Fast Forward to Galicia on the Camino de Santiago.
The beauty of Galicia captivated me before I even left Villafranca del Bierzo. By far, my favourite stretch as I walked along the Camino de Santiago. The sheer beauty of the hills and the lush forests were like a tonic to the soul. The senda (pilgrim’s highway) through the Meseta had been trying at times. Boredom would overtake me at times as I trudged along the gravel paths, but it was as if I had come back to life as I reached Galicia’s fertile soils. The landscape bloomed and inspired me as no other region could. (Check out this video on the tourism page for Galicia – I hope it never changes – it gives me goose bumps to watch it, I am transported back to the magic of the Camino de Santiago!).
There are 3 route choices as you leave Villafranca – I followed the recommended route that climbed to the Alto Pradela. You really knew you were alive first thing in the morning as your heart beat right out of your chest, each footstep feeling like you had not moved forward at all! The views were spectacular and made it all worth while. While I generally tried not to look backwards too often (metaphorical in life), I was only too happy to stop and take a moment to look below at where I had come from and marvel at the view.
I have heard from many that the remote route along the Camino Dragonte (Green Route) is stunning, with very few people who walk it. While I would have loved to take this route, I decided my general lack of sense of direction, coupled with few way markers along the way, meant missing the green route was the right choice for me this time. Maybe some other time!
The towns along the recommended route were gorgeous and quaint. I could have easily spent a week here, exploring the various paths and towns, watching life go by at a much slower pace than life back at home. From La Portela de Valcarce to Herrerias, smoke gently curled from the chimneys of the stone houses lining the road. I fell in love with the rural idyll surroundings that screamed – “stop here for the night”, so with less than 20 Kms for the day, along with my new walking partner, we called it quits. We were so excited to find no others had checked in to the little albergue behind the river, and hoped to have the place to ourselves and a guaranteed good night sleep. By the time our drinks had arrived at the local pub, nearly all the beds were taken!
The next morning, the route to O’Cebreiro was all uphill – a steep ascent through wood and farmland. The damp forest, rich with moss, forest smells and teeming with life, created a peaceful interlude as I walked. I felt rejuvenated – I couldn’t get enough of the area. I felt like I could walk here forever. For me, Galicia really became the place to reflect. The rhythm of of my poles as I walked kept my mind free to float…I was at home here in the forest.
Galicia is known for it’s wet weather. The mountains are the first barrier for the westerly winds that blow in off the Atlantic and everything was green. There is a strong Celtic presence in the region, and the farming heritage is evident in the pastoral landscapes of the countryside. Mostly cattle grazed and foraged in the hills, but there were also many sheep and pigs. Many times, I came across cattle being shepherded along or across the road. If there were no cattle – the evidence of their passing by was left along the route.
I was very lucky – mother nature was kind and kept the rains away as I climbed to the top of the range and arrived at O’Cebreiro. All the photos in the guide book showed people wrapped in rain ponchos, mountain fog setting in. While the temperatures definitely dropped at night, I arrived in town dry without a hint of rain. I am not sure if those who arrived in the days following me were so lucky, but I was thrilled to have the amazing views.
Even without the rain, the roads and paths were quite damp – I can’t imagine how different it would have been in the pouring rain and thunderstorms (lluvia y tormenta) that the region is known for, yet it is this rain that fosters such lush and green landscapes.