It was still dark and it was still raining. There was a lot of activity at about 5:30am inside the albergue as the keen walkers were getting ready to leave. I had a couple of fresh peaches and a coffee with the others who had been forced to spend the night on the floor of the albergue due to the lack of beds.
Just as it was getting light, probably about 6:30am (I had taken my watch off weeks ago as there seemed no need for a watch on the timeless Camino!), I set off in the light rain. The poncho came into its own again and helped to fend off the damp chill air. The Way climbed past a small church and into dense woodland which gave some shelter from the drizzle. The smell of moist leaves and mosses was very strong. Some time later the Way came to a road and followed it’s edge for some time. There were clearings in the forest where local farmers grew maize and dairy cows grazed. There were a few small villages but no people around.
After about eight kilometres, at the small village of Pena, I was relieved to see a sign for a cafe. Many other walkers were there eating croissants and drinking hot milky coffee. It was a relaxing place and it was two coffees later before I could persuade myself to continue. At least by now the rain had stopped and the cloud was breaking up. The Way continued by the road then headed off to the right into more open maize fields and forest stretches. By the fields there were quite a few ‘Horreos’ (stone structures used to store grain). The forest was a native and Eucalyptus mix and in places was quite spectacular. I constantly compared this environment to the dry parched lands of only a few days ago. It was cool and pleasant walking.
It was lunch time by the time I got to the small village of Santa Marina. There I was told that there was a bar and restaurant on the main road. Being hungry, it was a relief to hear that news. I had some sardines in olive oil but no bread. Asking inside, the barman pointed me to another house along the road. ‘That is where the baker lives’ he said. I knocked on a garage door and was invited in through the house to a large kitchen behind. Three ladies were hard at work. One was mixing bread doe in a large mixer, another stirring a huge pot of Galician vegetable soup, and a third preparing to carve the largest joint of meat I have ever seen. I asked for some bread and they happily weighed a huge loaf of bread before selling it to me for €0.50. Delighted with the purchase I returned to the bar and tore into the fresh bread and tin of sardines.
Gennaro and Richardo arrived and ordered a sandwich. Soon after Matt and Rory (who I first met in Triacastela) arrived. We all sat chatting and having a beer under the shade of a huge tree outside the bar. It was great to watch the many other walkers come and go. Some stopped while some continued on past. There was a couple with umbrellas wheeling their packs behind them, and another couple returning to Santiago de Compostela with their donkey.
By now it was getting very hot. The last remaining cloud had disappeared and the contrast with the chill wet of the morning was marked. I continued on with Rory and Matt. They were both suffering from leg and foot problems so we stopped every hour in order that they could rest. The land opened up again as we left the forest behind. It was mainly rolling fields as we reached the top of a long slow climb. The views down to a reservoir in the valley below and to the mountains in the distance were superb. After another long pause in a field for a siesta near Lago, it was a further six kilometres to Puente Olveiroa. Just after the bridge in Puente Olveiroa there was a simple A-frame building – a cafe and outdoor sports centre. Free camping was offered for pilgrims too so this would be the stop for the night!
Many other pilgrims had the same idea, and we all ordered the Pilgrim Menu together that night. It was a substantial meal and great fun. We swapped stories about our adventures as the food and wine kept flowing. It was very late when we all finally retired to the tents provided by the albergue. It was such a mild warm night that I happily laid down the sleeping mat and crawled into the sleeping bag and bivi bag under the stars. This is life as it should be!