised a restaurant and a cafe and a bar. However, the restaurant was left in darkness and the cafeteria wouldn’t serve us with so much as sandwhich until after 9.00pm… far too late for tired pilgrims. The owner kept looking at us over his glasses whilst he watched very loud, unpleasant sounding videos on his phone… I don’t think it occurred to him that the film was in English and we understood it… it was more than a little seedy.
We walked across to a 24 hour garage and purchased several million e-numbers in the form of crisps and chocolate and watched 24 hour Spanish news until the hyper feeling subsided and we could sleep.
We woke… too nervous to look out the window. It had rained for most of the night and of course it was still raining when we left. We had coffee and toasted crusts in the bar before setting off.
We again decided to follow the road at least until the first village… then take each section at a time. The guide book says avoid the path after rain as parts can be flooded and impassable and it’s rained a lot for 3 days… we’re heeding all warnings. We’re going up again today… but first we’re going down and we knew it was going to be a hard walk but we were ready for the challenge.
As we walked away from our hotel it was shrouded in mist… the mountains around it completely hidden.
We came to a junction and our first bit of conflicting advice. A traditional camino block pointed one way and several other newer arrows pointed the other. The new rail link is causing problems for pilgrims as the route keeps changing as their work progresses. All of our notes said follow the N525… so we stayed on this road and ignored the camino block. About 1 kilometre along our road ended and we were directed down an incredibly steep grassy path. By now it was pouring with rain, the sky was black and the wind had picked up. We looked at this steep diversion and we both decided that it just wasn’t an option…it was too steep and way too wet and water was just running down the path. There was nothing for it but to retrace our steps back to that original marker. The weather really was getting worse around us but once back to the marker we followed an old road into our next village.
As we walked we saw more diversion arrows and felt confused by the differing advice but walked on to the village.
The backdrop to this isn’t so easy because we’re walking up and down steep valleys. But we felt that the village was the right choice. As we enteted we couldn’t find any arrows. We walked from one end to the other… finally seeing an arrow at the opposite end of the village. We saw a lady and asked her… she said to keep going back towards the church. OK. .. this seemed in keeping with our arrow. Back at the church a couple of grumpy dogs gnarled and barked at us but an old lady gave them a good telling off and pointed us down a path… and Maggie spotted an old faded yellow arrow going the same way. Down we went and we saw an old chap collecting chestnuts… is this the camino we asked… yes yes he replied. We felt confident that we could see where in our guide book and happy to be on our way.
However… after some considerable time we realised that the markers that should appear weren’t there. Nothing matched with our guide… the photos didn’t fit and there were no yellow arrows. The weather was getting worse and we’d dropped to the valley floor and were climbing back up again… but not where we should have been. We tried to find a GPS signal but we were too deep in the valley. We walked on and up because we really didn’t want to retrace our steps. As we got higher we managed to pick up a signal. We could see a road on the Google map and we decided that it would be better to head toward that. As we climbed up again and turned a corner our hearts sank. We’d come to the rail construction site. Oh please please please don’t say that this way is blocked… please please please don’t make us walk back. The path had been bumpy and slippery and rocky and covered in wet leaves and mud and was overgrown and I really really did not want to go back there.
We walked up through the construction site and our first bit of good luck… a sign suggesting that we were on some kind of cattle track… thank goodness again for a smartphone and google translate . There wasn’t anyone around except a lone deer who crossed our path so we went for this route. The GPS path seemed happy with our choice too so on we went. We passed through a small tunnel and I spotted a large piece of black plastic… my thoughts went back to the dancing flying sheet in the hot flatlands weeks ago and I hoped it wasn’t her laying there crushed amongst the rubble.
On we walked and up we walked and it felt like the worst of the weather had passed. We scrambled up another track and squealed with delight when we saw an arrow… then another… then another. We had somehow pulled ourselves back onto the camino and before we knew it we’d reached Lubien. We walked through the village and headed to the nearest bar.
We’d walked maybe 6 kilometres more than we should have and gone up and down and up and down again but we’d found our way eventually and we were mighty glad.
We ordered coffee and cokes. Sadly there was no food for another hour… that was too long to wait. We had the biggest climb still to do and another 10 kilometres before we could stop at Vilavela. So we munched on cookies and tried to warm up. There was no wifi and no data signal and outside the rain started again. Today was not quite what we’d hoped for.
There was nothing for it… poncho back on and get on with it. The locals told us to not to attempt the trail… stick to the road where the bikes go. Fine by me… I’d scrambled through more than enough mud for one day.
We tried to make sense of our guide and looked for the elusive N525. We followed the instructions. .. down a steep descent… see the picnic area… past the church… up a ridiculously steep path… cross a footbridge over the motorway… more crazy steep paths… and onto a road. And then there it was … this way to the N525… I could have kissed the ground we stood on… we’d been looking for this road for hours.
Higher and higher we went… I had another crazy stupid bridge to cross… more terrible swearing… but after another serious fright I questioned why I was suddenly so ridiculously afraid… I don’t like heights I know but I was getting worse. As Maggie caught her breath (I’d run the 423m span and dragged her along with me)… a light bulb went on. My drugs can make me anxious… maybe there’s a connection. I’m not afraid… I’m somehow getting into some kind of anxiety loop. A kilometre further on I could test my theory… I’m not afraid it’s just a chemical reaction … I’m not afraid it’s just a chemical reaction… and so it went for a few hundred metres… cool calm and collected. OMG… I’d cracked it. I didn’t like the height but I wasn’t screaming like a girl. Relief washed over me.
We stopped in a little shelter for a drink and a biscuit. We were getting higher. Almost at the top. The views were amazing. The windmills that looked so distant this morning were beside us now. This was our O’Cebriero. We’d done the highest hardest part… it would be downhill from here.
We crossed over the top via a tunnel and walked out into clearer skies and an amazing view. A few metres further on and we had crossed another milestone.
We had stated walking in Andalucia… oh it seems so long ago now. We’ve crossed Extremadura and Castillon and Leon and as we walked away from Alto de Canda we walked into Galicia… we’ve crossed so much and come so far… and we’re almost there. Just over a week… ten days maybe… and we’ll be there … Santiago is calling us.