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Friday, October 18, 2013

El Cebreiro, the last of the mega climbs

As you do when you stay in a hotel, especially when in a single room... I slept in and leisurely did my nebs and meds before showering (you don't do morning showers on the Camino normally). Kath left at 8am, Sineade said she'd sleep in too. I told her I didn't intend to leave till about 930am. So eventually I'm downstairs in the cafe part of our hotel at about 930am and Sineade comes down ready to go on her sandals - her boots had serious holes and were discarded. She was making a run for it in case it rained again - not unreasonable since it rained for the last few days. The man behind the bar tells me it is too late for breakfast now. Too late to give me some bread and jams - which was the breakfast the others were served. I had a few coffees and food from my backpack.

I knew the climb was massive compared to all the other walks, 700m vertical over 12 kilometres. I wasn't going for speed records. Leisurely I walked up the road to a point where a Spanish lady told me to turn off, **down** into a little dirt road. The signage was not very convincing, but she explained she was a guide and had done the Camino 5x. There was an elderly Spanish man following her, and she was waiting for him every ten minutes. She was my angel. I would've hated to have missed this turn. Tis is the old roman route, the other one just followed the road up.



Scenery along here is stunning, with old rock surfaces, rock walls, mushrooms, trees, steep embankments, steep,... Very steep. Barbara was also going up. I heard she also had a stint in her arteries. I waited for her to tempt her with nuts and lollies. The first village I came to had a coffee shop, and I had coffee and chocolate-croissants and waited for her to come up. The Spanish guide with her charge was there too. Nothing on the Camino is done with strangers! Barbara settled in and I walked up to find Marg and Judy coming out of another cafe. They were relieved to hear Barbara (pictured below) made it as they left from the same town this morning at 8am (it s past 11am by now). 
I walked with Marge as she's more my speed (when going uphill) on the way up to La Laguna de Castille, an old town with an Alberge where my bag had been posted to a while ago. I hoped it was really there as I'd received a phone call about it the day before. When asking for it, after ordering food and drinks, I was engulfed in Spanish words. I had no idea what the lady wanted. The Spanish guide had also arrived and volunteered her services. Apparently the bag arrived yesterday and they reserved a bed for me. I had to pay them €9 for the bed. I hope no one got knocked back there as it would be awful to get stranded there. I offered to pay the €9 immediately, but the guide had already bargained it down to €4.50. They had already read my Spanish CF cards and I trust it made a small difference to my cause.
Walking up the roman route I received a call from Flasher, my Hash House Harrier friend from home for an update. Hard to relate back home when horseman pass you on roman routes struggling up steep hills... It was a nice surprise.

The crocuses that flower everywhere are absolutely stunning too, sprouting up everywhere. They seem to have no leaves or anything, just flowers. Like orchids to me.

And like every great divide, it divides something. Here the big hill brought me into the province of Galicia. The photo below looks like I haven't lost any weight, but I betcha I've lost about 5kg! I'd love to know what my lung function would be now. By the time i fly home via the polluted Dubai and Canberra i'll be back to normal I am sure, but right now it has to be up. I wonder just by how much. Maybe there's an app for that!!!

Speaking of apps, I do occasionally run my iPhone sleep-app to see how I sleep here, and sure enough despite occasionally fitting in 9+ hours of sleep I rarely get a 70% sleep quality rating, which surprises me as I was skeptical of the app. Now I am convinced it does a good job rating my sleep as at home anything over 8.5 hours would give me a 100% sleep quality rating. Sleeping in stuffy albergues and in my sleeping bag is never going to give me a good sleep. When your lungs just aren't pink and spongy they don't oxygenate your body overnight and my 9hours sleep is the equivalent of a normal persons 6 hours. One day I'll be sleeping with oxygen...
So eventually I reach El Cebreiro, the top of the mountain. Here is a church that predates the Camino. I've been walking up with Gerald, who normally walks with 'sock-knitter', the knitting lady who this time caught the bus up after getting soaked for two days (amazing what difference good equipment makes!). Gerald is a very experienced long distance hiker who has many feats under his belt. He carries a huge pack which is strapped to his body. When he takes it off he wriggles out of it and when he puts it on he wriggles into it. He claims he likes to keep the straps fixed so they are just right. I release all my quick release straps when taking it off and pull them all tight after I mount it back onto my body. I know I used to do it his way for at least a decade. Now I believe in releasing it all and re-tightening when I put it back on. Modern straps are so easy to tighten it is easier to get in and out and custom tighten each time. Anyways, Gerald kindly stuck with me to the top. He is a really nice man I've  run into a bunch of times now.


In this old church, which as i said supposedly predates the Camino, i went in and had a look and couldn't believe the coin operated candles. Put in a coin and an electronic light turns on... I walked out and got some money from my bag and gave the priest a euro for a proper big candle, which I placed in front of Saint Francis de Assisi and thought of all the people I wanted to give strength and prayers to. Again, like I do on the Camino I cried. Getting used to it by now. I'm not the only one. I sat in a pew...

And then I walked down on my own. Thinking spiritual thoughts. Unfortunately The Way followed the sealed road for a while, something my feet don't like. My left foot feels like their is a large stone under the ball of my foot when walking on Tarmac. Fortunately it eventually turned off into a proper dirt track. 

I walked and walked and walked... And eventually came to Fonfria where I was meant to stay the night in my opinion. It was 7pm and I was exhausted!  Albergue A Reboleira was beckoning me to come inside. The last 100m I was competing with cows, see below pic.

Phew. What a day, what a climb...


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