El Camino Fonseca

Northwest via Ourense

Agriculture and Moorland

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Vilar do Barrio to Ourense

Vilar do Barrio to Xunqueira de Ambía then on to Allariz: 18 June 2006

I had decided to walk today to Xunqueira de Ambía then divert onto the southern alternative of the Camino coming from Verin. This would enable me to visit the old town of Allariz then leave a short walk into Ourense the next day.

I set off late after giving my boots another session under the hot air drier and found the day to be very damp and misty. The petrol station was not yet open but, acting on instructions, I tied the albergue key to the door handle with the attached ribbon. Soon I was in Bóveda which is famous for its examples of hórreos or raised stores which protect the farm produce from rodents.


There were several examples of hórreos lining the street here and some of them seemed very old. Hórreos are a feature of Galicia and their size and design vary from region to region and even from village to village.


It is a very short distance to the next village of Vilar de Gomareite which has a large old hórreo. Here I was escorted by a snapping pack of village dogs. I kept them at a distance by waving my stick at them but they followed me to the edge of the village. Their attention was then directed at an old lady who came out of her house and set about them with a larger stick.


Soon after this village a carved stone waymark directs you onto a long straight track. This is over the bed of a dried up lake. At one time the Lagoa de Antela was the largest freshwater lake in Spain but it was drained to provide very fertile farmland.

There is about 5km of straight level track before the next village. Such a change from the mountain stages of the previous four days. Part way along the track a hare came out of the mist and hopped towards me. I slowly took out my camera but it turned and ran just as I pressed the shutter button.


The first village on leaving the dried up lake is Bobadela which is full of more old houses, one of which has a collection of old motorcycles and farm tools on its balcony. There is also a large lavadero or washing area with a fuente for refilling water bottles. I rested for a while here on a bench installed in 2004 for the use of pilgrims.

The Camino in this area is often along walled, paved lanes, shaded by oak trees. Collectively they are known as Verea de Santiago or Santiago Roads.

towards Cima

The following village is Padroso and after this the Camino climbs through moorland up to a rocky tor. In contrast to the restricted views seen from the lake bed you can now see distant horizons as the Camino heads towards the village of Cima de Vila.

towards Cima Cima

Leaving the moorland heights the Camino drops down through shady woods to pass through the villages of Cima de Vila and Quintela. There is then a short walk, partly by road to enter Xunqueira de Ambía in the vicinity of the new albergue.


The albergue is a little way off the Camino to the right and its strange appearance puzzled me until I drew close. The outside is mainly clad in untreated steel and rain has made the rust run down and stain the surroundings. This was not really to my taste and I was not able to gain entry to see the inside. To obtain a key you must walk into town to get it from one of the bars.


As I walked into town there was obviously something big going on towards the town centre. I heard the sound of bagpipes and around the corner came a marching band in traditional costume. This was escorted front and rear by town officers in orange jackets to protect them from traffic.


When I turned the corner into the main square I found that all the level surfaces around the church (Monastery of Santa Maria la Real, 12thC.) had been decorated with flower petals. This must have taken a considerable effort from early morning because the overnight rain would have prevented any work being done earlier.


The pipe band were still doing circuits of the town so I found a shady spot outside a bar to watch the proceedings and take refreshments. I think the celebrations were for Corpus Christi.

Following my rest I walked along the road to Allariz (there are no waymarks here because it is not part of the Camino) and found the town in the swing of a fiesta.


This turned out to be the final day of the week long Festa do Boi. There was a fairground on the large open space in front of the church and the whole town was swarming with people.

My first need was to find some accommodation so I could clean up and join in the festivities. The policemen on duty at the corner of the fairground sent me to the nearby Hostal Alarico next to the police station. I just managed to get a room before the owners and staff went off to enjoy the Festa. The dining room also swiftly emptied before I could order a meal. I quickly showered and did my laundry then set off to enjoy the evening (not forgetting to feed and water myself as I went along).


The main feature of the Festa is the running of a bull (bullock actually) on a long tether through the narrow streets and squares of the old quarter. The whole town is crammed with people who have to scramble out of the way of the bull without spilling their beer. This does take skill and I shall have to practice more before I return.


The climax of this event is when the tether is passed through a large ring fixed to the wall of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). The bull is then taken on another circuit until everyone has had enough of this and goes to a pub.

In a smaller square nearby is a large bronze tableau of the event which is much safer to play with.

I went to bed thoroughly tired and slept well even though I could still hear the festivities continuing into the night.