Last week Simon took a trip to one of his favourite parts of the world, Galicia, to do a little research for a private tour in June. Part of this involved a 7 hour trek on the French Way of the Camino de Santiago. O Cebreiro in the snow covered mountains where El Bierzo meets Galicia at 4300ft was a treat, offering spectacular views over the countryside.
The walk from Triacastela is not too difficult but it is long, and no amount of 1 hour walks with the dog can prepare the legs and feet for the sheer scale of this route. However, with the good company of Diego and Yvonne, things didn’t seem quite so difficult early on. Being blessed with sunny weather and a cooling breeze also helped, as well as wonderful vistas like the washing place on the river at San Cristobal.
The washing place, San Cristobal
One of the highlights of this part of the Way is the Monastery of St Julian of Samos. After three hours walking through forests and fields, following the yellow arrows that mark the Camino, the monastery can be seen from above and it is a wonderful sight. School children from Sevilla pass us as if they are on a stroll through their city, while our slightly older legs are starting to feel it a little.
Samos monastery from above
Dating from the 6th Century the monastery is Benedictine and its foundation is associated with Martin of Braga. Its cloister is a temple to solitude and calmness, the inner sanctum a world away form the myriad of pilgrims outside.
Samos Monastery, inner courtyard
Walking around we meet with a monk still living here who shows us some of the pictures adorning the walls, including one of a certain well-known Galician, General Francisco Franco and his wife, paying a visit after the monastery was restored following a fire in 1951. Just around the corner from the monastery is the lovely 9th Century Moorish style church of Salvador, known as the Chapel of the Cypresses.
Chapel of the Cypresses, Samos
Three more hours, much ‘digging deep, the beginning of many blisters, more wonderful views and many laughs, we reached Sarria. As always there are many great memories made and friendships forged on a difficult walk. The ‘delicious pain’ eventually subsides and the joy of finishing a difficult journey takes over.
The Camino can be done in many different ways and for many different reasons. I look forward to returning to do more of this magnificent route in the near future.
Simon at The Mount of Joy, overlooking Santiago de Compostela