What a difference a day makes! Today was amazing from beginning to end! While I am claiming credit for 11 kilometers, the reality is that I walked 3 of those kilometers and Paula did the rest; she was my horse!
I walked the 3 kilometers to where I would meet up with the horse guy, Hector, in Las Herrerías. It was a wonderful walk because I had to send my pack ahead since I would be riding the horse. I just had my little backpack and my poles and I felt like I had lost 18 pounds…because I had without my pack!
I walked with a young man from Florence Italy and a young woman from Modena Italy; Danny and Elisa. Their English was excellent. They had just met in Leon and had been walking together since. Danny seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and as a vegetarian was upset that they “put fucking meat in everything in Spain.” The night before he had ordered a bean dish that was called vegetarian and when he pointed out the meat to the restaurant staff, the waiter said, “it isn’t meat, it’s just Chorizo.”
I think Danny had a right to be upset, but to calm him down I said how meat isn’t necessary when you think about the amazing dishes of Tuscany like Robolita (Twice cooked bread soup). With the same intensity and passion, Danny went on and told me, as any good Tuscan would, the ONLY way to make Robolita. He finished the recipe with an important note, “don’t put any fucking cheese in it.”
The two stopped in a bar because all the talk of food made Danny hungry.
Today’s posse to ride up the mountain to O Cebreiro was 6 women; I knew all but one of them. I am not sure how Hector assigned horses, but I was the first rider up and I got Paula, a white horse who was so docile she didn’t even have a bridle with a bit; instead she wore a halter.
It took a while for every one to get up and as we were all getting set, several pilgrims we knew came by wishing us well.
Finally we were on our way. Despite having owned a horse and doing a lot of riding when I was young, I was petrified for about the first half hour.
About halfway up we stopped to water the horses. They were very thirsty!
As we passed pilgrims walking up they cheered us on. Ruth was incredibly enthusiastic for us (just as you would expect this bubbly, super positive woman to be) as were the three women from Burlington Vermont who were walking together – a first that I have seen since I met them!
The higher we we went to more stunning the scenery.
Just 166 kilometers to go!!
Loretta led the way and was well ahead of her daughter Claudia and I who were bringing up the rear
Just as we were almost at the top, we passed a sign telling us we are now in Galicia (Ga-lee-thee-a) the final Spanish region on our journey.
Hector, walked along side us to give you an idea of how slowly we went, but we still passed most walker and in less than 2 hours we were at the top of the mountain in O Cebreiro without breaking a sweat.
We went to a bar and had a delicious lunch of garlic soup, local fresh cheese with honey, garlicky pulpo and Tinto de Verano or summer wine that is red wine and lemonade (surprisingly delicious!).
I was the only one of our horse-riding group staying in O Cebreiro for the night and I was questioning the wisdom of that decision when I could have gotten another 10km under my feet. But it turns out this was one of my best decisions.
This little village is charming and has a rich history. It has some of the harshest weather in all of Spain. In fact, had I continued my Camino last fall, I would have not gotten to see O Cebreiro because the trail up to here was closed for a week in late October due to an early snow storm. Hector told us that he finally plowed a small path all the way up the trail so he could continue his horseback rides and that enabled pilgrims to start walking up to O Cebreiro again as well.
Galicia was inhabited by the Celts over 1500 years ago which explains the Irish feel you get from this area.
The round buildings are Pallozas which Hector explained people lived in less than 60 years ago. Their entire family would live in one of these buildings with thatched roofs and they would have their animals in there as well for warmth.
The church is believed to be the oldest on the French Way with the original construction dating back to the 800’s!
It is a beautiful church that is quite simple compared to many of the other gothic Roman cathedrals along the way. I can’t wait to be able to paint it in watercolor!
I attended the mass tonight. It was very moving. The priest was amazing. He was a young guy with an assistant who was even younger. Some parts of the ceremony were in various languages as he had pilgrims read prayers in their native tongue.
He spoke of the importance of love and how our pilgrimages are about love and that when we return from the Camino we are to share the love of the Camino with others. He very effectively used his iPhone to play beautiful music at key times in the ceremony.
When he was giving communion he played Ave María. As a young girl, I remember seeing my dad sit back on Christmas Eve after we opened our gifts, listening to Ave María with a tear in his eye. He told me it was his favorite song.
A few days ago, my cousin Jeanne Mascheri sent me a picture of my father as a young man with his sister (my aunt) Jeanne. I realized in the 11 years since my dad passed away, I had only really thought of him as the person he was in the last few years of his life. I am so grateful to cousin Jeanne for sending me this photo at the perfect time.
I felt my father’s presence so strongly in the church while Ave María was playing and people were taking communion. It was very moving.
The priest then called all pilgrims (probably around 40-50 people) up to the alter and blessed us for a safe journey to Santiago. Then, he went to each one of us, hugged us and told us Buen Camino. The younger assistant followed him and gave each pilgrim a stone with a yellow arrow painted on it. This is the most treasured physical item I will take from the Camino and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.
When I looked at the stone later, I noticed that part of the arrow was missing; it had chipped off. What a beautiful reminder of my two-part Camino!