Our day nine on the Camino Sanabres from A Venda da Capela to A Laza, was a joyous walk on high mountain paths and roads, with stunning views. The rain had cleared and the lifting fog allowed us to breathe, relax and be in the moment for the first time in several days.
"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese monk, renowned Zen master, poet, and peace activist.
No quote could have described our day more beautifully! With light hearts and feet we had not a care in the world on this day! It was a rare day indeed. It is amazing how different the day was from day eight, a horrific weather day to be endured, and which was cut short.
Here is our interactive Google map of our day, created from our GPS tracks. Because of our weather-abbreviated day eight, this is where we chose to hire a taxi to take us back up the mountain to A Venda da Capela to pick up our Camino where we had left off the day before.
Most likely you will start this day in A Gudiña and finish it in Campobecerros after 20 kilometers, or continue on 14.4 more kilometers for a whopping total of 34.4, to A Laza.
The map below shows this entire stage of 34 kilometers, the portion that we did on day eight that was cut short due to the weather in orange (the new route is in red) and the portion that we did on this day, the 24.4 kilometers, in blue. Also along the portion in blue, is the road alternative in case of inclement weather, also shown in orange.
From A Venda da Capela, it is a lofty walk for 7.5 kilometers, including a small altitude push, then a steep descent into Campobecerros at 10 kilometers, a climb out, then a long and steep, almost 10 kilometer descent into A Laza.
We hired the hospitalero from O Albergue da Rosario to drive us back up the mountain to A Venda da Capela, precisely where we left off the day before. After breakfast, we had said goodbye for the day, to Miguel, Nadine and Norm who were walking onward from Campobecerros to A Laza, where we would all meet up at the Pensión Casa Blanco Conde that afternoon.
We could not get a very early start, because of the hospitalero's schedule, but since our reservation was secure in Laza, and it was only 24 kilometers, we were not at all concerned, nor in a hurry.
Our timing was actually perfect, as the skies were only beginning to clear after the deluge! After being dropped off for our walk around 09:15, we first passed a sign for the railroad station for A Venda da Capela, which we could see below the ridge top to our right.
At the exit to town is this row of small cottages, shown below, that were once used by workers in the construction of the railway. They are now abandoned. Too bad, because they are quite quaint. Remember the word "venda" means country inn in Spanish, and these accommodations may have also housed agricultural workers at one time.
Down to the right of the ridge road, near the railroad tracks, all of a sudden the sun burst out of the clouds for a brief moment. We had to pause and admire the view. We were ecstatic to not only see the sun, but to see the views! We had no idea that it was so beautiful here.
You may have noticed that in the above photo, Rich is not wearing a backpack, but a small string bag. The hospitalero allowed us to store our backpacks in the albergue for a few hours, so we could actually enjoy the 10 kilometers without them! Sweet!
This high ridge is a dry and desolate place, known in the area as "La Serra Seca" or dry ridge, according to Tom Vickers from the UK. It wasn't very dry on our walk, but indeed I could understand it, as very little grows here.
After about one kilometer from A Venda da Capela, you are directed to the left, off-road and onto the lane shown below. The locals I learned call off-road "by way of the mountain" or "de la montaña." I love it!
The rough road ahead climbs a small hill, shown below.
My dear Camino follower, MaryEllen, who lives in A Coruña, and walked this high route during the pandemic, has sent me some photos on the improvements through this area. If you read my previous day eight, you are aware that major improvements have occurred on that day's high elevation tracks.
The same is true for this section, and here is a photo from MaryEllen of this same road, shown above, with its improvements! She is the shadow, of course, and the new improvements are fantastic.
And what is that ahead at the top? Really? A Swing? Yes, indeed it is a swing, called the Columpio de Vilariño de Conso or the swing of Vilariño de Conso, also known as Galicia's highest swing! My friend, MaryEllen, joked that she would have appreciated servicios instead!
That is her son swinging on the swing, below left. It is located at 1.45 kilometers from A Venda da Capela at 1075 meters high, where the views abound.
Apparently this swing was completed in December of 2020, smack in the middle of the Pandemic! See this article for more information.
And from the swing, the view of the reservoir is fabulous that you will be able to see on a clear day. As you swing and face northward, the Embalse de As Portas, can be seen from the ridge heights.
It is only about 600 meters total on this lane, and about 150 kilometers after the swing when you get back on-road again, and turn left, shown below.
Here is the view of the reservoir that we saw on our day. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see it, despite the high and clearing clouds. It is most beautiful through here.
The mountains surrounded us in this high area and the valleys were still full of the morning mist. I felt truly alive and in the moment. I am a lover-of-high-altitude girl, and this walk did not disappoint me!
After a slight descent, you enter the next town of A Venda do Bolaño at about 3.2 kilometers into day eight on the Camino Sanabrés from A Venda da Capela to A Laza.
There is really not much to this town, and if ever a country inn existed here, it is now long gone.
After leaving town at about 1075 meters in elevation, the road turns to pavement again, and there is a bit of a climb that you can see ahead and around the bend.
Here is a photo of the final hill to climb, before the steep descent into Campobecerros.
At just about six kilometers into the day, you are directed to turn left onto this lane, "de la montaña" for the final climb, shown below. You could stay on the pavement if the weather is bad, but it is about one kilometer longer to Campobecerros on the road.
The mountain lane ahead is very steep and slippery when wet, and our friend Miguel fell down through this section, so even though longer, if it is raining like it was on our day eight, you may want to take the safer pavement.
As it turns out, the Camino planners agreed with me, as evidenced by the new markers at this intersection now, shown next.
When I studied these markers, and as I clarified with my friend, MaryEllen, it would appear that the official route is to stay on the road, as the concrete mojón would indicate, with 181 km left to Santiago. This is definitely my advice in inclement weather!
However, when you view the close-up of the marker behind the mojón, pictured below, there is a clear indication that the Camino goes "de la montaña" as well! The Camino arrow points to the way of the mountain, and warns of the steep hill ahead, at least for horses! And for people too, as you will see below.
The choice is yours: the safer way along the road, which is all a smooth downhill for 4.12 kilometers into Campobecerros, or a short climb up a bit more, a mere 66 meters (216 feet), followed by a sharp descent for a total of 3.25 kilometers. Long and easy or shorter but harder?
Read on to see the harder route that we took, again, because this was the official route at the time and the roadway had begun to dry out.
After the turn, below is the final small hill before the high point of the day. There is nothing dramatic about this climb, over about one kilometer.
The high point is at 1136 meters (3727 feet), at about 7 kilometers distance from A Venda da Capela. You can clearly tell you are at the top, with something now waiting for you on the other side on this part of the Camino Sanabrés from A Venda da Capela to A Laza.
When you reach this top, it is actually a long flat road which you walk along for about 1/2 kilometer before the strong descent. This is a very exposed place and it can be brutal in bad weather.
On the other side is the welcome sight of Campobecerros, which is somewhat spoiled with the view of the new AVE high speed line to the south. You can also clearly see the old train station.
In addition, you can see the road westward and out of Campobecerros that you will be taking on the way to Portocamba. Wow! What a view. And thus begins the serious descent!
As I stated, the way down is extremely steep and rocky. This was one of the worst sections, shown below. Negotiating this in the pouring rain would not have been fun at all. I leaned heavily on my poles for balance through here, even though it was mostly dry.
Once again, the sun tried so hard to poke its way through the clouds, and it briefly lit up Campobecerros. The views through here are stunning!
And just when we thought it couldn't get any more beautiful, a rainbow presented itself. It was as if it was our personal reward, to choose to come back up the mountain, by ourselves, without encumbrances. It was a day and a view to celebrate!
The rough road switchbacks its way down the mountainside, and ends abruptly at this turn, shown below, a left onto the Campobecerros Road.
And just shy of kilometer 10, we arrived on the edge of town, passing by the town church, the Iglesia de la Asunción.
Across from the church, you take a narrow side road to the left, shown here.
This short detour off the main road is expressly intended to take you by the Bar da Rosario, and small grocerette. We didn't mind. We were happy to celebrate our walk down the mountain with a real café con leche and a second breakfast. You can continue on straight here if you don't need a pit stop.
The owner of this bar is also the owner of the albergue and is a friendly and chatty lady. We managed to communicate with our elementary Spanish. Her mother, over 90 years old, was spunky as well and sat by the fire by the bar. It had begun to rain again lightly, a bit before we walked in. Perfect timing.
After the bar, another left takes you back to the main road, the Rúa Campobecerros. It is at the intersection below, at just after about 10 kilometers, that you would turn right to go to O Albergue da Rosario, just a few steps after the turn. We did go there for a brief stop to get our backpacks once again. The blue sign declares a detour, but there was none that we could see.
The Camino continues on the main road, up the hill, where in a few meters, to the left is the Bar Casa Núñez, (+34 988 07 76 24), shown below, which has rooms and is where we had a fabulous lunch the day before. There was construction going on here at the time, as you can see.
Here is the road that climbs up and out of Campobecerros on the west side. It had stopped raining during our climb and the weather was even starting to clear!
The way to Portocamba is entirely on the pavement of the OU-114, for all three kilometers, about half of which is uphill.
As you get closer to town, the way through is on the low road to the right, at approximately 13 kilometers on the Camino Sanabrés from A Venda da Capela to A Laza.
Here is yet another Spanish rural town that has abandoned the traditional homes.
There are no services at all in this small village and very few inhabitants that we saw, other than a dog or two!
There is a fountain with potable water that you will pass by and benches to rest on, if needed.
And in 600 meters or so, you are through town, and once again climbing up and out on the pavement.
The top of this climb on the pavement is at the wayside cross, shown below, at approximately 14.1 kilometers. You take a left turn at the cross and onto a gravel lane.
After turning off-road "de la montaña," there is a Y-intersection, where you stay to the left, shown below. We stumbled onto Miguel's walking stick that he had left here by mistake. He texted us earlier to look out for it for him! And there it was, ready for our delivery to him.
There is a final, short climb after leaving the pavement, of only a few meters.
At approximately 14.9 kilometers, come to the top of the final climb for the day, before the 10 kilometer descent into A Laza.
More stunning views open up after this top, shown in the next photos. The sky was clearing even more, so we could certainly see it all, including the amazing AVE tunnels and bridges. At many points along the way, we could see long stretches of the road ahead.
Here we paused for the rare photo of yours truly! I was so happy, with my feet on the green earth! I had absolutely no knee problems on this day. It was a fantastic day for me. I was elated for the entire day.
As we descended lower, by about 17 kilometers, the sweeping views were replaced with pine forests. There are lots of hairpin turns through this section.
And suddenly the terrain changes and you see the buildings of the next town of As Eiras ahead.
This is a gorgeous little mountain town, with its residents particularly fond of hydrangeas.
In the center of town, at about 18.6 kilometers, you can't miss the pilgrim's rest stop, shown below, the "Ultreia Bar," commanding you to stop, rest, and breathe! There are snacks here and beverages, for a donation. This stop is run by the local Asociación Amigos do Camiño, "Ultreia-As Eiras." There are instructions in four languages, Spanish, English, German and French. You can also get a stamp.
It was lovely to rest a moment and indeed, breathe and read the log book entries of various pilgrims from all over the world who had signed.
Just across from the rest stop, is a painted sign declaring only 6 kilometers to Laza!
And here is the road onward from As Eiras. It is still a long five kilometers descent on this paved secondary road. Fortunately, it remains a beautiful walk.
At about 23 kilometers, the final off -road segment is waymarked by a carving from sculptor, Nicanor Carballo and a traditional Galician one, that leads you to the right onto a lane.
The lane continues to descend steeply.
At about 23.3 kilometers, the Camino takes a hard left here, on this steep and rocky terrain. I could hear the sounds of a stream close by.
Sure enough, we crossed this lovely little river a few meters later, when the terrain finally became flat after 10 kilometers of intense downhill walking!
At kilometer 23.6 we joined the OU-112 into A Laza, at the one kilometer marker!
The city limits of Laza came into focus next.
At 24.2 kilometers, you come to the turn to take you into the center of town, and the Albergue de Peregrinos de Laza. We, however, stayed straight on because we were staying in the Casa Blanco Conde, a casa rural. These are the only two accommodations in Laza. You can see the intersection below, with your choices.
The Casa Blanco Conde is only a few more meters along the OU-112. It is an inexpensive and comfortable place, with a laundry and kitchen, with breakfast included. Norm, Nadine and Miguel had already checked in and were resting in their rooms.
The proprietress is extremely friendly and explained to us, in Spanish, about the annual carnival, the Entroido de Laza that occurs in Laza every winter just before Lent.
Participants dress up in interesting medieval costumes, like the statue in front of the albergue in Campobecerros, shown in day eight. There are parades, flour and mud throwing, and giant ants! She said that more babies are born in November than any other month in Laza as a result of this festival! Click on the link above from the Xunta de Galicia for more information if you are interested in being here in the wintertime and also this very informative link.
We cleaned up and headed into town for a look around and for Happy Hour!
Below is the sign for the albergue reception, directing you to where you must sign in at the town hall, just across the street from this sign, shown below.
The town hall is about another 1/3 kilometer beyond the turn off the OU-112. After the turn, come to a T-intersection and take a left. Proceed a few more meters until you come to the traffic circle in the center of town. Stay to the right through the circle, as you head for the church. You can't miss the flags flying outside the town hall.
The modern, 36-bed albergue is yet another 1/3 kilometer to the north of town, following the road past the church, northward for about 150 meters, then turning left following the signs for the albergue, arriving in another 150 meters. The albergue is in a sports center, (Pabillón Deportivo) as the signs indicate.
Miguel, Nadine and Norm had a big lunch at the Restaurante A Picota, shown below, just west of the church. They joined us again in the evening, but ate lightly. We had what they had for our dinner, the traditional Galician pork stew. We were told it was very famous. I thought it was good, but I didn't like how fatty the meat was. If you are interested, ask for the Estofado Gallego. The portions were incredibly generous, of meat, potatoes, chickpeas and vegetables.
Today's Camino was a wonderful mountain walk for me, a day where I felt no pain of any sort. It was the most grounded of days, with my feet on the earth and my soul in the moment. It was a very special day for me. The views were spectacular and it made my heart soar through the heights.
The contrast of day nine, compared to day eight could not have been more dramatic.
Be forewarned, that if you do this high and exposed ridge in bad weather, be sure that you are well-prepared. In addition to panchos and rain jackets, we would suggest rain pants, and layers to ward off the rain and sudden temperature changes at this altitude.
May your own day nine on the Camino Sanabrés from A Venda da Capela to A Laza be filled with the miracle of walking on the green earth, may you dwell deeply in the present moment and may you feel truly alive! Ultreia!
*Photo credit given to my Camino Follower, MaryEllen, from La Coruña, Spain
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