Day 35 Camino – Vega de Valcarce to O Cebreiro

Despite my hermit tendencies I appear to have made some friends. I didn’t expect it, but there are people who I wait for now, or catch up to or message to see where they are. It’s been a long time on the trail, and longer still if you factor in the time effect that yesterday’s blog touched on. This evening in O Cebreiro it is a convergence of people I like. And it’s the perfect place for it.


When I first announced I was off on this jaunt I expected some of the reactions I got. “Oh I did that,” “Oh my gran did that,” “Oh I want to do that.” The reaction I hadn’t anticipated came from my friend Mel. “Oh, I’m going to do that immediately now because you’ve reminded me it’s possible.” I hadn’t thought about the possibility of being a thought-leader or somesuch other bullshit concept. But if I was sacrificing my freedom to an uncaring monolith, and if I believed that all the arse that people pretend is important had some meaning, I’d be able to put that on my CV now and charge loads for half an hour of bullshit motivational twot. Because she finally got started because of me. So yeah, if you run a big city firm and you have employees who have problems just taking that extra step from concept to reality then you can get me in to do an actualisation workshop where I can turn those concepts into reality and that’ll be 15k thankyouplease. Frankly I probably could improve productivity for your batteries just by teaching them to be less blocked. But first I have to want to do that shit and I don’t.


Mel started her Camino in Pamplona 18 days after me. She had a bike. She’s been gradually catching up as I’ve been walking. I haven’t made it easy on her until today. But today is the shortest day I’ve walked. Because finally there’s a mountain where it isn’t foggy. St Jean to Roncesvalles – fog. Cruz da Ferro – fog and snow. Finally, now, crossing through Lo Bierzo and into Galicia proper the weather has been astonishing. And my Camino family wanted to stop here, and despite my attempts to stay isolated, I’ve made friends and we like seeing each other and we try to stick together. So suddenly, here, in the afternoon on top of this hill, all my friends converged (apart from my angels like Stephanie and Marie.)

This town is very significant on this route. At mass this evening they gave us all rocks with yellow arrows painted on them. I will treasure mine. Elias, the priest here in the 1970s, wrote the first modern guide to the path. Then in 1982 he walked the route with a shit-ton of yellow paint and a brush and he originated the yellow arrows that we all now take for granted and that tell us where to go. The thousands of people who walk this way now every month – we’d all have to be idiots to lose the path. It’s so extremely well marked, especially compared to the blanc et rouge in France. And partly because of this one enterprising priest, our footfall has transformed impossible towns into functioning homes for many. Yes it has been enhanced by the Estevez/Sheen movie and the Coelho book. But at the start of the resurgence was that one brilliant man with a paintbrush.

Now even my actions and writings have inspired someone else to do their own version of this. Use leads to use. Experience catalyses experience. We are in the same town tonight. Maybe we will elide for a while. But she will get what she gets, as I’m getting what I’m getting. It might be nice to coincide with a friend for a while. But my Camino friends are just as important.

On a day like this, walking up to where we could see the whole luscious valley of El Bierzo below us, and knowing we are moving into Galicia – this trail is nothing but a blessing.


Wearing shorts in November, eating all the meat you can eat, beer, wine, friends, heat and walking. The hardest part is past. Just more joy to come. So long as we pay attention.




Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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