Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Climbing to the Sky

We started the morning at the valley floor, with the A-6 flyover far up in the sky above us. In the first 5 miles the Camino climbed 2,000 feet. The ascent began with a steep climb through a chestnut and oak forest up a trail that long, long ago was a cobblestoned lane between stone walls. With the exception of a few stretches where the paving was still nearly intact, the trail had gone back to a path incredibly full of rough, almost randomly arrayed rocks. But once upon a time, someone had made a road here, and trundled farm carts up and down it for who knows how long. The Camino does give one a sense of the transience of everything we do.
After a few miles of clambering up this path, we reached La Faba, one of those tiny Spanish villages that seem incredible simply because they still have people, doing what for a living can only be imagined. After that, the trail was more open and more gradual. A handful of pilgrims, and coming the other way, first a mongrel dog trotting smartly along, followed shortly by a Spanish woman with a leash and obviously asking (some things don’t need translation), “Have you seen my dog, M__something?” I told her yes, he went thataway (signed, more accurately). I learned later from a Spanish-speaking pilgrim who spoke with the woman a few minutes later that the dog used to belong to a man in La Faba, and he runs back to his old home at every chance he gets, and she has to follow behind the several kilometers to La Faba to reclaim him.
At the top we reached O’Cebreiro, not the highest point on the Camino in absolute terms, but the highest point perceptually – the land falls away dramatically on either side, giving the walk from O’Cebreiro to the next town, at approximately the same height, a top of the world feeling. Looking down on the A-6 autopista flyovers from that height makes them seem like play pieces in a children’s construction-block game. Quite a different perception than being under them.It was overall a splendid day. Beautiful going up, beautiful walking along the ridgeline, beautiful walking down to Tricastela, where I’m staying tonight in a casa rurale that played out its real life role several centuries ago, seemingly as a sort of fortified farmhouse protected by very thick stone walls with the smallest of windows looking out, with a courtyard inside surrounded by stables for the animals and living quarters for the owners. Having a half dozen sort of elegant rooms with private baths now seems incongruously chi-chi, but excellent lodging for a night nevertheless.