Since completing our 5th Camino…500 miles in 2017, she’s been calling us back again. Our first four Caminos were in 15 mile (2012), 32 mile(2013), 270 mile(2014) and 180 mile segments finishing in Santiago in 2015.
So we’re answering the call one more time while our bodies are still willing.
We’ve mentioned backpack transporting on several occasions.
For Camino 2019, we have transported Linda’s backpack almost every day. This has actually made it easier for both of us. Linda has instead carried a daypack weighing 5-6 pounds vs her full pack of 20 lbs. This puts less stress on her knees, letting her walk longer distances more comfortably and avoids getting totally wiped out at the end of a more difficult walk. Jim offloads less critical items from his backpack and stuffs them into Linda’s transported pack, reducing his pack weight by about 5 pounds, making his walk easier. This way, if Linda’s pack doesn’t end up where it should on a given day, Jim still has all our essential items with him to sustain us while tracking down Linda’s pack.
The backpack transport system is quite simple and easy to use. Transport service envelops are found in every place pilgrims spend the night. Here’s how it works:
1-You pick the place you are staying tomorrow night.
2-You fill out a transport envelop with your contact info: name, email address and phone number and current location
and your destination information
3-For Jacotran you put 5€ in the envelope and seal it
4-You attach the envelop to your backpack.
5-You or someone in your albergue calls Jacotran before 7 pm today and tell them your name, where you are staying tonight and where you want the pack taken to tomorrow morning.
5-You leave your backpack in your hotel/albergue’s designated pickup location as you leave to walk tomorrow morning.
6- Your backpack is waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.
An increasing number of pilgrims are using the service since our first Camino in 2012. The tipoff is the number of pilgrims with day packs instead of regular backpacks.
We tested the backpack transport service for the first time in 2017, using several different carriers 9 out of 68 days along the different regions of the Camino and felt most comfortable with Jacotran. So, we have used them exclusively in 2019 and are very pleased with their service thus far.
We also had relied on our hotel reception to make arrangements for transporting a pack in 2017. Jim has now taken on that role, calling Jacotran himself, communicating in either English or Spanish, depending on the Jacotran operator.
Also, we bought Spanish mobile service sim cards for our phones when we arrived in Madrid, which lets us make all phone calls locally and directly, giving us more freedom and control to schedule Jacotran, as well as making room reservations, without relying on someone else to do it for us
We left Pintin in heavy fog this morning which stayed with us almost all the way to our destination. This kept the temperature below 60F, ideal for walking. The combination of fog and one section of forest made us especially cautious because it was almost like dark and the footing was unpredictable.
We also noticed that in this area, when the Camino crosses a road, a patterned inset in the road makes drivers more alert to potential pilgrims crossing.
We began walking along the road, still in the fog as we approached Sarria.
We stopped for breakfast just before Sarria and chatted with Yvonne, a young lady from Hamburg, Germany. She was a real estate agent and had begun her Camino in Burgos on September 1. She’s averaged around 25 km per day which will put her in Santiago in about 4 more days. We left while she was still eating and said our Buen Camino’s.
We walked into Sarria (pop. 13,590) and followed the Camino markers through a relatively unattractive part of the city.
Sarria is a major starting point for those wishing to do the minimum 100km to receive a Compostela. The infusion of new pilgrims can drastically change the character of the experience of other pilgrims (who have been on the Camino for a while) as beds become scarce and groups enter the Camino who may be less familiar with pilgrim etiquette.
Yvonne caught up with us halfway through Sarria just as we were about to take an alternate route (and shortcut) through town to avoid a very steep up and then very steep down section which we endured in 2015, but avoided when we discovered the alternate route in 2017. Yvonne opted (as she should) for the main route since this was her first Camino.
We parted once again, but as we reached the merge point of the two routes, we looked back and there was Yvonne catching up to us again.
We waited for her, and walked a short distance together, wishing each other the best and then parted company, probably, finally this time, having enjoyed each other’s company in such a delightful way. Such is the Camino.
Shortly after leaving Sarria, the dirt path took an abrupt turn over a small creek then climbed upward at a very steep grade. We were passing through a very old forest, evidenced by the very old trees lining the path. Some of the trees were very distorted but beautiful and majestic in their own way. We finally reached the top and walked a short distance into Barbadelo (pop. 342) where we stopped for a light lunch of tortillas and bread, anticipating a full meal tonight at dinner.
We reached the tiny hamlet of Rente and Casa Nova de Rente (33€) at noon and waited in the parlor until our room was ready.
Dinner was prepared by the lady of the house and her daughter. We watched her gather
the lettuce, tomatoes from her garden, then watched her prepare a delicious salad, lentil soup, beef stew, potatoes fresh bread, local red wine and cheesecake for dessert. Our dinner companions, Ted and Diedra from Connecticut were walking to Santiago from Ponferrada to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
We ate in the kitchen rather than the dining room which seemed to really please the chef, who spoke zero English.
Totally stuffed, we climbed the stairs and called it a night.
We stopped for breakfast before leaving Triacastela this morning since there are no services along our walk today.
We were careful not to miss the split for the alternate Camino route out of Triacastela
which cuts the distance by 4 miles!! and avoids a long section of walking along a relatively busy main road.
All was well as we started as the incline was gradual, good walking surface and no cars.
The road got smaller and after the bridge began to climb upward
The road became steeper and smaller as we walked through the a small hamlet as the road disappeared and became a steep path
actually a very steep path…
As we climbed higher, and the path got steeper, next came our favorite walking surface, rocks!
Ok, so it became a bit of a struggle until we reached a section with a little less slope as we stopped to rest at a big shell and water source for thirsty pilgrims.
The path became a road again, but very steep…
..,until we finally walked into San Xil, with a building or two and not much else. The road actually leveled out a bit with much more gradual ups and downs. But we then realized we now walking at an elevation of neatly 3000 ft !!!… we had climbed over 800 ft since leaving Triacastela.
Because of the elevation we began to see the resulting scenery.
nice view of mountains we came from yesterday
But we soon could see that it was cloudy and foggy below us.
And it wasn’t long before we headed back down again.
The incline became very steep quickly and continued that way for what seemed like forever.
until we reached a possible bottom at this small iglesia
Soon after walking through the village of Monton the “bottom” was confirmed as we now were walking in the low hanging clouds we observed from above.
No more scenery now, but the path and bulls
and more path switching from one side of the local road to the other
nearing our destination
On our way into Pintin, we walked by some handsome cows and Jim commented ” will you look at those beef cheeks!”
We followed the markers through town and arrived at Casa Cines, our destination for today.
We were able to checkin to our room a few minutes after we arrived. We were warmly greeted by the young lady who checked us in and who said she remembered Linda’s face from 2015 and 2017!
We set out doing chores before having lunch.
Jim showered first, then Linda got undressed for her shower and Jim took her clothes and his and put them in the hotel washing machine. Jim then went to retrieve Linda’s backpack from the transported bags in the lobby. Unfortunately, Linda’s pack had not arrived, so when she got out of the shower, she had nothing to put on. After waiting another half hour for the pack, we were getting hungry, so Jim went down to the bar and asked if we could have lunch in our room, since Linda couldn’t come down to the dining room in her present state. The young lady who had recognized her, laughed and said “no problemo” and began preparing and then delivered our orders of spaghetti to our room. Less than 5 minutes later, the young lady knocked on our door, this time with Linda’s pack and a smile.
The rest of the afternoon and evening continued to go well without any other surprises.
We put in our order last night for clear skies and no clouds above 500 ft. Did we say ‘the Camino provides”?
She delivered as never before!
The weather looked promising as we left Casa de Lucas this morning.
The first signs of what was in store was encouraging.
We began heading down from our elevation of 4300 ft when the Camino diverted from the road back onto the dirt path.
But the temptation to have some breakfast overcame us
and we stopped at a charming bar/albergue in the village of Bibuedo (pop. 31).
Just around the corner was the smallest iglesia in the entire Camino.
Jim peeked in through the locked door and saw only this.
Shortly after the oohs and ahhhs began.
and this for an aaah!
And then we got serious about going down the mountains…
O.J.hit the spot while we gave our knees and legs a rest
Just after the albergue at Fillobal we passed a Galícian mountain home, then continued downward, the mountain views soon became obscured by a canopied path or in wet weather, a wash.
We walked by some beautiful old trees at “root” level, wondering how these massive structures continued to survive with much of their roots exposed for so many years.
At the entrance of the ancient village of Ramil was a huge chestnut tree probably several hundred years old.
Finally, after descending over 2100 ft along a 4 mile path down the Galícian Mountains,
we walked into Triacastela (pop. 772), our destination for the day.
Upon reflection, today was our best day so far on Camino 2019. Although we were tired from the walk, the beautiful weather, the magnificent and varied scenery and the satisfaction of meeting the challenge of the descent of nearly half a mile in elevation made it a perfect day.
Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived at Albergue Atrio, so we walked to a nearby grocery store to pick up some snacks and bottled water. We noticed a hiking gear store across the street and Linda found an extra pair of slacks to wear on the cold mornings still ahead.
We checked into our room (40€) at noon and …
couldn’t believe what we saw, which made a perfect day, more perfect, if that’s possible.
Having worked up an appetite from our morning stroll, we had a delicious lunch at a familiar restaurant from our stays here in 2015 and 2017.
We know we’re getting redundant, but our lunch was the “creme de la creme” for our best day of Camino 2019.
Roasted vegetables, a pasta salad and cheese cake for Linda.
Pulpo (grilled octopus) and roasted peppers for Jim
Our wine was the best we’ve had so far, a Mencía,
grown and bottled less than 20 miles from here.
An outstanding day on the Camino Frances came to a close as we finished the blog post for the day and prepared for our walk tomorrow.
We decided not to take on the 4 mile/2000 ft mountain this morning and opted for a taxi to drop us off at the top at the touristy village of O Cebreiro,
where we began our walk in the clouds.
When we climbed the mountain in 2017, which was indeed as challenge, we took some wonderful photos on the way up, at the top, spent the night, then continued getting great shots the next day on our way to Fonfria.
Today there was no scenery. The ride up the mountain was in the clouds, clouds covered the top and clouds
prevented any decent photos during all but a few fleeting intervals
during the 7 plus mile walk which
hovered between 4000 and 4400 ft.
We targeted Fonfria for today to position ourselves for the walk tomorrow
and to revisit one of our favorite
“habitacions” on the Camino Frances, Casa de Lucas (37€).
Just as we got to Fonfría (pop.41), our destination for the day, the sun and blue sky finally appeared, only beginning to warm the damp, chilly 50F air.
By 4:30, the weather was beautiful, hopefully a good sign for tomorrow.
We had a pilgrim lunch and snacked for supper all in the Casa dining room.
We officially left Castile y León today and entered Galícia, the final region on the Camino and the home of Santiago de Compostela. The Camino sign post outside Casa de Lucas reads 140.5 km, which means we’ve got just over 87 miles to go!
The skies looked threatening and our weather app said rain in 10 minutes, so we prudently put on our rain gear before leaving the hostal and walking through Trabadelo.
The paved road through the village continued for a half mile or so
and then rejoined the crash barrier walkway again.
We stopped for breakfast at a huge truck stop and hotel complex, took off our rain gear as blue skies appeared, then walked through Portela de Valcarce (pop. 37).
We stopped for a brief visit and photo of a small church.
We also took a photo of some lookalike statues that we”ll try to duplicate and mount on our driveway back home.
We walked through the villages of Ambesmestas (pop. 46) and the fairly large town of Vega de Valcarce (pop. 703). A shop in Vega had Camino handcrafts of every kind you could imagine for sale, but we kept walking realizing anything we bought, we would have to wear or carry.
The further we walked,
the more lush the landscape became with streams, green meadows and the approaching mountains of Galícia.
We finally reached Las Herrerias (pop.44), our destination for the night.
This small village is literally at the end of the road, which becomes a path through the forest, then a steep “wash” up the side of the mountain, then a path again, climbing up the side of the mountain until it reaches the top, some 4 miles later at La Faba and finally, O Cebreíro. We know this, because we did it in 2017.
As soon as we arrived the clouds moved down the mountain and a light drizzle, cool wind and dreary sky forced us indoors for most of the day.
We had a menu of the day in the dining room at 1:00, all to ourselves, save for a late arriving pilgrim cyclist. We then retired to our room and tried to keep warm and dry for the rest of the day.
We walked out if our hotel just before sunrise on a road that worked its way through a gap in the mountains surrounding Villafranca.
A few minutes later we looked back toward Villafranca into another beautiful sunrise.
We continued to wind through the Valcarce Río valley, sharing our paved walkway with the winding national highway and the occasional overpasses of the A6 autovia. We seldom we’re distracted by road traffic because there was little of it. We also got an occasional glimpse of the Valcarce Río, among the thick green trees and under growth below us on the left.
We stopped in the hamlet of Perejé (pop. 39) for breakfast.
We are nearly always pleasantly surprised whenever we enter these diamond-in-the-rough small businesses along the Camino, ￼
that cater almost exclusively to pilgrims.
We rejoined the crash-barrier walkway along the highway to Trabadelo.
just before Trabadelo
We left the main road and began walking on a paved surface into Trabadelo passing several stacks of aging logs and more cut lumber either aging or awaiting pickup for places unknown and finally we walked by the lumber mill.
We remember walking by this mill in 2017 and thinking of Timothy as we did again today.
Our hostal was located on the Rió Valcarce just across from the mill. We have a perfect view of the opposite side of the mill from our room balcony.
Our room is very nice with a huge, modern shower… and a baby bed!!! (which thankfully we won’t need)
all for 50€.
After checking in, completing our chores and making a couple of reservations, we had a delicious lunch in the hotel dining room.
Linda’s soup was a very flavorful broth and noodles and Jim’s was Caldo Gallego (white beans, turnips, potatoes, collards, ham, pork, choriso)
Our main course was potatoes, roasted peppers and Carrilleras (beef cheeks marinated in red wine sauce) which was delicious and literally melted in your mouth.
For dessert… … we had natillas (custard) which was also very tasty all complimented by a Bierzo Mencía red wine.
Having satisfied our appetites and completed our chores for the day, we retired to our comfortable room for reading and blogging until the end of another wonderful day on Camino 2019.
We stopped for breakfast at Hostal/Restaurant Siglo XIX, the same place we had the delicious dinner yesterday. It’s hard to stand out with cafe con leche and tostadas, but they worked at it.
They even threw in some complimentary churros. All for a total of 5€! If you are ever in Cacabelos, we highly recommend Siglo XIX.
On the way out of Cacabelos, we saw several unusual paintings on the walls.
which for now will have to go unexplained.
On the edge of town was the Santuario de las Angustias with an unusual albergue surrounding it.
behind each door is a cabin with two twin beds
We walked on sidewalks to the edge of town
…then walked on a dirt path along the highway
For most of the way we were surrounded by vineyards. Linda said the area reminded her of Napa Valley.
Harvesting the grapes was underway as we walked by workers clipping the bunches of ripe grapes from the vines.
We walked among the vineyards for a while then joined a downhill secondary road feeding into Villafranca del Bierzo (pop. 3,505).
We walked by the Iglesia de Santiago
with its Puerto del Pardon whereby if a pilgrim was too sick to make it to Santiago, he could walk through the Puerto de Pardon and receive the same indulgences as if he had walked all the way to Santiago.
We walked past the Castile
then on into a plaza where we stopped for a second CCL before walking across the pilgrim bridge to the edge of town to Hostal Mendez (44€) our destination for the day.
Our room wasn’t ready at 10:45 (duh), so we ventured back into town to search for some just-in-case-it-gets-cold extra pair of long pants for Linda. But when you are on the Camino you lose all track of time, so we were looking for an open store on Sunday morning. The half mile walk back to town center was fruitless and the walk back to our hotel made it a 6.2 mile day instead of a 5.2 mile day.
Our room was ready when we got back and Linda’s backpack via Jacotrans was waiting for us, so we did our chores, then headed back to town (where the main eateries were) for lunch.
We had pizza for lunch and while we waited, we ordered 4 glasses of 4 different white wines all grown and processed within a few miles from here. After careful tasting, scoring and ranking the four wines, we concluded that while these were all good, we much prefer red wines.
After two delicious pizzas and our wine tasting, we walked back to our room, making this a 7.2 mile day, and settled into our room for the rest of the day.
And did we mention we are on the 3rd floor, which is 4 levels above ground and that wifi above second floor is non-existent? So simple tasks such as blog uploads, checking mail, etc are a real burden not to mention climbing up and down stairs.