Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Road Less Travelled 2.0--Slaying the Dragon. . .

Hey everyone.

Sorry for the delay, but we were in a pretty remote town last night, so no internet.

The past two days have been pretty interesting.  We started yesterday in Cacabelos, just outside of Villafranca, at the foot of the mountains that lead into Galicia.  We had decided that the route we were going to take was the Dragonte route--the most strenuous, but also most rewarding of the possible routes.  Dragonte is the name of the first town that we came to on the route, which in Spanish is translated something having to do with a dragon. . .That should have been our first clue.

The first 5km into Dragonte followed a mountain road that was almost exclusively switchbacks--one direction and then the opposite as it climbed the mountain.  We passed some people harvesting the local vineyard on the mountain, which was pretty cool to see, but even they stopped and were like "what the heck are those guys doing?"--Heck, even before we made it out of Villafranca, two people on separate occasions stopped us and pointed us in the other direction.  When we told them what we were doing, they chuckled, said ok, and left us to our demise.

We made it up and down the first of the three mountains and then things started getting tricky.  Not only is this the most strenuous route, but it is also the most ill-waymarked of the three options.  The towns we were going through were awesome.  We were travelling on legit cattle trails where we even saw a man coming back from getting hay, being pulled by two oxen and guarded by two of his dogs--very cool stuff.

Anywho, at the bottom of the first mountain was a stream that needing fording.  Little did we know that the stream was actually part of our path.  we made it across the stream relatively dry and then continued on our way. Again, I can´t stress the awesome character of these little towns that we passed through.  We started heading up the second of the two mountains and only to get stuck at a four way crossing of mountain roads, none of which looked highly travelled.  After some trial and error we finally found the right one leading up to the next town where we decided to stop for lunch.  But, before we could stop for lunch we had to deal with a white lion and a barking squirrel that was next to him--really just a huge dog that was similar to a lion in size and growl, and his little sidekick who was there for moral support.  The lion thing followed us for another 100m or so and then lost sight of us.

We continued in this little town for a little bit longer and came upon a man outside of his barn/house with his very old mother.  We chatted briefly with them and when we asked how many other pilgrims were on this route they answered "solo vosotros"--"only you (y'all)"---Nice. . .are we the only ones crazy enough to try this route? So after his kind directions, he pointed us over a nearby mountain.  We started up the path, ate our packed lunch, and pondered whether we had made a mistake.  We continued up the path and when we looked back at the town, now a couple of hundred meters away, we could see the man watching us to see if we were going the right way.  We found out quickly that we weren't when, in a very "RIIIIIIIICOLAAAA" manner, corrected us.  We went over the mountain, all this time without waymarks, and continued down the path with the least amount of bulls. . .yes, large cows with horns.  The path I chose lead us through a thicket down to a small radio beacon and then ended.  We then decided to go back up to the bulls, pondering how painful the "outtakes" of the running of the bulls really were. 

We breathed a great sigh of relief when we saw that they were securely confined to their grazing by a small piece of rope, acting, I guess, as some type of method of retention.  We passed the cows, being eyed warily by all of them, and continued down the mountain on what we were hoping was the right road.

Well, out guidebook had mentioned something about a rock-quarry at the bottom of the mountain and something about a blasting zone as well. . .both of these we soon entered after continuing to zig-zag down the mountain.  We found that pulverized rock is very interesting to walk through, but can make it through shoes and two layers of socks--to which my beige feet could attest later that evening.

So, we then made it through the active quarry and up the next mountain to a small town called San Fiz--patron Saint of champagne making and soda. . .not really, but I liked to think so.  We then came across an old man sitting by himself in a make-shift soccer field and, very much like Antonio in the last post, invited us for a descanso.  Another little trail angel.

His name was Nicanor, and he had lived in the area his whole life.  We asked him how much farther to the town we were hoping to walk to on the Dragonte route and he said about another 15km.  At this point we had already climbed two mountains, gone at least 20km in the process, and were basically spent.  He recommended taking the road to the A-6, one of Spain's big highways, and picking up the middle route there.  After some debate and rational thinking, we felt it best to forego the rest of the Dragonte route and make it alive and in daylight to Herrerias.

We stayed at an Albergue in Herrerias last night and had a nice pilgrim dinner consisting of some hearty lentel soup, two fried eggs with french fries--heart attack anyone?--and some postre or dessert.  We slept pretty well after having our tails handed to us on a silver plato by the Dragonte route.

I slept in a little bit this morning, which the body was craving after a couple days of being beaten up, and then we started the hike up to O'Cebreiro.  This was probably the roughest start to the day since the first day in St. Jean, with a 1000m climb to O'Cebreiro.  It was pretty cool getting up there though, because it was during the climb that we entered into Galicia.  Most importantly, however, was a Church in the town that had a Eucharistic miracle happen in the middle ages.  We spent some time in prayer there and then started our hike to Trescastillas.  This was a pretty long hike down the mountain, but it was made easier with some conversation with a very nice Slovenian couple that we have been travelling at the same pace as, and a young couple from Washington state.

Alrighty, well I am off to bed.  We are in a nice albergue in Trescastilla, and the bunks look pretty comfy, so I'm out.  Much love to all.


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