It was a very cold night up here in the mountains and we all needed blankets over our sleeping bags. We were awoken to the sound of an Operatic version of ” Ave Marie ” followed by ” Nessun Dorma “. Fortified by a good breakfast we girded our loins for the steep climb up to O Cebreiro. The initial part of the ascent was through woodland on a rocky path and we quickly came into the pretty hillside village of La Faba. Situated there was another of those Refugios that was “vegetariano” and offered ” Masaje Oriental “. This one was run by a German chap who has spent a lot of time in India and we found big Felix already ensconced inside eating mushrooms that a lady was frying over an open fire. There was the usual statue of the Buddha and a similar feel to Mincho’s place back in Hospital de Orbigo. I didn’t hang around and continued the steep climb which soon gave some spectacular views over the valley. The sky was virtually cloudless and you could see the hilltops above the clouds ( see photos ).
A little later I crossed over the border into Galicia , the Celtic area of North West Spain of which Santiago de Compostela is the Capital. It was a reminder that I’m now on the final leg of the journey with about 6 days of walking left. I reached the high point of O Cebreiro after 3 hours of steep ascent and was ready for a rest and a drink. I paid a visit to the church , which is one of the earliest surviving buildings on The Camino and dates from the 9th Century. Inside was a huge old baptismal font from the times when baptism meant full immersion ( see photo ). This church also marks the resting place of Don Elias Valina Sampedro , the Parish Priest who did so much to help revive the Camino. As part of his University studies he wrote a thesis on The Camino. He then walked The Camino himself in 1982 but found a lot of the paths had disappeared. Two years later he and his nephews acquired a lot of yellow paint from the Spanish Government and took it upon themselves to way mark the whole route with the yellow arrows that we see all along the way today. And some of us still get lost !
I walked on after having lunch with ” little ” Felix at Hospital de la Condesa , reaching the high point of The Camino in Galicia at Alto de Poio ( 4,380 ft ). I took some photos there of the large bronze statue of a Pilgrim facing Santiago holding onto his hat against the wind. By this stage I had met up with Forrest again and we walked together until we reached Fonfria at 6.15pm , booking ourselves into the Albergue A Reboleira. It was here we had one of the best meals I’ve had on The Camino , starting with a local speciality ” Caldo Gallego ” , a vegetarian stew made with chickpeas and various vegetables. We finished with ” Torta de Santiago ” , a delicious almond tart with castor sugar sprinkled on top with the outline of the cross of the Knights Templar.