Thursday, May 16, 2019

Vilaserio to Logoso

We awoke early this morning, but breakfast wasn't served until 7 am, so we lay awake in the cozy warmth of our beds and listened to the other occupants of the albergue beginning to stir. When the rooster in the adjacent farm began welcoming the new day with its loud, carrying voice we got up and packed. We shared a lovely communal breakfast of bread, jam, coffee, and orange juice with our fellow pilgrims at the long table downstairs. In truth, breakfasts that involve many people maneuvering in a small space to help themselves to food never work out too well for us.

Perhaps it is because we are Canadian and have a different idea of personal space, or maybe it is just our personalities, which tend to be less direct and forceful than other people. Either way, although everyone was very kind to us, we left the table still feeling rather peckish.

When we waved goodbye to those still at the table and headed out, we found a warm, damp morning with a slight drizzle falling, and a sky heavy with dark, low hanging clouds. Although we weren't thrilled with the drizzle, it came and went throughout the morning, and we were grateful for a respite from the blazing sun.

We spent much of the morning walking along winding asphalt roads and gravel farm tracks that wove through hills covered in agriculture. The landscape was covered in an interesting patchwork of rich, dark brown squares formed by the newly ploughed fields, light green rectangles made by the tender grass of newly sprouted hay fields, and more irregular patches of sunny yellow gorse. The whole thing was sewn together with hedgerows of dark green trees and bushes. Every once in a while the white walls and red roof of a barn would break up the pattern, and over the course of the morning we passed through several villages. As we climbed among the open hills we could see for miles, and we enjoyed the peaceful landscape and the fresh, earthy scent of the air.

Before we knew it, we found ourselves on the outskirts of Marona, a larger community, which to our delight featured a lovely albergue with a cafe that was open to the public. The picturesque stone building had a large patio out front with a lovely trellis covered in grape vines, but given the damp weather we decided to join the small group of pilgrims inside. We enjoyed a second breakfast consisting of positively enormous slices of toast smothered in jam, together with steaming cafe con leches. There were several German pilgrims lingering over their breakfasts, clearly finding the temperatures outside freezing, and debating whether to take a taxi to avoid the rain today instead of walking. This isn't the first time on Camino that we've noticed just how much of a difference it makes what climate you are accustomed to. Our favorite temperature for hiking with a pack on is around 10 °C, and we start to really struggle with the heat when temperatures go above 25°C. We've seen many Europeans and Asians wearing down jackets when the temperature falls below 20°C, but they seem to thrive in warmer temperatures that cause us to feel like we are melting down.

After leaving the cafe we began to climb again, quite steeply at times. We passed some larger farms, and as we climbed we enjoyed watching heavy rain showers moving quickly across the rolling landscape. Somehow Saint Roch must have been looking out for us, because although the showers were racing along on all sides of us, we managed to thread our way through them without getting soaked!

A highlight of this morning came when we climbed up a very large hill to a lookout on Mount Aro, which offered us a panoramic view out over the lush, hilly, green landscape. The lookout had been decorated with some interesting eyeball graffiti, as well as several thought-provoking sayings. Just beyond the lookout was an optional detour up a gravel track that climbed a bare, grassy hill. There was a small sign saying this was a good birding area!

We excitedly scanned the landscape for feathered friends, and looked at our map, but we couldn't see where or how we would rejoin the path to Olveiroa if we took the bird watching detour, so in the end we decided to continue on.

We soon found ourselves making a long and rather steep descent into a larger town located on the shores of lake Encoro da Fervenza. The light grey waters of the beautiful lake stretched out along the green valley below us as we approached. We stopped to admire the view, give our knees a rest, and say hello to a small herd of black and white cows grazing in a field.

When we reached the town of Olveiroa, where our Brierly guide suggested we end this stage of our hike, we found a Camino town with many recent upgrades and pilgrim friendly amenities. The sidewalks were paved with newly installed cobblestones, there was a new looking bridge, blooming flowers planted along the verges, and benches were conveniently located along The Way. Signs for taxis and buses were prevalent, as were Camino art, tiled murals, and directional signage. The skies seemed to be getting increasingly darker by the minute, and the hilly terrain was taking its toll, so we decided to try our luck at finding accommodations.

We walked through town, stopping at the albergues we encountered along the way, but to our dismay we soon learned they were already full. Two of the albergues looked newish, and the description claimed they had around 50 beds each, but they were both fully booked by tour groups. I understand completely that running an albergue is a business, and booking tour groups is a steady source of guaranteed income. However, on days when the weather is iffy and we are tired, we sometimes find it quite frustrating when all the beds have been pre-booked by large groups and we see lines of luggage transport vans depositing suitcases in the lobby. To make things more depressing, in both places, while we were inside inquiring about space, several taxis pulled up outside and dropped off sizable groups of very clean looking pilgrims, who were happily chatting to each other. I prefer feeling like my adventures could be more spontaneous, giving me the opportunity to stop when I want to rather than trying to live up to a pre-planned schedule, but sometimes when things don't spontaneously fall into place, it kind of stinks. To avoid further disappointment we stopped at a conveniently located bench and phoned ahead to Logoso to make a reservation.

As we headed out of town we walked past a large square lined with the famous Galician horreos, or corn cribs. These cribs look like large wooden boxes that are perched atop stone pillars and topped with slanted roofs. The structures are elevated to discourage rodents from eating the corn that is hung inside to dry, and to prevent ground moisture from creeping up inside. It was quite unusual to see so many of these cribs in one place, and a few of them were easily three times bigger than any we'd previously seen.

After leaving Olveiroa the landscape became much wilder and more rugged. The gravel path was lined with pink lupins, and the hills were covered in dark green trees and shaggy patches of brilliant yellow gorse. Here and there rocky outcroppings were visible on the hillsides. Wind turbines lined the highest ridges, and at one point we passed a hydroelectric dam, far below us in a river valley.

The landscape felt wild and rugged, yet we weren't alone. We passed several pilgrims on the trail, and a few groups of people passed us going in the other direction. It was a pleasure to exchange the traditional 'Buen Camino' greeting with them. The beauty of this stretch seemed to give us a second wind, although the sky was a constant reminder that seeking shelter should be a priority. Nonetheless, we stopped on one of the longer climbs to admire a particularly compelling looking cow. Her soft, light brown coat and black nose complimented her long curving horns which looked like they had been dipped in black ink on the ends.

Long before we expected to, we reached the hamlet of Logoso. This tiny village, perched on the side of a hill, actually seemed quite busy, both with residents and other pilgrims. As if we needed further proof that St. Roch is looking out for us, just as we stepped into the albergue the heavens opened up and let loose a deluge! We felt very fortunate to be inside.

After taking care of our chores we made our way down to the tiny bar for a pint. It was a nice spot to sit, with a view over the forested valley and along the Camino, where a few sodden pilgrims were still arriving. We caught up on our journals and did some more paperwork for our upcoming hike across Canada. The albergue didn't have a restaurant or eating area, but they did serve dinner at the few tables in the bar. It took quite a while for everyone to be fed, because people had to take turns sitting at the tiny tables, but we were all taken care of in the end, and we enjoyed an evening of interesting conservation with some of the pilgrims we'd met in Vilasario.

It was a long day with some challenging terrain, but it was spectacularly beautiful, and we couldn't have many things to be grateful for.

Accommodation: Albergue Logoso

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