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(Please note that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the businesses along the Camino may not be operating as expected, despite reopening as of June 21st. It would be wise to check with the locals regarding the opening and operations of specific restaurants, bars, albergues and other accommodations recommended in this guide.
If you are going on a Camino during the pandemic, please check the local news frequently, for new areas of outbreak and any new restrictions in travel. Any portion of the Camino may close down at any time to contain a new outbreak!
Also please note the current travel restrictions for travelers from the USA entering Spain, from the US Embassy. If you are coming from Europe to Spain, the European Schengen countries are now allowed to enter Spain. Those of us from outside this area, I am afraid, must be patient!
For detailed information regarding entry restrictions of any country in the world, including entry into Spain, click on this link to the IATA ((International Air Transport Association)). When the page opens, click on the country of your choice in the interactive map to see their requirements for entry. Good luck and be safe out there!)
Our day eight on the Camino Sanabres from A Gudiña to A Venda da Capela was very short and not-so-sweet in the wind and pouring rain, ending in a taxi ride from A Venda da Capela to the albergue in Campobecerros.
"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Today was indeed a day to see what one was truly made of, light or darkness.
Here is my interactive map, created from my GPS tracks. The map includes our walk on day eight, in blue and our walk the next day, day nine, in orange. This map represents the full 34 kilometers of the traditional stage, for your planning convenience.
Had our day not been cut short due to the inclement weather, we would still have stopped in Campobecerros after about 20 kilometers total from A Gudiña. Our group was not willing to do over 30 kilometers in a day, because our driving factor continued to be Nadine's limp, which was not getting any better. In fact, to me, as a nurse, it was looking worse every day.
Because of the severe weather, we made it only 10 kilometers, just past the high mark, the Alto da Espiño, before calling it quits and getting a taxi to take us down the mountain to Campobecerros.
There are absolutely no services for the 20k from A Gudiña to Campobecerros as you can see by the map below, so make sure you stock your pack before setting out. Campobecerros has everything a pilgrim needs, except a pharmacy. If you do make it all the way to A Laza, there is every service available.
Interactive Google Map, Camino Sanabrés, A Gudiña to A Venda da Capela/A Laza
The Alto da Espiño is the third major high point on the Camino Sanabrés, at 1085 meters (3560 feet) and wouldn't it just be our luck to have to cross it on a bad weather day. The Camino road that runs from A Gudiña to Campobecerros is a high and exposed place as we were to find out.
The four kilometer climb up and out of A Gudiña has an elevation gain of 109 meters (358 feet) on an easy paved secondary road, without a horrible amount of traffic. On a normal day this climb would not feel all that bad, but with the weather it was a trial, to put it mildly!
The remaining kilometers are mostly a bounce along the top followed by a gradual downhill into the hamlet of A Venda da Capela.
Along the high ridge between A Gudiña and Campobecerros are four villages called A "Venda." In order of them that you will walk through, are A Venda do Espiño, A Venda da Teresa, A Venda da Capela, and A Venda do Bolaño.
Venda is the Spanish word for country inn. According to Tom Vickers, the four villages were built around country inns, that once upon a time sheltered seasonal agricultural workers travelling between Galicia and the meseta of Castille. Later they were used for workers on the railway which you can see on either side of the ridge road from time to time.
We left the Albergue de Peregrinos da Gudiña in the pre-dawn light, heading back toward the center of town, walking under the railroad tracks on the OU-533. Just before reaching the main road, the N-525, you take a right hand turn onto the Rúa Maior, that runs parallel to it.
Within a block, at the first Y-intersection, shown below, stay left to continue on the Rúa Maior. My flash lit up the shell waymark on the building, to a warm, yellow glow. Look to the right. How fun!
You come to the town square, the Praza Maior and the town cross, at not quite 1/2 kilometer from the albergue. If you look closely behind the cross, you can see two waymarks. This is the bifurcation of the Camino, with the Way to the left being the Camino Sanabrés por Verín, the southerly variation that I mapped here, in orange.
We were taking the standard route to the right. Can you see Miguel's poncho blowing up in the strong winds? This was to portend our walk for the day.
The road you have turned onto is called the Rúa Cima de Aldea, or the "village top road." How appropriate! Leave town on this road, and walk it for about one full kilometer.
At kilometer 1.4, merge with the secondary paved road from A Gudiña to a Venda do Espiño, by turning to the right. Thus begins the two kilometer road slog to the high point, the Alto do Espiño.
The sky eventually started to brighten, but it was clear that the fog and rain were going to sock us in for the day.
As we climbed, increasing in exposure, the fog thickened and the wind and the rain worsened. I took this photo next to one of the few trees along the way. We could see absolutely nothing in any direction.
There was certainly the danger of large trucks passing us, as we jumped off the highway as they approached. The backsplash from the trucks was intense! The drivers would blare their horns, warning us of their approach (as if we couldn't see them) and they would just shake their heads at us as they drove by. Nutty pilgrims!
The fog cast an eerie light as we walked along the roadway. Rich was pushing forward in the lead, followed by Miguel. I was next, taking the photo, casting a constant and wary eye on Nadine and Norm following in the rear. I was worried about them.
Here we are arriving at the summit top for the day, the Alto do Espiño, at 1085 meters (3560 feet), in the fog and pouring rain. If there was no sign, we would not have had a clue where we were. This sign is at approximately 4.2 kilometers into the day.
At about 4.45 kilometers, the Camino takes a right onto a side road, for a bit of a more sheltered walk into the first venda, the hamlet of A Venda do Espiño. It is amazing how less exposed it felt walking into the town.
The few meter diversion through town soon led us back out onto the exposed pavement. The cars were very considerate that passed us and they all slowed way down, but there was no preventing the backsplash, no matter what they did. It drenched us.
I started to sing songs to keep our morale up and to stay happy and warm myself. I sang silly songs and the other joined in. Miguel, a Spanish military nurse, actually knew some of our military songs that we tried on him, and he was able to sing along! He is a cheerful soul and he seemed impervious to the rain.
Norm and Nadine were not impervious to the conditions. I often would slow up and see how they were doing. Nadine kept her strained happy face on, but Norm looked grim. I, being the leader, felt responsible and wasn't sure what to do.
Rich just pushed ahead. When the going gets rough, he has a tendency to push harder. Miguel was showing no signs of cracking at all. Nadine and Norm were slowing down.
At about kilometer 7.25 we found this small shelter, most likely a bus station, at the intersection with the road to Carracedo da Serra, to the north. We all went towards it and huddled inside for a brief respite from the wind and the rain. All the respite seemed to achieve was to make us colder, so after only a few minutes "inside" we carried onward.
At about 7.45 kilometers, we took a left turn to leave the main road, and onto a side road toward the next hamlet of A Venda da Teresa. The blue Camino directional sign was easy to spot.
At about 7.8 kilometers, after entering A Venda da Teresa, Nadine declared that she must have something to eat. In the sheltered walls of the town, we all stopped and waited while Nadine pulled out and ate a bar. She is a slight person, and can bonk quickly if she doesn't attend to her needs. While waiting, our metabolic rates slowed a bit. Without moving, a chill set in quickly.
None of the rest of us were hungry and we were eager to get going and stay warm. Rich kept his head down, and I could sense his grumpiness at the stop.
Norm declared that walking in this kind of weather was ridiculous. I believe these were his exact words, according to my voice journal. He has quite the grim look on his face, below, as Miguel remained cheerful and Nadine attempted to be so.
In this moment, the group decision was to continue on. As we left the small village of A Venda da Teresa, the road turned into this somewhat soppy lane. In the photo below is Rich, pushing ahead, walking alone at the front of the pack, trying to get the walk over with as quickly as possible. The rest of us slogged behind.
At approximately kilometer 9.07, our little village lane ended as we went back down the hill toward the main road, continuing the day's descent.
The exposure continued to be severe as the wind and the rain did not let up.
We pushed on for the next kilometer, shown below, towards the next hamlet of A Venda da Capela.
After arriving in A Venda da Capela, Norm finally spoke up, in protection of Nadine. He was worried that she could not continue and would get hypothermia. He stated that it is just when people keep pushing so hard that they do get into trouble. He had had enough. Nadine said nothing. She didn't need to ~ her expression told the story.
As soon as I heard the word "hypothermia," I knew that both of their spirits had been broken, and indeed if we carried on, most likely it would not be a favorable outcome. Even though I disagreed with his assessment, there was no arguing the matter. Their spirits were gone.
I could tell that Rich did not want to give up just yet, but was willing to go along with the group decision. I could have gone on as well, but as the leader of the group, I needed to make the best decision for the entire group.
Miguel, however, decided that he was going to walk on alone. But before he did, he called the taxi for us, coming from A Gudiña, to take us down the mountain to Campobecerros. He graciously waited for us, for what seemed like an eternity, for the taxi to arrive about 20 minutes later, before he went on his way. What a gracious Spanish host, and what a trooper!!
We all huddled by a farm building in A Venda da Capela, waiting for the taxi to arrive. Standing around only served to make us colder and colder.
While we were waiting, along came another peregrino, Colin, from Ireland, whom we had just met. He stopped to have a chat. We told him that we were throwing in the towel, and waiting for a taxi to arrive. The big fellow, decked out in black rain gear from head to foot and a wide-brimmed hat, just smirked and said, "This is just one of those days when you accept that you are going to get wet!" Ha ha! Talk about the British understatement!!
What a shining star Colin was in that moment! His light truly was not extinguished in the abysmal weather. He brought me cheer with his humor and I wished I could walk on with him, Miguel and Rich. However, I stayed with the group, as the taxi arrived, and Miguel and Colin walked on into the rain and fog.
I must say, it was lovely being in the warm taxi, as we all had gotten quite cold standing around waiting for it to arrive.
We arrived into town quite early, after having only walked 10 kilometers. The owner of O Albergue da Rosario was notified by the taxi driver and he was waiting for us to arrive. He signed us in and soon we were luxuriating in a hot shower and relaxing while we washed and dried our clothes.
O Albergue da Rosario is a charming place, with a statue out front of the famed A Laza carnival costume of the Peliqueiro. This medieval carnival occurs every year in February. Click on the link provided to learn about this interesting custom.
The albergue has 18 beds that are a bit tight on the lower floor. We were given disposable sheets. There is a funky kitchen in a separate building, round and down the back in a garage with a big horno oven. The kitchen has adequate utensils and a refrigerator. We did not spend a lot of time there because it had no heat unless we lit the oven. It was really cold and damp, and after spending the day freezing we had no desire to freeze more.
Also in the garage is a washer and dryer to use for 3 Euros/cycle.
We hung out at the Bar Casa Núñez, up the street for a lot of the afternoon, sipping café con leche and debriefing the events of the day. The Casa Núñez also has rooms to rent, (+34 988 07 76 24) if you prefer it to the albergue.
We were looking for a meal, but needed to wait for when the kitchen opened for the midday feast. As we waited to be served, in walked a drenched Colin! He had walked down the mountain and had made it in time for lunch. Miguel had already joined us. The walk from where we had stopped, into Campobecerros was only another 10 kilometers, and both men were strong walkers, easily arriving by lunchtime.
As the AVE workers piled into the dining room our peregrino group was served last! It was worth the wait, however, as the full course meal including copious amounts of wine was delicious and inexpensive.
Colin took his time over the lengthy lunch, as we all did, and then after drying out, he announced that he was going to walk on another 14 kilometers to A Laza, to complete the full 34 kilometer stage! The weather had not miffed him a bit. I was impressed! It was still raining, although the exposure at this lower altitude was significantly less than on top of the mountain.
Miguel made the decision to stay in the albergue with us, and wait to continue on until the morning. The steep decline into Campobecerros was rocky and slippery, as you shall see on day nine, and he said he actually fell down once. His family instructed him to stay with the Americans, and stay safe. He was an expectant father, after all and had a responsibility to them.
After our group's lengthy discussion, Rich and I decided to go back up the mountain the next day to A Venda da Capela, via a taxi, and complete the walk where we left off. Not only did I want to document my journey on this website, but I also felt in my heart that this day's stage was perhaps one of the most beautiful walks, and I wanted to see it. The day was after all, along one of three high mountain passes on the Sanabrés. As it turned out, I was right and day nine's walk was fabulous.
Norm and Nadine decided not to join us, but to do a short day of 14 kilometers to A Laza from Campobecerros. We would all join up in A Laza. Miguel, to our surprise was going to walk with Norm and Nadine to be their guide and stay with us in A Laza. He was taking his family's mandate seriously.
By this time, after almost two weeks of walking together as a group, it was clear to Rich and I that our level of skill and commitment to this Camino was different than Norm and Nadine's. We were afraid that it would come to this, and it had.
Both Rich and I felt that indeed we could have walked on had we been alone. It would have been difficult, but we could have done it. But I was going to stick with the group. That was my commitment. Rich also admitted that by the time we had waited for the taxi at the top of the mountain, he was too cold to continue. For Miguel to walk on after a lengthy stop in the frigid rain was quite admirable.
We brought up the subject with Norm and Nadine, of whether or not we should continue walking as a group. I wanted to give them the Grace to continue on at their own pace if that was their desire. Nadine was still limping and we did not want to apply any more pressure than was needed. I needed to give them permission to do their own thing. Plus my own feelings were mixed regarding walking on together.
It was immediately clear that they truly did want to follow us and continue on with us. I think mostly it was due to the effort that would be required of them to continue on alone, and perhaps fear of the separation. They had both grown quite dependant on us. Indeed, I had made it too easy for them.
While on this day, I had regretted not walking onward after witnessing Colin and Miguel's shining examples, but as it turned out, it was the best thing that could have possibly happened. On day nine's walk, I absolutely did not regret that I was able to see the top of the mountain in clearer weather and marvel in the beauty of it all.
May your own day eight on the Camino Sanabrés from A Gudiña to A Venda da Capela reflect your inner light, so that your own stained-glass window may sparkle and shine, showing your true beauty regardless of the "weather!" Ultreia!
Stay tuned for more days chronicles coming soon!
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