I slept perfectly and it wasn’t until a sensible time I was woken by a few pilgrims rustling and turning on lights. I get up just before 7am, Bruno and I are supposed to be meeting others for chocolate & churros for breakfast in the square… We arrive five minutes late and see Michael leaving with one of the Estonian girls. Jonathon, Neville and Carlos are still here but the others have gone. We also find out there are no churros until 8am, I’m disappointed!
We set off after a quick discussion on which way everyone is going, as the Camino splits in three directions just outside town. The census being most people are taking the second longest route up to the right of the main road (the shortest and lowest route). Bruno and I however, choose to take the longest highest most difficult route which ventures left from the road and crosses the whole mountain ranges between Villafranca and O Cebreiro.
As we leave we watch all the other pilgrims turning right off the road as we head left, crossing the main N-VI and turning right up a steep small lane to Dragonte. As we climb the whole landscape opens up behind us, the views are stunning. In front, the path continues to climb steeply, a rainbow up above the peaks seems to be holding back some grey clouds. We pass through Dragonte, a tiny little hamlet set towards the top of the first peak, shortly afterwards the path opens out to an old quarry, as we look back we see other quarries high up in the distance, we can even see Ponferrada.
We continue on in complete peace no pilgrims, no cars, it’s bliss. We cross over to another valley and look down on villages dotted across the landscape. Up in front a single mast sits proudly on the highest point.
The path splits and despite my guide saying all three routes are well waymarked, we cannot see which way to go, so we continue climbing. The scenery all around is so stunning, and grand, valleys and peaks in every direction. We pass around the summit onto yet more beautiful scenery but still no signs, we head slowly down and see some roof tops below. Luckily for us a lady is outside in her garden and spots us. Bruno talks with the lady and it turns out we’ve already gone wrong, we are in Corrales and not Villar de Corrales, but we are now on one of the oldest routes in history. The lady invites us for tea and her husband comes out with maps to discuss our options. They are a lovely couple and we are very lucky as they only use the house for the weekends (& Monday’s). In the time they have owned the house they have only ever seen two other pilgrims, (who they drove back over the mountain)?! We are given the old route passing through the villages of Barjas, Busmayor and a couple of others (none of which are mentioned in my guide) before arriving at O Cebreiro.
As we walk we talk about this and that, lives and loves, we both really appreciate the peace and quiet of today. Bruno started in Arles so he’s actually done a couple of hundred kilometres more than me.
As we pass through the villages, people come and talk to us, cars stop and ask if we’re lost, their faces show shock when we tell them we are walking the old route! Eventually we guess we are about 4km from O Cebreiro, I check my phone map and it tells us it’s nearly 30km away. It deflates us massively but not for long as we turn a corner and ahead lies O Cebreiro, it’s 7pm…
We’re exhausted, we have walked just over 45km and we have been going all day. We go to find some beds, oh dear, everything (I mean everything) is full!!! We bump into Rachael who cooked for us in Ponferrada, she has no where to sleep either?! I’m too tired to mess about walking further to find a bed… Eventually Bruno finds someone who has a contact for a hostel 4km away, we book it and arrange to be picked up at 9pm after we have eaten.
9.15 we finish our menu del pelegrino at just after 9pm and dash for our lift (when I say dash I mean hobble and bump into friends on the way). It turns out our hostel is 14km further along the Camino but I am not going to complain as I’m exhausted. Today has been the best day I’ve had in Spain!!!
Sorry I almost forgot the route we took today is the Camino Templario and the villagers we saw along the way informed us that no more than a dozen pilgrims pass this route per year any more!