As always, I ask the mountain’s permission to climb it. I don’t know why I do this but I always have, out of respect; it is much bigger than I am after all. The track steepens. Rocks slick with moisture protrude from a dark, damp earth. Trees block out the sun, chilling the air and I smell musty soil. Sunlight discovers chinks in the foliage and paints patterns on the ground.
As I clear the woods O Cebreiro appears above me. A blanket of cloud drapes the col and wet, wispy fingers of mist tickle over the mountainside. I pull on a layer of clothing and put on my sunglasses as the light intensifies. I reach O Cebreiro and the small cluster of houses lining a cobbled street. The mist hangs motionless, twinkling, as people appear and disappear in the gloom The cafes do their best to warm everyone. I climb further then descend, but it’s not until Fonfria that I emerge from under the cloud, grateful for the sun again.
Atalaya Mountain Hiking Trail Map Photo Gallery
I struggle to get my temperature comfortable. Just a T-shirt, then a long-sleeve shirt, a jacket or all three? The long-sleeve wins, just a little colder being preferable to overheating. I’m up around 1,300m, waiting for the trail to drop to the town of Triacastella where I’ll see how I feel; if I’m tired an overnight stop will win the day. But I feel good when I get there, so the sweet little village of Samos with its monastery beckons, seven miles on.
From the start at St Jean Pied de Port, past Santiago itself then onto the coast at Finistera, and a further day to Muxia totals 600 miles. I’m treating the first 500 as a test, trying to complete it in less than three weeks. On target so far although I’m feeling the physical side. I don’t know why I have chosen to do this – sometimes I push myself to find my limits. After Santiago I will ease off and relax to Finistera, then Muxia. A far more sedate pace will be a suitable reward for my efforts.
I continue to Samos, bringing in twenty-nine miles for the day. I cross the Rio Pequeno and admire the monastery, founded around the 5th century and one of the oldest monasteries in the western world. Samos is cradled in the lee of the surrounding hills and somewhat sheltered. It’s a tranquil place; accommodation options are scattered and the local bars cater for a pilgrim’s needs.