El Camino Fonseca

Northwest via Ourense

Rio Tera, Up the River Valley

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Tábara to Puebla de Sanabria

From Tábara to Santa Croya de Tera then a day off: 09/10 June 2006

I left the albergue at dawn with Manuel and Pepé. We returned to the Plaza Mayor after filling our water bottles at a fuente, then retraced our steps over yesterday's route for a few hundred yards. Our way led towards a pass in the hills near the windmills but was directed onto straight farm tracks running parallel to the road. These tracks had recently been regraded by bulldozer so, when we had to cross the road, I left the other two following the tracks and took the road up to the pass. This is a minor country road and there was next to no traffic on it. Yellow arrows painted on the crash barriers assured me that I was still on the Camino. At the top I found some shade to wait for the others but the Camino bypassed my resting place so I followed their tracks in the dust for most of the day. I still arrived at Santa Croya before them because they missed a yellow arrow in the hills and took some time finding the correct path.

After the pass you are in a different countryside. Gone are the miles and miles of intensively cultivated cereal fields, replaced by smaller farms and woodland. The way follows the same farm track for about 4km then turns right to cross a wooded ridge. Keep an eye out for the arrows, especially a right turn by a small white house. They are usually painted on stones and may be hidden by vegetation. After a left turn the path drops down through the woods to meet the road into Bercianos de Valverde. Some locals directed me to the only bar in the village which was closed. However they called out to the owner and she unlocked the bar just for me. No food was available so I satisfied myself with a drink and set off again.

The Camino passes through the village and soon crosses the river Castrón. After passing through some plantations of poplars the Camino turns right to climb steeply to the top of another ridge which divides the rivers Castrón and Tera. I rested on a shady bench at the top then it is an easy walk down through woods and fields to Santa Croya de Tera. In the woods there are several abandoned buildings where the adobe construction is gradually dissolving with the winter rains. Once out of the woods there are the village bodegas or wine cellars built into the hillside to avoid extremes of temperature.

The fields surrounding the village were growing a variety of vegetables such as beans, courgettes and other salad stuff. This was such a change from the endless fields of grain encountered on the previous days and was made possible by the ease of irrigation diverted from the nearby river.

Follow the main street through the village and at the end is the wonderful private albergue of Casa Anita.

Casa Anita

Although today's stage was only just over 20km long, the day was hot and the accumulation of several days' walking over stoney paths had blistered the soles of my feet. Anita and Domingo gave me immediate relief by filling a basin with a mixture of water, wine vinegar and salt. I sat steeping my feet in the shade of their enclosed garden while they went about the business of preparing for that night's contingent of pilgrims. As I sat admiring the vegetables grown for their kitchen, a cyclist from Zaragoza arrived. He was also suffering from blisters but in a more delicate place where a basin of vinegar would not be a relief.

Anita's garden

Manuel and Pepé arrived much later. They had got lost in the hills before Bercianos and had taken a long time getting back onto the route. They had stopped in the same bar in Bercianos so knew I was ahead of them. The evening meal, prepared with the help of the hosts' daughter Conchita, was all local produce. The village butcher has a very good reputation in the area, vegetables were from the garden, and fruit from Anita's mother's garden for desert. Domingo has a bodega in the hills above the village and this supplied the wine. After this I decided that this would be a very good place to rest up for a day to allow my feet to recover. Domingo promised to show me round his bodega next day and I went to bed early after a compulsory glass of orujo.

bodega

In the morning I had a lazy time in bed while the other three pilgrims got on the road then did my laundry and sat in the garden with my feet in the basin of vinegar. I'm not sure what good this did to my blisters but after a while I was able to wear trainers for a slow walk around the village and along the river bank. When Domingo had finished his chores around the house, we went to visit his bodega. First we had to stop at a fuente at the entrance to the village where we filled large containers with fresh water. The bodega is among several others on top of a ridge. The room on the surface has a huge grill, built to an Argentinian design, and long tables for the parties that are organised here. A staircase leads down into the cellar where the temperature drops to 10C from 30C at the surface. Here he has two large fermenters where he produces both red and white wine. There are also lots of boxes of wine from previous harvests stacked up here. There is no wine press because he is using the space upstairs for organised parties so his grapes are taken elsewhere to be pressed. The parties advertised at the albergue include walks from Tábara when the baggage is carried by pack mules.

bodega

After sampling the wine, compulsory again, I was taken back to the village and introduced to a bar where I could watch part of an England football match on television. (This is the second World Cup in succession where I have had to try and mix football with walking across Spain).

bodega

After the match I returned to the albergue to meet the new batch of walkers who were staying the night. There were four new guests who had arrived from Tábara. A Dutch married couple, a retired French engineer, John, and a retired German architect, Peter. We ate together, fish from the river for me, then sat on the front patio until late, swapping tales of our Caminos. On this route most of the people I met were experienced walkers on the Camino and everyone commented that the Camino Francés was now so crowded that enjoyment of it is seriously reduced.

I was a little concerned as to how my feet would cope with the next few days' walking but Domingo came up with a scheme which would assist Peter and myself. A new albergue at Rionegro meant a shorter day tomorrow but this left a large gap before the next one at Puebla. He gave me the phone number for private accommodation on the Camino between Rionegro and Puebla which allowed me to pass through Puebla the following midday and find shelter in Requejo at the foot of the first mountain pass. A relatively short hop over the pass to Lubián meant that three long days were split into four shorter ones which was a considerable help.

Casa Anita is a wonderful, well equipped albergue but it is also a Casa Rural with rooms to let on the first floor. I can recommend it to anyone travelling in this region.