40 Days to Santiago — Day 30
Another day I have to pull from my memory, and I have no trouble doing so: this is the day I did part of the Camino de Santiago on horseback.
If you read through Camino forums with the dedication I did when preparing for my pilgrimage, you’re likely to hear about the possibility of making the steep ascent to O’Cebriero on horseback. From the start, it was my plan to take advantage of that experience. Did I need to do it by horse? No. Did I feel slightly guilty taking the easy way up? Yes. I am glad I did it? Without a doubt.
I made sure to call ahead to reserve a spot with the first group in the morning. Victor, the host, walks up the mountain three times every day leading the horses! I got up early and walked about 2 kilometers to a meeting spot at the edge of Herrerías and the base of the climb to O’Cebriero, where Victor is already waiting with the horses. He still had one sport left, so we decided to wait and see if any other pilgrims wanted to make a last-minute ditch of the walk up the mountain with us.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, a pilgrim I had seen every so often limped up to our group, and I called out to him, inviting him to take the last spot and join us on the horses. He didn’t hesitate to take us up on the offer. Just the day before, he had badly twisted his ankle, and was desperate to continue the Camino, but didn’t see a way forward. We were in too remote of a location in the mountains to take a bus ahead, a private car was too expensive, and he certainly would not be able to make the whole climb without causing even more severe damage to his foot. When we arrived at O’Cebriero, he told me that I may have just saved his Camino (it helped ease the guilt I felt letting a horse do the hard work and breezing past all the struggling pilgrims slowly working their way uphill).
I rested briefly at this mountaintop village made up of cobblestones and thatched rooftops, spending a moment in front of the Eucharist at the church, and continued on my way past the multi-windowed pilgrim’s albergue. I knew there were still plenty of hours remaining in the day that I could use to get a few more paces ahead of this popular stopping place, and thought it best to leave this hostel to the pilgrims who spent their whole day climbing.
The view for the rest of this walk, along the mountaintop and ridge, is spectacular for the entire way. In this stage, the pilgrim passes a large statue of a pligrim, gripping his staff and braced against the infamous fog and wind of mountainous, green Galicia.
I stopped for the night at Albergue A Reboleira in Fonfría, a circular, stone, thatched-roof pilgrim’s refuge overlooking forested Galician hillsides. The bunks tetris-ed into the main large sleeping room were comfortable, the common areas cozy, and the communal meal, with pilgrims tucked around a long rustic wooden table under the thatched roof behind a fireplace — each taking a turn sharing a bit of our story — one to remember.
- We all have moments when we need encouragement from or a helping hand from a friend, acquaintance — or passing stranger. Who can you be that person for today?