The climb up to O Cebreiro felt like the longest day on the Camino. We woke up late, thinking it was quitting day. Time to leave the Camino and go on a real vacation. After showering, we changed our minds. We thought of taking the taxi to Herrerias, the town just at the start of the climb up to O Cebreiro. By the time we finally left the hotel, we had changed our minds again. We decided that we would walk slowly and see how far we could go.
It was a good decision. The yellow arrows took us through the historic town of Villafranca del Bierzo. A town beautifully set in the mountains where the rio Burbia splits into rio Valcarce, definitely worth an extra day of exploration. The coolness from the rain had brightened our mood and our sense of purpose to reach Santiago was renewed.
Things were looking up! We were also able to retrieve our missing hiking poles at an albergue set at the edge of town. It was a small Camino miracle that after leaving them behind in Foncebadon, Correos was able to reunite us with them in Villafranca del Bierzo. Just in time for the climb up to O Cebreiro.
Upon picking up our hiking poles, we met another pilgrim, Imani from Florida. She was also suffering from knee pain and like us she had no set destination for the day. Together, we followed the yellow arrows out of town onto the highway. There had been a landslide and the highway was closed, which made the walk pleasantly quiet. 7 kilometres later, we were walking among chestnut trees, leading us to the small town of Perej. We stopped for breakfast and had our daily dose of fresh orange juice and café con leche.
The day passed quickly. There were many little towns along the way, which also meant plenty of Bars. We ran into Imani throughout our many snack breaks. I also tried pulpo (octopus) for the first time in the town of Vega de Valcarce. It was delicious.
22 km later, we reached the town of Herrerias, set at 705 metres above sea level. This is the starting point of the climb up to O Cebreiro, 1,300 metres above sea level. We thought of stopping there, but optimism got the better of us and we decided to walk another 5 km to La Faba. We ran into Imani one last time. She was stopping at Herrerias for the day. We waved her goodbye as she stepped into the albergue.
It started to rain as the road turned steeply up the mountain. The yellow arrows took us to muddier paths among the trees. We reached La Faba and followed the signs to a vegetarian albergue. It was set at the edge of town, and we were devastated to find out that they had no more beds available.
Unwilling to backtrack to the municipal albergue, we decided to walk to the next town Laguna de Castilla. There was only one albergue there and surprise, surprise they were also full. I guess it was meant to be that we reach O Cebreiro today.
The views of the mountains were breathtaking in the last 2.5 km to O Cebreiro. The rain had not let up and the fog covered the landscape in a dreamlike haze. I felt delirious from exhaustion, but the view was so stunning that I didn’t even notice the rain that had started seeping through my raincoat.
It was almost 7 pm by the time we reached O Cebreiro. We tried 4 albergues before finally securing two private rooms in Casa Carolo. It felt like luxury 5 star living. The rooms had beautiful stone walls and the bathroom had a bathtub. After laundry and dinner, I filled up the tub and soaked my feet. It was the best way to end a long cold and wet day.
Casa Carolo: address – Rúa Cebreiro, 20, 27670 Pedrafita do Cebreiro, Lugo, Spain, Price: 50 euros for a double room and 35 euros for a single room, no website available.