down the hill into the rain shadow

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the hike down from O’Cebreiro proved dramatically different than the ascent the previous day. it was overcast and windy in the passes and stayed much cooler well into the middle of the day. (once we got to Triacastela and the day washed off, I was a bit wishful for a warmer pair of clean pants.) the main roadway down from O’Cebreiro cuts over a 1,264 meter pass at Alto San Roque, where there’s a large statue of a peregrino gripping his hat and bracing against the wind. (of course we had to cross the road and pose with it.) the bronze Monumento do Peregrino stands atop the peak near an old hermitage of the same name. the first record of the hermitage dates from the early 17th century and is known for its unique architecture and wooden facade.

not long after posing with the statue, we stopped for a quick bite at a small cafe in Padornelo where a hopeful, speckled rooster hovered around our table, hoping for flakes to drop off our bocadillo. it wasn’t the last close-encounter we had with livestock or wildlife in Galicia which, similar to western portions of Ireland, has a disproportionate human-to-livestock ratio. because the Camino often follows farm tracks and narrow back-roads, we encountered lots of evidence of cows or sheep heading from their lodging in one of the tiny farming hamlets that led to Triacastela off to their pasture for the day. on one memorable occasion, we encountered a herd of lovely caramel-colored cattle heading uphill rather late in the morning. two younger Spanish women (maybe college-age) walking just ahead of us seemed fascinated by the cows … in a way that made it seem obvious they must live someplace where one doesn’t run into cows very often. or ever. one of them walked right up to one of the cows to pose for a picture; the cow, obviously freaked out by this strange person approaching her, stopped and halted the progress of the herd up the hill. the farmer, who was leading them to pasture, came storming up at the rear of the herd and ripped into both of them for stopping the cows. I couldn’t understand precisely what either side was saying (as it was in Spanish) but the sentiment needed no translation.

for much of the descent, as the guide book alerted us (correctly and reasonably for once), was through clouds — visibility wasn’t more than a few hundred meters at best for quite a ways. it was a nice change from the heat of the previous days, even if my hair did some wacky curling. the increased precipitation meant an array of new flora, including blue lilies, wild roses, blackberries, hawthorn, broom, gorse … as well as more fauna. likely because of the smaller human population, there’s a diverse wildlife population in Galicia, too. apparently, if we’d been observant, we might have seen evidence of wolves, harriers, short-toed eagles, martens, wild boar, sparrow hawks, and ermine. if I’d been Galician wildlife, though, I’d have gotten as far away from the tromping peregrinos as possible and leave no trace of myself behind!

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.