Day 33: Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 02

The only road out of town.

Distance to go: 166.8 Kms

Dinner last night was really good. We had a mixed salad to start, grilled trout as a main and cake for me and an ice cream for Debbie, bread and vino tinto of course. €8 each. Not bad. Not bad at all.

We woke at 6am and left the albergue at 06:40 to see how far we would go. No plans were made due to a long and hard climb ahead.

We entered the village of Ruitelán hoping to grab some breakfast. 

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 04


The tumbleweed rolled down the street. No hope of finding an open cafe. On to the next place which was a delightful little village in a valley on a river. La Herrerías was also closed. So we sat on a bench and had some of our own supplies. In La Herrerías you can, if so inclined, rent a horse to ride which will carry you up the incline.  I have an inane fear of horses. They have a dangerous end at each end and a saggy bit in the middle. We used Shanks’ pony. Our own 2 legs.

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 05

The path behind us.

We left and started climbing. Initially on a road and then off left onto a woodland track. The track started nice and gentle. We were pleasantly surprised. For 10 minutes. Then the track turned stony and steep. Very steep in places. Equine and bovine splatterforia in copious quantities sprayed about the slope made it a pungent as well as a slippery experience. However, the birdsong and woodland climb was lovely.

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 06

The infamous cabbages of La Faba.

Just when I thought my heart would leap out of my chest after 3 Kms of climbing with a 10KG backpack we entered the small hamlet of La Faba where an open cafe beckoned. When we stopped we cooled very quickly. On went the coats and hats. Hot tea and toast revived us. We climbed on. 

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 07

Nearly at cloud base.

More steep and stoney slopes with rustic farmyard nasal assaults. My legs and heart were pumping as best they could. This was slow and hard progress. A regular rythym to the legs and breathing was essential. The air thinned as we climbed higher. After 2.6 Kms we entered Laguna de Castilla. A cafe beckoned. We both said we have got to keep going. If we sit down now then Kaput!

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 09

Getting colder now.

We kept climbing. The temperature continued to drop. We entered into the mist. By now I just wanted this climb to end. My legs hurt. My heart was thumping and my breathing was deep and long. Mist was all around us. We were damp and chilled. We climbed on. The guide book raved about the views. We saw 20 feet in front of us because of the mist. A chilly wind blew the water drops off the trees as we passed beneath. We needed warmth and soon. We entered Galicia. Our last border crossing.

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 12

Damp and chilly now.

It came. At last we entered the small town of O’Cebreiro and found an inviting cafe. We entered and had a hot drink. My fingers tingled from the cold and dampness of my clothing but we felt so much better knowing we had completed the climb.

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 14

Entering O’Cebreiro.

We talked about our friend Keith. He of the terrible foot problems. He would be entering Santiago about now. How we admired his tenacity. I loved his blogs. We read each one as they come in. What courage that man has to continue with his feet in tatters. My sore legs and pounding heart are nothing compared to what that man has endured. He inspired us to continue. Our original plan was to stay but it was too cold and damp.

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 18

Descending below the clouds again.

We pushed on. More climbing. Another decent to test my sore left knee. Another 3.1 Kms. We arrived at Liñares. We continued.

Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio - 20

Pilgrim statue.

We went another 2.4 Kms up and down on gravel tracks passing a large pilgrim statue. The albergue in Hospital de la Condesa beckoned. We arrived. It was closed. I was knackered. We pushed on. I was not happy. Although this was a relatively short distance for us the climbs had exacted a heavy toll on my legs. There was not much juice left in the tank. Another 3.3 Kms brought us up another very steep and rocky slope to Alto do Poio at 1335 metres above sea level and albergue Del Puerto. It is a cafe and bar with an albergue at the back. We paid our €6 and were shown into the bunks.

It is a damp place. It smells damp. There is mildew staining on the ceiling. I could not go on otherwise I would not stay here.This is a private albergue with poor facilities and given the choice I would miss it. But there is nothing for another 3.5 Kms and I could not make that. The soup in the cafe is good. By 19:00 the place is full of pilgrims all knackered. I can only think that this is why this place survives. Some government health inspector needs to check this place out. It is not fair on us pilgrims.

We have a pasta dinner. Debbies is cold. We retire to bed dissatisfied with our money spent. We will get somewhere better tomorrow for sure.

Distance walked today: 20.4 Kms

 © Mark Dexter 2015