I hated to leave my comfortable hotel on this cold and dark morning, but I had nearly 20km to walk. After eating a hearty breakfast, I was on my way at 8:09. Clouds were nestled into the folds of the mountains as I walked alone past the village cemetery and then through Os Valos Mamurria and on to A Brea.
A short woodland path at the back of Meson A Brea led uphill to Alto Rosairo. In this spot, medieval pilgrims would begin to recite the rosary, thus the name. Before trees were planted here, views could be had to the peaks behind Santiago de Compostela.
I entered the suburbs of Palas de Rei. This town straddles the camino and was a “compulsory” stop in the Codex Calixtinus, an anthology of background detail and advice for pilgrims, likely compiled from 1138-1145, following the Way of St. James to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
It is said that the Visigothic king Witiza (701-9) constructed a palace here that gave the town its name. He was the last of the militant Arian heretics who held that Jesus was not human or divine, but supernatural, according to The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago.
Lestedo to A Brea (1.8 km) to Palas de Rei Pavillón (4.3 km) to Palas de Rei Centro (1.2 km)
I got misplaced in that town and ended up in a cute little shop with Laurel from Boise, with whom I’d talked while walking into Sarria. We went on a bit of a shopping spree for over an hour. I got a couple of necklaces, a bracelet, another buff, and a shirt. Laurel did more damage than I did.
In the shop, I also met two lovely ladies, Stephanie and Joann from Connecticut, who struck up a conversation. They asked if I was Catholic and I said I was a fallen-away Catholic. They said they were practicing Catholics. As was so often the case with fellow pilgrims, we shared why we were walking the Camino. When I told them about my search for peace of mind over the struggles of my loved one, Stephanie promised to pray for him.
Someone high up in their Connecticut church knew of a Bishop in Germany who would be conducting a special mass for German pilgrims at 4:00 on Saturday; it would be a big mass and the group had paid 450€ for the Botafumeiro to be swung. The Botafumeiro is a famous thurible, a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
I sent this information on to Darina by WhatsApp; we were confused because nothing on the Cathedral website said there would be a mass at 4:00 on Saturday. I told Darina that I’d try to make it to Santiago before 4:00, that I’d try to leave O Pedrouzo by 6 a.m.! I knew that the Cathedral didn’t swing the Botafumeiro at every mass, and being witness to that was one of my top desires for my Camino.
After leaving town, I crossed the N-547, and then the river Ruxián, and up into Carballal with its many raised granaries (horreos) back down to cross the N-547 again onto a eucalyptus-scented woodland path. Occasional cork oaks and thickets of bamboo hinted of the more temperate climate westward toward the Galician coast.
Finally, I crossed a marshy area into San Xulián, a classical Camino village with a tiny 12th-century church dedicated to Saint Julian.
Palas de Rei Centro to San Xulián (Xiao) do Camiño (3.4 km)
More granaries, more forest paths, more short ascents and descents as we dipped into a series of dry river beds. The path continued down to the Rió Pambre, with birches, willows and narrow-leafed ash trees lining the banks; we crossed it at Ponte Campaña-Mato and stopped briefly at Casa Domingo for some cafe con leche. We climbed gently along the route through an ancient oak woods to Casonova.
San Xulián (Xiao) do Camiño to Casanova (2.3 km)
There wasn’t much in Casanova, so we entered into the quiet rural province of A Coruña, surrounded by woodland. The Pass of the Oxen (Porto de Bois), the high point of today’s stage, was once the scene of a bloody battle between warring nobility. It was said that the stream ran red with blood all the way to the Ulla River. We crossed over the provincial border at a scrap yard in Cornixa into O Coto.
Casanova to O Coto (2.7 km)
I continued through O Coto and then through an undulating track through woods, crossing a medieval bridge into the camino village of Leboreiro (field of hares), with its paved street, thatched granary, and 13th-century Romanesque Santa María Church (rebuilt in the 18th century). It has a stone tympanum of Virgin and Child over the main door. The town boomed from the 11th to the 13th centuries, offering important support for pilgrims.
We then crossed the medieval Magdalena Bridge over the río Seco into Disicabo. The path carried us upward to the main road and over a footbridge to join a stretch of senda (track) separating the N-547 from an industrial estate. After passing that endless path between factories and sheds, I crossed the elegant medieval 4-arched Ponte Velha into Furelos and stopped at another church there, Igrexa San Juan. This village once belonged to the Hospitallers of San Juan.
O Coto to Furelos (Ponte Velha) (4.6 km)
Through Furelos I went, and then through modern suburbs and the Romanesque church of San Pedro & San Roque beside a famous 14th century stone cross reputed to be the oldest in Galicia, Crucero do Melide, Christ in majesty and Christ crucified on the reverse.
I then made my way into Melide, with its declining population of 7,500, through a variety of pulperías and cafes. The old part follows the typical medieval layout of narrow winding streets with shops, bars and restaurants serving the regional specialty, octopus, or pulpo.
The town was once an important market and transportation hub but curiously was largely defenseless. In 1316, permission was granted to build a wall, but it was never finished. In medieval times, the Way was the town’s most important feature, with the town’s businesses and homes stretched in a long thin line along the highway. In 1575, many of the town’s 100 families were innkeepers.
Furelos (Ponte Velha) to Melide (Centro) (1.5 km)
After checking into Albergue O Candil in Melide, I went in search of the regional specialty, pulpo, and found the cavernous Pulpería Garnacha. I was hesitant to try pulpo because I imagined it would have that chewy texture that makes me gag, but the little suction cups were surprisingly not too chewy. Besides, Darina had highly recommended it, and she was always full of good advice. Still, I had to look at those things and make myself not think about what I was eating. They were good, but I doubt I’d ever seek them out again. Prawns always call my name when I’m looking for seafood.
After dinner, the rain had let up so I walked through Plaza del Convento where I found the austere parish church, Iglesia de Sancti Spiritus, formerly a 14th-century Augustinian monastery.
I was nearing the end at this point, with only three more days to walk. 🙂
*Day 44: Wednesday, October 17, 2018*
*33,190 steps, or 14.07 miles: Lestedo to Melide (19.9 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Seville, Second Helpings.