Camino Day 34: Laza to Xunqueira de Ambía

We woke up rather early today but tried our best to snooze until at least 6:30 am. The same could not be said about our three roommates whom Mikey has dubbed the French Von Trapps. Nope, they were awake and alert by 5:30 am. Thanks, guys, you really made our morning.

Well, we also had to swing by the police station to return our keys. As instructed by the officers yesterday, we pushed an ajar window open and placed them on a desk inside the station. Talk about security! This was equal to the sign on one’s front door reading, “The key is hidden under the mat.”

Leaving the Barney Fife Station House, we headed out along a country road before soon joining up with a gravel path. Mikey really likes this scene as it unites the blue sky, curving path, foliage, and a pilgrim’s fountain. Seriously, where’s NatGeo when you need them?!

This was a wonderful backward-facing vista following a 300-meter ascent. So, yeah – we climbed all of that.

Pretty amazing, huh? That is: to stand high on a mountaintop, look over the vast land behind oneself, and know that you worked hard for every step that got you to this very place. Yeah, that’s personal fulfillment. Wait, why are we going downhill?!

Back to the day’s events: we hiked high into the mountains for quite sometime before reaching the village of Alberguería. Contrary to what you might infer based off of its name, we did not stay in, nor did it have a sizable albergue. Still, there was a cafe called El Rincón del Peregrino.

This nominal cafe in a forgettable pueblo has a major thing going for it – pilgrim recognition. According to Camino lore, the owner began writing the names of pilgrims on scallop shells and displaying them inside the establishment.

Well, don’t count Mikey out. “Mikey de California, 19-5-18” (that’s 19 of May 2018) is now – at least for the time being – enshrined on a scallop shell somewhere in a cafe in the mountains of Spain. (Oh, and if you can spot his shell on your upcoming Camino, Mikey owes you a Radler, Mick.)

As we sat outside of the café chatting with a German couple in the clear mountain air, three vans suddenly pulled up and parked on the narrow village street. Yes, we saw our first batch of tourist-pilgrims. Sporting light daypacks and the most unblemished hiking gear, they piled out of the vans and assumed the position for a group photo before taking to the Camino.

While he didn’t dare ask what was in those daypacks since their suitcases were loaded into the back of the vans, Mikey wondered how far the group would be hiking today. After all, as they had skipped the first 12km of unceasing ascents, what would their day’s hike look like?

Although we gave them a good 20 minutes, we caught up with the group in no time and politely powered through and around them. Laughably, the group allowed us to pass by saying, “Make way for a real pilgrim – just look at his pack!” Yeah, overweight was looked highly upon. (Can we save this feeling?!)

Oh, and we saw a miniature hórreo along the way. That’s why we included the above picture. What’s a hórreo, you ask? We’ll get to that – just focus on Mikey’s happiness for once, OK?!

Not too long after passing the tourists (maybe 1.5 hours), we entered the town of Vilar do Barrio. The Laza police had recommended that we stay here since it was a full day’s hike from their town. But, with 21km having taken us a mere 4 hours, we were not yet ready to stop for the day.

So, we took a half-hour break and relaxed outside of the town café. It was just across the way from a tiny gas station and we had fun people watching for a bit. Look at those prices (per liter). But, even worse, look at the poor gas attendant who spends his whole shift in a phone-booth-sized office!

Oh, and as we took our 30-minute break, we saw the tourist-pilgrims enter the town and head for the albergue. Congratulations on that 7km, guys. (Let’s just hope that they didn’t take any last spots from the “real pilgrims.”)

OK – that’s written from a bad place. Namaste and all that jazz, we should be more respectful of our fellow travelers and kinder to those who have more recently joined the Camino family. Lo siento, our newfound friends. After all, we share the same path.

So how ’bout we step away from Mikey being a jerk and talk about Galician culture?! This is a hórreo. Er, … these are hórreos. That’s Galician for an elevated granary made of brick or stone in which one can store crops to dry in the sun and air without being directly subjected to harms of vermin or avian predators.

Yeah, they’re all over Galicia and we’ll see quite a few more before reaching Santiago. The dull part: they all accomplish the same goal. The interesting part: they look kind of different … up close. Like, there’s different decorations and stuff. Does that count?

OK – this is a communal pool. But, it’s not for swimming. (Duh – too small!) Instead, we saw one woman washing lettuce from her garden in it and then another woman doing her laundry in it. (We’re really hoping that they coordinate the timing of this.) Still, this begs the question concerning this town’s access to clean drinking water. (Sorry, but we’re not going for a dip in this.)

Wow – look at that! It’s another hórreo! Not just a segue, Mikey liked the Camino marker and small bit of path in this picture.

Hope you enjoyed the hórreo and all that stuff, cause it’s now the open country and one of the most annoyingly flat and straight marches of the last few weeks. Like, just look at that guy up ahead. Does he look like he’s having fun?

Seriously, though, it was a really flat and boring stretch. (Thank you, Audible. Oh, and now we can finally pass that AP test cause we listened to Great Expectations!)

This empanada slice was a nice reprieve. We stopped at a tiny village only 6km away from our destination since we had read about their outstanding empanadas. Oh, just wait, dear reader, for some of what you will witness in the days ahead. Our protagonist has no fear concerning food and drink. Heck, we’ll even take you to a town just for the tapas! (That’s A Coruña and we already have a hotel – just sayin.)

We went Into the Woods again and Mikey scared away any predators with his singing.

Finally, we looked back over the horizon and saw the beautiful countryside through which we had walked. (Sorry, Lot’s wife.) Yeah, this is a pretty cool vacay.

Having ascended a few hundred meters today, the mountaintop vistas were well deserved.

We entered the town and found a beautiful 12th-century monastery in at its center.

Surprisingly, the doors were open and we even got to see a bit of the cloister. It was peacefully cool in the inner courtyard’s shade.

Alas, we were not bunking with the monks tonight, so we headed to the albergue and secured a bottom bunk – score! Then it was time for a bit of washing and rest. Today was definitely a tough one.

We went into town and relaxed at a cafe/lottery store (yes, that’s a thing here) before heading to dinner at the extremely early hour of 7 pm. Mikey sweet talked the proprietress into firing up the kitchen before 7:30 and we had a salad and beef stew for dinner.

Well, we should go check on our laundry and start getting ready for bed. We have a 25km hike to the city of Ourense tomorrow. Since it’s been nearly two weeks since our last rest day, we’ve sprung for a hotel for two nights. Yep – some Mikey’s getting a cotton bath towel tomorrow! Hasta pronto.

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