Where We Be
Crossing the Galician Mountains, Spain
Despite buckets of rain, we got glimpses over these four
days of just how beautiful the Galician Mountains can be
During this stretch we hiked four days from Cacabelos (just past Ponferrada) to Sarria, with distances as follows:
14½ miles to Ambasmestas, 14 miles to Alto do Poio, 8 miles to Triacastela, and 12½ miles to Sarria
Hiking Day 33: Ponferrada to Ambasmestas
After two hours we reached Villafranca del Bierzo, an important Camino town.
The first church you see, impressively perched on a hill, is the Church of San Francisco.
During the first half of this 14½ mile day, we followed the marked
Camino path through vineyards, well away from the main road
Some of the vineyard homes were situated stunningly
The rural countryside during this stretch was lovely
Much of the rest of the way we hiked along a quiet highway, but every
once in awhile we'd pass through a lovely town like this one, Pereje
The white wines of Galicia are considered world-
class, with albariño being the dominant grape
This castle-palace, the private home of the Marquis de Villafranca, has
four round towers. Think it's big enough for the whole family at Christmas?
Hiking Day 34: Ambasmestas to Alto do Poio
This was our last relatively quiet day on the trail, because once you reach Sarria,
there are a lot more pilgrims on the road with you doing the last 100 km of the Camino.
We did the 12½ mile hike to Sarria in one big push in the morning.
As the photo suggests, it was yet another misty, rainy day in Galicia.
We never got to see Galicia in sunshine, but judging by
how pretty it is in the mist and rain, it must be stunning
We arrived in Sarria around noon. This is a large town with a lot of amenities --
kind of a culture shock after all the tiny towns we've been passing through.
Coming into Sarria we passed some lovely graffiti art murals of
celebrating hikers completing the Camino. Here are a few of them.
We kept promising ourselves a rest day but never took one -- instead we decided
to press on to Santiago. Our goal was in sight and we were too excited to sit still.
We stayed at Mar de Plata Hotel (€45) in the new part of town.
It's a modern hotel with strong wifi, shower, thermostat for heat, etc.
The hard rains continued all evening and into the night, but we found
a nice window for hiking in the morning when it was misty but not rainy
Ancient stone churches appeared out of
the mists looking somber and mysterious
No doubt there were amazing views off to
the right but we sure couldn't see them
At times it felt like we were walking through the moors in Wuthering Heights
Our one distant view of the day
These raised granaries keep grain dry and safe from rodents in a wet climate
After back-to-back 14 mile days, we gave ourselves an easier
day of 8 miles, flat or steeply downhill all the way to Triacastela
We stayed at Hostal Meson Vilasante (€40) and had lunch at Restaurante Xacobeo --
mussels in salsa and Galician empanadas along with glasses of Albariño wine
This was the super-rainy day we wrote about above, but at the start it was just misty. The
superhighway overhead boomed whenever trucks passed over it so we dubbed it the Thunderway.
We hiked fast, enjoying a window of relative
calm before the storm, to Vega de Valcarce
It was cold, rainy, windy, misty, and steep all at once, but amazingly
there were lovely views every once in awhile through the swirling mists
We hiked steep uphill to O Cebreiro, a fantastic little town. These
round thatched huts are the traditional abodes in O Cebreiro.
After O Cebreiro it rained so hard I had to put my camera away so it wouldn't drown. But I hazarded
a quick photo at Alto do San Roque of this pilgrim holding his hat in the elements -- how appropriate!
Hiking Day 35: Alto do Poio to Triacastela
Hiking Day 36: Triacastela to Sarria
The mountains of Galicia are famous for being
rainy, and they sure lived up to their reputation
while we were there. We got dumped on -- most
notably during the steep climb to Alto do Poio,
the Camino high point in Galicia. The rain came
down in torrents until our shoes squelched, our
socks were soaked through, our hands were
numb, and we shivered inside our rain gear.
When we finally arrived after 14 long miles, we
looked so bedraggled the hostel owner insisted
we remove all our wet gear before heading up.
But things took a turn for the better when we
discovered our room had a bathtub -- unheard
of on the Camino. We quickly filled it with piping
hot water and took the most heavenly bath
before diving under the blankets. The one
benefit of such a day is we'll never forget it!

By the end of these 4 hiking days we'd reached
Sarria and were roughly 100 km (60 mi) from
Santiago. Sarria is the traditional starting point
for those wishing to do the minimum pilgrimage
to still receive their Compostela (certificate).
In the Plaza Mayor we had something new for breakfast: Torrijos. They're like a cross
between bread pudding and French toast with a crunchy coating and cinnamon on top. Yum!
Leaving town we crossed a stone bridge over
the Rio Burbia and took a final look back
Pilgrim statues continue to guide us along the Way
We stopped in Ambasmestas just before a significant uphill climb into the Galician mountains.
We stayed at Rincon del Apostol on the edge of town (€40 shared bath, breakfast included).
Then the rains began. We followed the road for a time, then took a steep, muddy path up to La Faba.
Here we paused to have a delicious bowl of hot garlic soup (the local specialty) before pressing on.
We gratefully arrived in Alto do Poio and stood dripping wet
in the entryway of our hostel, Santa Maria de Poio (€40)
Smiles do make good umbrellas!
We also dined at Mar de Plata's excellent restaurant.
This is the appetizer, a big bowl of Galician soup.