Villafranca del Bierzo to O’Cebreiro

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Last year the stretch to O’Cebreiro struck a fear in my heart as all I heard along the Camino was the dreaded day I would have to trek up the 1,300 meter high summit of O´Cebreiro. I can remember how painful ever step of the way was and kept wondering if the climb would have been easier without the blisters, exhausted body and sore feet I had at that point on the Camino. Well, here I was back at that point but this time without the blisters, exhausted body and sore feet. The weather conditions continued to be nasty and we heard that the snow was thick and solid on the paths especially the last part so we decided to take the day slowly and allowed ourselves the grace of deciding whether we would climb the summit or not once we got to Vega de Valcarce.

There are three Camino paths that lead out of Villafranca to O´Cebreiro. The traditional, well-trodden path, the bike path and then the brave souls path which is the more scenic, though significantly less travelled path, to reach the summit. We opted for the traditional well-trodden path which took us winding around the highway but had good access to bars along the way. (Can´t go too long without that cafe con leche)!!

We got off to a fairly late start as I had to get Tanika a new rain poncho. Her poncho tore in the bad weather of the previous day. I was also told that there would possible be no rain between 10h00 and 12h00 which was another reason I delayed our ¨get going¨energy! 10h30 it was still pouring with rain and we just had to get going.

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The rain was pounding down in buckets and we stopped under every bridge to change Tanika´s socks to keep her feet dry as best we could. I was told about a brilliant product just before I left South Africa, Glide which is a liquid powder – I kept rubbing this on Tanika´s feet with every sock change which seemed to help a bit as well. (Gerry you need to get some before you leave next week however I also know you did not suffer with blisters last year)!

I am enjoying sharing my experience of last year with the girls. I have been able to take them to most of the stops and bars I enjoyed on my Camino and I love answering all of the million and two questions they have, even the one question that I thought would get up my royal canadian ¨how much further do we have to go before we stop¨!! We arrived at a small village called Trabadelo and enjoyed lunch with a noisy German crowd as well as a mom and daughter from Singapore. Lunch was festive and fun and the food was excellent. Those of you who have read my blog of last year ( will remember that this was one of my most favorite stops.

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Tummies way too full we continued in the pouring rain and got as far as Vega de Valcarce. The feedback in the little village was that the snow was thick and the fog would settle in within an hour which would have made things way more challenging for us. We had walked 20km thus far so we decided as a trio to taxi the last 8km up to O´Cebreiro. Just as well, as the snow was hecticly thick and solid on the paths and mountain.

Cathedral in O'Cebreiro

Cathedral in O’Cebreiro

O´Cebreiro – has the most stunning pastoral views and on the rare occasions that the mist clears enough to see more than three steps ahead of you, you can enjoy the view. The weather was awful and it was freezing cold, with -5 degrees that night. Summer snowstorms are not unheard of and dense fog is the norm year-round. Although it’s pretty in the sunshine, murky mist seems to suit 0 Cebreiro’s architecture perfectly.

The focal point of the village is the modern Iglesia de Santa Maria, rebuilt in the 1960s on top of the ruins of a Romanesque church. It’s believed that the Holy Grail from which Christ drank at the Last Supper was hidden here for safe-keeping in the Middle Ages.

The church’s statue of the Virgin is said to have tilted her head to get a better look at the miracle, and she’s now known as La Virgen del Milagro. Although the grail is no longer here, the remains of the flesh and blood are held in a silver reliquary donated by Queen Isabel.

Outside the church, a bust of Elias Valina has pride of place.Valina was a local parish priest who wrote important books on the camino and was a driving force behind its revival during the 1960s and 1970s. He also did much to preserve 0´Cebreiro’s pallozo architecture, and he’s buried in the church graveyard.

The girls and I enjoyed the cathedral lighting many candles and leaving more well wishes for those dear and close to us. Mike Neokorides I lit a candle for you and placed it carefully amongst many others so it too could draw further positive energy for your speedy recovery.


Cassidy lighting a candle for her brother Bradley

Cassidy lighting a candle for her brother Bradley

Special moment with my youngest lighting a candle for all the people that have been a part of our wonderful lives

Special moment with my youngest lighting a candle for all the people that have been a part of our wonderful lives

Another special moment with my eldest sending blessings to all the special people in our lives

Another special moment with my eldest sending blessings to all the special people in our lives

20130325_191257 20130325_191244 This journey has been such a blessing for "sisters" 20130325_190642

…..on we walk……..

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  • Rob Nell

    Awesome…… Loving it!

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