El Camino Fonseca

Northwest via Ourense

Rio Tera, Up the River Valley

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Tábara to Puebla de Sanabria

For the next few days you will notice a great change in the Camino. The villages are much closer together and the agriculture and landscape are much more varied. There is also a change in the architecture, both of the churches and the ordinary houses.

Santa Croya de Tera to Rionegro del Puente: 11 June 2006

I rose early, leaving the others in their bunks, and dragged my rucksack into the dining area to pack. Anita had left on the tables our breakfasts/picnics and there is a vending machine for drinks. I bandaged both feet with elasticated bandages and set off, hoping for less harsh footpaths. The albergue is on the very edge of the village so it was a very short walk, crossing the river, to Santa Marta de Tera.

Santa Marta church

In the main square is a romanesque church, reputed to be the oldest in the province of Zamora. Santa Marta statue By a doorway is a 12th century statue of Saint James which may be the oldest remaining one depicting the Saint as a pilgrim.

Also in the square is the village albergue which was not open when I passed but others have told me that it is in good condition.

The Camino turns back on itself from the square and follows tracks along the left bank of the Rio Tera. This is a pleasant walk, often close to the river, through farms and plantations of poplars.

tree sign

The signs for the Camino are often painted on the trees and will have to be replaced as the timber is harvested. There is however little chance of getting lost and, after about 6km, The river is crossed by a bridge next to a large campsite. If you are lucky, the campsite bar may be open for refreshments but it wasn't on this particular Sunday morning as I passed. The river is broad and shallow here and several anglers were fly fishing upstream from the campsite.

Rio Tera

Once over the river the way is again through shady woods and fields of vegetables. A most welcome change from the monotonous, treeless wheatfields of the Tierra de Pan. After a short stretch along a road the Camino crosses a canal and enters the small village of Calzadilla de Tera. There is a shop and a bar in the village which is reputedly friendly to pilgrims but, once again, I was unlucky this morning.

Calzadilla Ermita

At the entrance to the village is a ruined hermitage where the roof is falling in. I have read that there are plans to turn this into an albergue but there were no signs of preparations for this when I passed.

Olleros church

The route then leaves the village, recrossing the canal, and there is then a pleasant 2km walk along the canal bank to the next village of Olleros de Tera. The canal is recrossed near to some large sluice gates controlling a junction of canals and the village street leads up to the church.

A street trader was setting up his stall in the shade of the church and he directed me to a shop where I could buy some fruit and juice for an early lunch and stretch out in a bus shelter.

Storks

From Olleros there is a choice of ways to the next village and the waymarking was not very clear. Although I studied my guidebook I still managed to take the wrong road. I soon realised this and looked for a turning to the right to enable me to cut across to the correct route. This did not happen until I reached a large wood and I negotiated the tracks through this, largely by compass bearings, until I reached the road down to the dam where it crossed the river.

There was a nice cool breeze blowing over the surface of the reservoir but there was no shade at all except for the machinery houses in the centre. These were fenced off so I had to continue walking. After the dam the route takes a country road (asphalt) which follows the bank of the reservoir for some way. There are several small beaches and some shady bushes for a needed rest. The road then bends a little away from the lake and enters the village of Villar de Farfón.

Vilar de Farfón

There is not a great deal in this village of use to walkers so I continued on the Camino along a grassy path with dry stone walls then through open countryside of moorland and bushes before dropping down to the Rio Negro. After crossing the river by a small bridge the way goes under the larger bridge of the N525 and rises into Rionegro del Puente next to the large church.

Rionegro

Dehydration was now my main concern and my eyes were focussed only on the Bar Palacios at the far side of the main square. After one and a half litres of cold water I felt sociable enough to obtain a stamp for my credencial and ask for directions to the brand new albergue. It was just across the square and I had walked passed the door to it in my haste to get to the bar. I didn't feel like walking much more that day so I arranged to eat in the bar at 8pm and went to settle in at the albergue.

This albergue had only been open for a few weeks and has bunks for 24 pilgrims in two dormitories. The other facilites are excellent and there is secure storage for bicycles and an enclosed area for drying laundry. It is maintained by the Confraternity of Los Falifos which is based in Rionegro but also assists with albergues and waymarking throughout the valley of the Rio Tera.

The large church is the Santuario de Ntra. Sra. de la Carballeda and contains a shrine to the virgin of the same name. It has long been a focus for a pilgrimage in its own right and is an important location on this Camino.

There were already two walkers in the albergue and Peter arrived later, having stopped for a swim in the lake (cold). All four of us had walked several Caminos so we sat chatting outside the bar after our evening meals.