Walking the Camino de Santiago from Leon to Santiago
On the way up and out of Villafranca, Rachel, Alice, and Kirstin went off of the yellow arrow path on a scenic detour see a beautiful vista of the valley. Translation: they took the turn to go to Madrid, got lost, called Dr. Gyug, made a wrong turn again, and ended up back on the proper path an hour and a half latter. Alisa and Rachel met a fellow peregrino (an Irish born Stanford administrator that had stayed at the same albergue in Villafranca) who had a blend of holy water from sacred springs. She used it to bless Alisa’s knees and Rachel’s hands. Rachel has felt blessed ever since. Each at our own pace, we made it to La Leguna de Castilla. Kasey “beasted up the hills,” while others took a more leisurely approach. Alice, Tyler, Christina, and Craig stopped at Estrella’s Cabana to get out of the rain. With the scent of incense and Tibetan prayer flags, this space felt a world apart from the Spanish countryside. Joe and Nikos (intentionally) took a more arduous alternate route. We all ended our day’s journey at our albergue “A” Escuela, the change in article reflecting the very close proximity to the Galicia where Gallego is spoken.
While at the albergue we ate a delicious meal including meatand produce from the farm surrounding the albergue. We were introduced to the local dish caldo gallego, a Galician stew. From the albergue we could see recent snowfall on nearby peaks and read about this unusual snowstorm in the local paper. Some members of our group took a trip up the road to get a better view. A monk drove up the dusty road slowly, smiling as he pretended to prepare to run us over. He stop and kindly informed us that we were not on the camino. We told him that we were just taking a stroll (we were in shorts and flip flops, so he must of thought us to be particularly ill prepared pilgrims).
The next day we began the ascent up to the Galician border. Per pilgrim custom, some of us up shed a piece of clothing as we entered Galicia. It is said this practice dates back to a Leonese knight who ventured into Galician territory and knowing that he would not be trusted with his Leonese livery, discarded it as he crossed the border. Immediately after he did this, the mountain mist lifted. Our group did not have such luck and the mist thickened as we walked into the ancient village on the mountain pass, O Cebreiro. First inhabited by Celtic peoples who lived, along with their livestock, in stone and thatch structures called pallozas, the town became famous as the site of a miracle. During a snowstorm, a medieval peasant walked into Mass to be rebuked by the priest for coming so far for “a little bit of bread and wine.” Immediately, the bread and wine physically turned into the body and blood of Christ. O Cebreiro is also said to be the location of the Holy Grail. Elias Sampedro, the man who did the most to reinvigorate the modern camino and started the custom of painting yellow arrows to guide pilgrims, was born and served as parish priest in O Cebreiro. So for a town that is really just a collection of buildings, O Cebreiro is quite a happening place.
We spent the rest of the day in a long descent into Triacastela. The climate changed dramatically during the descent, getting hotter and drier. Once in Triacastela, we sat down for cervezas and food. Attempting to escape the hardy and salty onslaught of ham, cheese, and fried potatoes, and bread that are omnipresent in Spanish cuisine, Craig ordered ham, cheese, fried potatoes and a salad. But even the salad was salted. Spain, you won this round.