Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

September 27th, Day 26: Villafranca to La Faba ‘A Rainy Welcome to Galicia’

Rain coat and poncho on, ready for the elements.
La Faba

We rise early in Villafranca, mostly because we are all ready to get out of the albergue. It got even worse in the night, when a few pilgrims discovered bed bugs. Some have been affected more than others. Ramon has a couple of bites, but one of our roommates, Julia, is covered from head to toe in red welts. We pack up and hit the road. Fortunately, I have been spared, and I’m thankful to my sleep sheet for this.

The others have made an early morning start. Jesse and Ramon have chosen to walk the challenging, more scenic route, and Dima, Keren and Tammy have walked ahead. We haven’t linked up with Kyle and Jennifer yet, but we hope to find them in La Faba.

I set out from the albergue at dawn, but heavy clouds prevent any type of sunrise this morning, and it’s obvious that rain is imminent. I walk through the town square, following two pilgrims ahead of me. When they realize I’m following them, they politely let me know they aren’t walking out of town, and I backtrack to the correct route out of town, crossing a bridge and walking along a winding road that takes me under a major highway underpass and eventually puts me on a shoulder parallel to a highway.

I wonder how much more scenic Jesse and Ramon’s path is and if I should have followed that one, but I opted for the easier, shorter and therefore, less scenic route today. And given the weather rolling in, maybe I’ve made a good decision.

I link up with an older pilgrim and we chat as I stop to don my bright yellow poncho. I walk a few steps ahead but call back to him to point out a full rainbow unveiling in the dark, rainy sky ahead. Fortunately, for now, it’s just sprinkling very lightly, and I stop to have a large coffee and tortilla de patatas in what resembles a truck stop cafe. When I set out again, I seem to feel like I’m on the wrong path. I can see what looks like a more scenic path running parallel to me, a river in between us, but eventually the two link up. The other odd thing is that I seem to be the only one on the road. Funny how if I were with the group, I probably wouldn’t question any of this, but since I am solo, I am more aware of my surroundings and the results my choices have…If I get lost, I am lost alone!

After about another hour, the road veers right, and I make my way down a wet, leaf strewn road. It’s as if Autumn has arrived over night. The temperatures have dropped considerably and the leaves seem to have changed color in 24 hours. It’s a welcomed change from our long, hot, dry walks, but the rain seems to be arriving with a vengeance.

I have left all main roads behind me now, and I walk through a number of picturesque farms and villages, where cattle roam, and the chimneys of small homes blow smoke, but I don’t pass a pilgrim or a villager for hours.

Finally, in La Portela de Valcarce, I can’t fight the rain any longer, so I stop in a cafe and order an aquarius. I sit at an outside table, protected by an awning and watch as monsoon rains fall. I have no choice but to wait it out, but the rain is relentless. It shows no signs of stopping. If I want to catch up with the others, I will have to walk through it.

The albergue church in La Faba.

It’s just over 6 kilometers to La Faba, where we said we would walk to today, and it rains for the better part of that walk. It’s an uphill climb into La Faba, which is sort of protected by forest, and I’ve managed to remain relatively dry, but it is damn cold.

When I reach the peak of the hill into La Faba, I can either continue straight to leave town, or hang a right down a narrow path to enter town. I make the right and as I reach the end of the path, I run into Tammy, Dima and Keren. They are on their way into town for lunch, and they welcome me warmly with hugs. It’s so nice to see their faces, and we’ve only been apart one day.

I head to the albergue with Tammy, and we plan to meet Dima and Keren in a few minutes for lunch. Tammy informs me that the albergue owner is having everyone keep their belongings in the church next to the actual inn, in an effort to prevent a bed bug infestation. I get checked in, drop my bag in the church and head into town with Tammy.

Afternoon vino tinto.

We find Dima and Keren at a small cafe and join them for a pilgrim’s lunch. The door keeps blowing open and the air is freezing. Dima loans me his sweater and we warm up with some vino tinto. The weather and the wine is making us all tired and we head back to the albergue. The room is like a log cabin, with a slanted ceiling and wood floors, and the beds are like cots. I roll out my sleep sack, crawl in and sleep easily for two hours.

The typical Galician forecast.

It’s early evening when I wake, and no one else seems up for a walk back into town, so I head to the cafe for a small bite to eat. Dima, Jesse and Kyle join me later and eat Magnum ice creams while I finish my dinner, and we all head back to the albergue together. I’m nervous I won’t sleep after such a long, late nap, but the cooler temperatures and the sound of rain outside lull me to sleep easily.

Tomorrow, we enter Galicia, which is notorious for being cool and damp. Even the pictures in the guidebook show wet landscapes and pilgrims in ponchos. I wonder what we will wake to.

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