El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

Eastern Galicia

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Up the hill into Galicia, Vega to Hospital de la Condesa

5 June 1993 and 25 June 2002

1993. I had a restless night and felt unwell in the morning. This was probably the result of overeating the previous day, getting soaked during the thunderstorm and having to sleep on the floor. We started late (8am) because we had to wait for Tomas who had stayed in the previous village with his uncle, the parish priest. The others soon left me behind because I had to keep stopping to throw up anything I ate or drank except water. As a consequence of this I have very little recollection of the climb except for noticing the strange wooden clogs used in this region. They each have three short pegs on the bottom to raise the wearer above the mud and cow dung which is another feature of the region.

Valcarce

Just before Cebreiro I was stopped and interviewed by a Spanish radio reporter but I don’t think my mumbles would have been much use to him. Cebreiro was packed with weekend tourists and the refugio didn’t open until 6pm so, after two bottles of mineral water for lunch, I set off with the others towards the next refugio at Hospital de la Condesa. We knew that there was no shop or bar here so we stopped to buy supplies in Linares. The shop here was a general purpose agricultural dealer and it was possible to buy anything from a box of matches to a milking machine. The shop counter was also the village bar and the general practice while standing in the queue was to call out for a bottle of beer and pay for it when you bought the rest of your shopping.

Refugio Condesa

When we reached the refugio it was closed until 5pm but we managed to persuade the hospitalera to open up for us. I went straight to bed at 2.30 and by 7.30 felt well enough to eat a banana and a yoghurt. Cruz gave me some herbal tea and I slowly regained my health.

Oscar’s father turned up with a complete change of clothes for him to replace the grotty things he had been wearing for the last three weeks. In two days time we would be in Portomarin which is the closest we would get to his home in Lugo so a family reunion and a meal was promised.

Later that evening a violent thunderstorm erupted and we could see the clouds and rain racing towards us from the valley below. This continued through the night but it stopped before we had to walk next day.

Galicia

2002. The refugio served breakfast so once again it meant a late start to walk up the hill. Our group stayed together so we could keep an eye on Tony who had to walk in sandals to take pressure off his blisters. The weather had been dry so the climb was not too difficult and, after a break for cherries in one of the villages, we arrived in Cebreiro before noon. On the way up the hill we passed the large stone announcing our entry to Galicia.

Cebreiro

We had coffee in the local hotel but they could not serve a meal before 1.15 so we did some shopping then found another restaurant at the far end of the village. Jann rejoined our party having taken a bus to the summit of Pedrafita pass then walked the 5km along the ridge from there.

After our lunch we had a gentle stroll towards the refugio at Hospital. In Linares the old shop had been modernised and now includes a hotel and restaurant. We bought provisions for our evening meal and then moved on to secure the last six places in the refugio. Our evening meal was a picnic outside the refugio with everyone contributing to the party.