Camino de Santiago Day 12:
Las Herrerías to Triacastela
I think I’ve mentioned before that I do not enjoy walking in the dark.
Lots of folks on the Camino get up early and walk in the dark. But after a morning of doing it with Anna, I was so sure I wouldn’t do it again that I sent my headlamp home with her.
It just seems like a recipe for disaster. Or at least for getting lost.
Also I had met a girl whose leg was all bandaged up and it was because she fell while walking in the dark.
So there you go.
Walking in the dark = bad idea.
But when I went to bed in Las Herrerías, the weather report was calling for rain all day. But it looked like light rain in the morning and heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon.
I was heading straight up into the mountains in the morning and really wanted to be over the highest bit of the walk before thunderstorms blew in.
And also I was tackling my last long day so the longer I waited to get started, the longer I would be out in the afternoon rain.
I went to sleep thinking I would leave right at 8. The sun is coming up at 8am in Spain right now, but of course if it is cloudy, it isn’t really light out until 8:30.
I set everything out so I could get ready quickly in the morning and went right to sleep.
I’ve been sleeping SO hard, which is kind of unusual for me, but I am just dead tired at the end of the day. Usually by 9:30 I can’t hold my eyes open another minute. I had asked for herbal tea after dinner and my waiter dug through an entire box of teas to find me something called “dulces sueños” (sweet sleep). It did the trick.
After my sweet sleep, I woke up at 6am.
Nope! Too early!
I’m not walking in the pitch dark!
But I was wide awake.
So I started getting ready. I took my time. Braided my hair. Ate my yogurt and a banana. Drank my electrolytes.
I was all ready to go.
It was 7am.
Still really dark out.
And more importantly, not raining.
Okay. I’ll use my phone flashlight and I’ll just go really slow.
Outside the albergue, there were a few lamps on, so the street was lit for a little while.
Ahead of me I saw three figures walking, so I caught up to them and then slowed behind them.
As we left the street lamps and turned onto a very dark forest track, one of them turned on a flashlight.
They were a group of three older Spanish gentlemen so I kept my pace slow to stay behind them. This gave me plenty of time to take super careful steps.
I stayed about 5 feet behind them and they walked in a row together. One of them began singing as they walked.
I thought how perfectly timed it was for me to leave when I did. I would not have wanted to climb in the dark in this forest all alone.
One of the men even began to turn around and point out puddles to me so that I wouldn’t step in them.
It has rained late in the afternoon the day before and a lot of the night, so it was muddy on the trail.
We continued this way for maybe half an hour. I began to be able to make out my steps just a tiny bit more in the faint light that was gathering.
At some point I turned around and saw that below me in the forest there were several twinkling lights.
Other early risers were coming up behind me.
Christ before me.
Christ behind me.
Christ all around me.
Christ within me.
When a group of three hikers caught up to us, the frontrunner said hello and introduced himself and his friends.
I couldn’t see his face but I could tell from his accent that he was Scottish so we had a quick chat about a mutual love of walking in Scotland before he and his friends began to push on ahead.
I followed them past my three guides and stayed behind them until we emerged from the forest onto a ridge where I could really begin to see.
Then they lost me. But not before the Scottish man told me he thought the Camino was just magical. It’s the only word I have left, he said, I’ve used them all
up trying to describe it!
I told him I had to agree.
Now I could see that we’d been coming up in a fog that was dancing through the hills.
I walked the path alone for a while as it moved up the valley and then engulfed me again.
Soon I could only see a little ways in front of me, but I marveled at how the sun coming up makes light on the path even when we can’t see the sun.
Somehow no matter how cloudy it is, the light gets through.
It seemed like a very long time but I finally reached the high village of O’Cebreiro.
It’s the first place you come to after you cross into the region of Galicia.
This is the final region of the Camino. Santiago is the capitol of the region.
These mountains are the first to catch the weather from the Atlantic, so they are green from the rain.
It’s all pastures and farmland. You can smell the change in climate almost as soon as you crest the hill that brings you into Galicia.
It reminded me of being in Ireland and there are actually Celtic ties in Galicia. The bagpipes are played here, and the local dialect is similar to Irish.
The sun began to peek through on a distant valley as I continued on.
And there were even a few patches of blue here and there.
The Way continued to wind down and up, then down again and back up again, all morning.
I kept thinking the climbs were finished but there was a whole series of ups and downs instead of just the one big one.
After what I thought was the last big climb I stopped at a cafe and had some late breakfast. Or early lunch.
I had Spanish tortilla, a baked dish of eggs, cheese and potatoes. And some freshly squeezed orange juice.
I ate quickly since I was still trying to hurry because of weather, but it felt amazing to sit down. I kind of wanted to take off my boots but I didn’t dare. I had come 10 miles and had over 7 left to go.
And all downhill now.
The walk down was absolutely gorgeous.
For a while, the sun even came out.
It would be blue one minute and cloudy the next.
But it was beautiful.
Even though I was ready to fall down from how tired I was, I was amazed at the loveliness of everything around me.
I could see my destination for about the last four miles, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
I just kept taking step after step after step. I knew eventually I would get there.
One step at a time.
It had turned all cloudy again as I made my way into Triacastela.
And it began to sprinkle as I turned on the street to my albergue.
Once I was in my cozy room, it really began to rain. The sky got very dark and ominous.
I took a shower and crawled into bed, unsure if I would wake up again before morning.
Another day of walking alone but not alone. And another day of getting a bit further than I thought my legs would take me.
The next day would carry me to Sarria, where the second leg of my journey would end and the third one begin.