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Alternative route from Ferreira to Sobrado dos Monxes (Route Review)

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
N Wales, Frances, Salvador, Primitivo 2022
After following the sub-thread Camino Verde with great interest, I decided that the detour to Sobrado dos Monxes was worth it for visiting the monastery itself as well as avoiding the crowd from Camino Frances. We did it only in May this year and combination of heat+tarmac+crowd didn’t bode well for Fuji.

With reports from @BombayBill about overgrown paths, broken boardwalk1667420130319.jpeg etc, lack of facilities in Friol, plus this suggestion by @peregrina2000:
I’ve often thought that there might be a good connector from Ponte Ferreira to the Norte, so that pilgrims could enjoy (1) Lugo - Santa Eulalia - Ponte Ferreira and then (2) Ponte Ferreira - Sobrado dos Monxes,
I decided this ☝🏻 Is what we would attempt to do!

Lugo-Santa Eulalia-Ferreira, the turn off to go to Santa Eulalia was well marked, after the vending machine coffee break at O Burgo. If you use Buen Camino, the detour is also well marked. I will write a separate post about this experience because I think very few pilgrims went to see it and what an experience they missed!

From Ferreira to Sobrado I followed the track provided by the albergue here

There was a warning about a lot of loose dogs, but I felt that’s how the rest of all my Camino with Fuji is like (as any sleeping dogs would awaken and greet us, one way or another) so I just kept a mental note that I may have to watch out but not something that put us off. 😅 also I read that “first bar after 21km, 5km before Sobrado”.

So here we go!

I had a very big backpack that day, as we crossed over from Primitivo to Norte, there was no luggage transfer per se, our reliable Taxi Camino would do it but for a taxi fare, and in my mind if I am paying taxi fare, I ought to be in there with Fuji! Not just our pack? So with Fuji’s food for 5 days (3 days walking plus 2 days in Santiago), and food for the day (enough to feed 4 normal people, or 1 peregrina and 1 perregrina), we set off from Ferreira (Albergue A Nave, just before Ponte Ferreira).

15 minutes in, the Primitivo mojone pointed to the left, but the track to Sobrado goes to the right. Had to explain to some pilgrims I was going to a different place.

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After 7km road walking, the track finally changed into trail… at one point we missed a turn, because it didn’t look like there was another trail and I just followed the “main” one. And just after we got on the wrong track, a driver came from the opposite direction, stopped and asked us “Donde vas?” “A Sobrado”. “El Camino esta ahi” pointed in the other way. Oopst! Then I checked my trusted GPX tracking and of course I had gone astray. Thank you Camino angel 😇 (nb: the wrong path I was walking on was going to lead to a dead end, so sooner or later I would also be put back on the right track!)

2 hours into the walk, my track directed me to walk on the path next to the carretera then cross the road from the left side to the right to join a footpath (see picture). This is just north of the village Suouteiro. Funnily enough, just as I emerged on the carretera, a lorry driver stopped by, concerned of a lone female walker with a dog, seemingly in the middle of nowhere! So I explained what I was doing, he didn’t know how to get to Sobrado on foot though, so I told him I do have a map/route. So he wished me well. Still, very kind of him. Also, another hint at what was to come next!

This time, I was on the right track, as per my routing, but there was a piece of string across the footpath. It wasn’t a very long footpath, and it ran parallel to the carretera. So one option would be to go back and continue walking on the carretera. But I thought it wasn’t a long footpath and it didn’t look dangerous and if the track proved to be treacherous then I would backtrack. So it was overgrown and muddy, but nothing dangerous. No fallen trees that I had to climb over or scrambling some rocky ledge etc (like in previous caminos).

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Next up is the dog situation… as we walked past the villages of Ascariz and Folgar, there were…. MANY MANY aggressive loose local dogs. Also boosted by the pack mentality, neighbouring dogs would also join in and escort us out of the village, which we were very happy to! They were not nice to Fuji at all. Usually, most of the time, local dogs would bark but did not follow (ie just guarding their territory) or follow to sniff around but in a curious/slightly alert way. But these dogs were so vicious. No signs of any owners either. HOWEVER, they were scared of me (!) maybe they have spent their lifetimes getting shouted at and beaten by humans that they were scared of my towering 5’4” figure with huge booming voice (not) and 2 pathetic little walking sticks. But that would do it! The dogs would cower and back away, but then they would follow us again, so each time they got too close, I would do the same shouting and waving my sticks move, to shoo them away.

So nothing happened, but it was just so noisy and wasn’t a very nice experience to walk through these villages. I passed them around 2h45min from starting.

Soon after I passed Folgar though, I saw this very reassuring bus shelter, or maybe 2, prob the first Camino signs on this homemade route, yay!

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Today’s track was beginning to look like an anthology of our Camino nightmares, like a gauntlet that we had to pass one by one… next up is the closed gate situation…
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The signs on the gate say “private property of MVMC de Carballo”. It was prohibited to pick mushrooms 🍄 that the pasture is protected for raising Galician horses, and most importantly “pechen a porta” which means “shove the gate” or maybe, “please close the gate after”. Means I could get through right? This time, there was no alternative road option. It would be a significant big by backtracking.

After the first main gate, the next set of gate was open anyway, but as I continued to walk…. I saw in the distance…. A closed 3rd gate!

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From far away, this did not look good initially. Flashback to times in the past when I have had to climb over gates and fences because the clearly marked footpath on OS map was in fact sealed off 😫 with no sign to warn that footpath now closed for whatever reason (erosion for example). But as I continued to approach…. There was no lock! Or chain! So I opened and… shoved it close 🤪

Next up was the cow incident. When completing the Welsh Camino, we ran into some cows, got cornered, shoved to the ground. Luckily, Fuji’s backpack protected her inner organs from further damage, but my fleece was torn on the sleeve and I still have faint scars on my arm from that day. The rest of my body was so bruised and sore for days and the bruise on my hip was sore for weeks. For the next 2 days we had to cross fields with cows everyday (all previous stages on the Welsh Camino didn’t have any nasty cow encounter) and they all honed immediately into my dog, and by the 3rd time Fuji refused to walk, even though the cows were behind barbed wire! So we don’t like cows. But we passed gentle Asturian and Galician cows on the Salvador and Primitivo this time, so far. But they were always in a big field and there were more pilgrims than just myself and Fuji.

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This time, there was a shepherd guiding the cows back into the field, but 2 decided to go their own way and didn’t follow the rest/the shepherd. So we had a staring competition. And after what felt like an infinite amount of time, they decided they felt more comfortable with the rest of the pack, and they turned around and walked to the field! Yay Fuji the shepherd dog 🐶

I had my packed lunch in a metal bus shelter surrounded by many insects and barking dogs. By now the Galician sky had opened up and somehow I was glad that at least there was a shelter, because I have eaten sandwiches in the rain. Now, if only there could be a restroom somewhere…

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Ta-dah! First REAL Camino mojone…. Now we were officially on del Norte… 21km done, 5km to Sobrado, and there was a bar(!) yay! Fuji got her lunch, I got to sit on a hard chair that felt soooo comfortable, had hot coffee, stamped my credential, and used the loo!
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The last 5km into Sobrado was easy. Just follow the signs, the route varied from walking along small country roads, either on the road or sidewalk, to trails. Soon we reached the Sobrado lake, and we bumped into a group of monks and nuns from the monastery. Yes, it’s a “Co-Ed” monastery! Never seen one before.

So, what do I think of this alternative route? Well, for a start, there was no marking for the first 21km until the homemade route joins del Norte. I had the GPX track on my phone and watch. I also have del Norte route on Buen Camino open and was waiting anxiously until my dot was actually on the line of the Camino. There was no cafe or toilet. But at least a lot of the track was in nature and one could do their business there (leave no trace remember!). Every now and then, we found a bus shelter, which was the only form that I could sit down for a bit, adjust my gear, have my sandwich…. Of course, zero pilgrim until we reached del Norte. 2 concerned local drivers.

In a way it was both physical and mental challenge for us as we both went through all the nasty things that have happened to us in the past, and by trusting in one another we got on top of our fears. It was like deja vu. There wasn’t anything new that was nasty/horrible/dangerous. We’ve seen it/been there done that. This time without any cuts/bruises/broken gear though!

Would I do it again? Or would I go through Melide? Hmmm tough call. The next day I stayed on del Norte, taking the variant towards Lavacolla, then turned into O Pino and stopped in A Brea. It was 32km solitary walk on asphalt with no shoulder/sidewalk. And the day after that I joined the Disneyland crowd walking the last 25km into Santiago. And suddenly I felt reassured that I had done the right thing 😜 plus I had really good beer at the monastery.

The worry about this homemade route is that nobody is maintaining the track. So trail condition would vary depending on recent weather. I think to do this route, one needs to be very motivated, adventurous, and be prepared for all kinds of eventualities! I’m not sure what happens with Camino Verde, it seems to have been officially named as Camino Verde, with arrow markings etc. Is there a body/organisation responsible for maintaining the trail condition in a good way?
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.

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