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2019 Camino Guides

Camino Dragonte: Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro

Camino(s) past & future
April 3rd - May 3rd 2016
#1
Hello fellow Pilgrims,

My brother and I completed our first Camino Frances over the course of 30 days (Apr 3 - May 3 2016), and along the way, I decided to take the elusive Dragonte route from Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro. I thought I would give a writeup of my experience for those interested.

The day in question was April 27th 2016. For the entire course of our walk, my brother Kyle was my guide. He had asked me to accompany him on the Camino, so he was much more prepared to lead in that respect. He carried the guidebook, looked up all accommodations, and filled me in on the history of different places and objects along the way.

In the few days leading up to Villafranca, my brother talking about the day that had 3 different routes. Curious to see for myself, I took a look in the guidebook to see that there were indeed 3 routes possible: One along the road through the valley, one to the right of the valley with one mountain climb, and one to the left with 3 mountain climbs. Right away I was intrigued by the left route. My reasons for walking the Camino were largely for the mental and physical challenge, so upon reading the summary of the Dragonte route, I decided I would be heading that way.


Here is a summary of the route in the guidebook. Some versions don't even include this as an option (for example the Jacobsweg German guide had no mention of this route).


Here is the route as pictured in our guidebook (marked in green).

APRIL 26th 2016

We arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo at around 2pm and located the Municipal Albergue where we would be spending the night. As soon as we were settled, I jumped on the wifi and began researching the route as much as I could. I visited a few different websites and blogs, but to my surprise I was only able to find a couple of pages directly relating to the route itself. I read about people backtracking due to wrong turns, spots where there are 4 different roads that split off of one, and even the need to ford rivers at the bottom of the valleys. This was really cool to read about, but it also made me slightly nervous; I need to ask around to see if anyone else is planning on taking this route.

The others relaxed and took a siesta, while I took pictures of each page of the guidebook that would be helpful to me. This was going to be a long journey, but I knew it would be one of the most rewarding days on the Camino. I took a shower, and started considering what food I would be bringing along with me. I read that there was one bar along the way, and it's run by a lady who lives above it, but it isn't anything to rely on in place of taking less food as it may be closed. The others woke from their siesta around 4pm, so we decided to venture out into the town in search of a supermercado.

After some walking, and asking some locals where the market was, we got there just as it was reopening for the afternoon. I decided I would need lots of protein and energy food, so I picked up the following: 2 chorizo sausages, 1 pack dried banana chips, one pack of "Mix 5" mixed fruit and nuts, sunflower seeds, greek yogurt x 2, granola bars x 10, banana x 3, one apple, and a big bag of croissants for breakfast, taking whatever was leftover.

On the way back from the market we ran into our other German companions Dirk and Rika who were having a beer on a patio. After a brief chat I asked them if they were planning on "doing the hard route tomorrow". They both confirmed that they were going to go for it, and I felt some relief as I wouldn't be taking it on alone. They told me to meet them outside their albergue in the morning and we would set off. We went back to the municipal, dined on tortellini, relaxed, read, and called it an early night; tomorrow would be the biggest day yet.

APRIL 27th 2016

I awoke rather early, eager to get started. Despite my excitement I was able to sleep fairly well, which was a relief because I needed all the sleep I could get. I had packed up the majority of my stuff the night before, so I was able to get down to the kitchen to have my breakfast in good time. I was soon joined by my brother and our other hiking companion Matthias where we ate and discussed the day ahead. I wanted to get started on my way earlier today as it is very long, so I parted ways with them just after 7am, and set out to the other albergue to wait for the others.

I waited outside what I thought was their albergue for around 25 min when I decided to check the name of what he sent me the night before. Turns out I was waiting outside the wrong albergue, as there are two in town with very similar spellings. I was now faced with a predicament. Do I proceed with this route alone? Do I head out there in hopes that I run into them? Do I make my way to the trailhead and wait for them there? I was thinking of my options as I searched for their albergue, which I eventually found. By the time I got there it appeared that they had already left, so I decided I would go forward with the Dragonte route, as its what I planned for.

Upon referencing the pictures of the guidebook I had, I began finding my way to the beginning of the Dragonte climb. It appeared that I was going the wrong way, as I was walking in the opposite direction of the Camino markers, and more than one person got my attention and told me I was going the wrong way. Once I was away from the main trail, I started to see the features described in the guidebook, and knew I was headed in the right direction. Once I crossed the road past the highway tunnel, there was a small cafe where I stopped for a much needed coffee before I took on the 5km climb up to Dragonte. I asked the lady working there if I was on the right path and she confirmed that I was. I finished my coffee, walked another 500m up the road, and reached the beginning.


I felt really good as I began to climb. By this point on the Camino my legs were firing on all cylinders, and climbing a road like this was a great wakeup. I quickly stripped off the layers I was wearing as it began to warm up, and the views quickly made me realize how worth it this day would be. I was passed by a couple of taxis who were headed down the hill who both slowed down, tooted their horns, and wished me Buen Camino.



After about 20 min of climbing, I came across my first white arrow. I had read the night before that some of the trail is marked with white arrows, and this one was pointing me to a trail off to the left of the asphalt road. I thought the climb was all up the road, but I decided to take my chances and follow the arrow. After about 500m, I noticed the trail was descending back into the valley, and decided to turn back and get back on the main road. It turned out to be the right choice, as 15 min later I arrived in Dragonte.

I passed by a couple of locals who greeted me, and looked surprised to see a pilgrim passing through town. I guess this route isn't as heavily travelled as it used to be. I made my way through the town where I arrived at a most welcome water fountain where I took a small break to eat some food, apply sunscreen, and fill up with water.



After a little standoff with a small dog, I made my way out of Dragonte which led me up towards the top of the first mountain peak. It took me above a rock quarry that was far down on my left side where some workers were present. With a sharp whistle I caught their attention, gave them a wave, and kept moving.



After some more steady climbing I came across the first peak, and the first of the 'old Camino' signs that from what I understood, were the old signs that used to mark the way. Another cool thing about this route was that you got a glimpse of how the Camino once was, without the traffic, and albergue advertisements found on the more travelled routes.



I made my way over the first mountain peak, and began to descend into the first valley. I was lead through the trees back onto an asphalt road, which assured me I was going the right way. The guidebook wasn't lying when it said this route isn't well marked. I started to use other things as waymarkers like shoe prints, small bits of trash, ect. Once I hit the asphalt road, it was another 20 min of walking before I reached the next town: Moral de Valcarce



Passing through, there was a father and his two sons working on their small farm who greeted me. I was also approached by a German Sheppard who wasn't used to seeing strangers. (S)he took an aggressive stance, and started growling while approaching my leg, seemingly ready to attack. In my mind I thought "OK, I'm going to get bit. Where will it be, and how much will it hurt?" At that point, the father on the farm yelled some words, and the dog backed off right away, which I was thankful for. The last thing I needed was a dog bite with 30km to go. As I got to the edge of the town, there were more signs marking the way, which again were the signs from the past Camino.



It was after I left this town that navigation became really tough, marking became non existent, and I ended up on the wrong path. It was a series of cattle paths, and I had taken a split off of a split, and walked until the path sort of ended. I didn't like this, as there were 3 more potential options for me to take, and I couldn't afford to spend the energy taking 2 more wrong turns before I found the right one. I knew I had a river to ford at the bottom, and since I could hear the river from where I was, I backtracked to where the original split happened, and took a left which appeared to go down and to the right. When I reached the bottom, it appeared that I took the right path, as this is what I found.



Off came the boots, on went the flip-flops, and I was fording the river. Once I got to the other side it didn't seem like the fording was done, and I was still unsure if i was heading the right way, so I kept the flip-flops on for the time being. I rounded the corner, and to my relief I saw this:


Arrows! After being a little lost, and having not seen a marker in around 30 min, this was a very welcome sight. This next section of fording was longer, and the water was very cold!



After wading through (with plenty of breaks for my freezing feet) I made it to the other side, dried off my feet, put my boots back on, and continued forward. The climb up the second mountain started almost immediately, and the path was lined by chestnut trees. This provided me with some free nourishment, although I had to get through the spiky burr first. I didn't snap a picture of this but it was pretty funny. The path came to a point where it appeared to end, and I wasn't sure where to go. I was looking around when I noticed a group of trees going straight up the side of the hill with little red spray paint lines on them. I took a chance and assumed that that was the way to go, so I started climbing up this very steep grade portion of the hill, and eventually met up with a trail again. I was pretty winded at this point, but noticed a small portion of church through the trees, so I pressed on up the path, and eventually came up to the next town: Villar de Corales.



It was here that I decided to stop for more food. There was another water tap, but when i filled my bottle it appeared a little green so I decided not to chance it; after all I still had a 2L water bladder that was nearly full. I checked my watch - 11:35am. Yikes, I still have a long way to go, and its taken me longer than I thought it would to get to this point. At this point I said to myself "you gotta pick up the pace if you want to make it to O Cebreiro tonight". I ate a lunch of a banana, more chorizo, a couple of granola bars, and a greek yogurt, and continued on my way through the town. From the picture above, you can see that there isn't much going on here, and I thought that a portion of the town was simply abandoned, although I did come across a local at the start of town who was working on a tractor.

I exited the town, and followed another rocky path toward the second peak. The path split again at the peak, but there was another old sign there to point the correct way.

I got over the peak, and was following the path when I met face to face with a herd of cattle walking towards me. Because I was alone, and had never come across this before, I chose to get off the path and let them pass before I continued. In hindsight I could have kept walking right past them, but I didn't want to take any risks when I was alone. Once I passed the herd, I began the second descent. I found this section to be the hardest as the terrain was extremely rocky, and very steep. I was descending for 30 min on terrain that looked like this:



Eventually, descent exited the trees, and I found myself at the top of another rock quarry. This was another good sign as it was highlighted in the guidebook. As I began descending into the quarry I was passed by a truck on the way up with a load of rocks.The driver gave me a wave on the way by as I continued. This continued to be a tough descent; very hard on the feet.



Once I got to the bottom, the path lead out onto public road where I took a right, and then a left leading up to San Fitz de Seo (seen above the rock quarry). Once I reached the town, I took another break, and had my water filled up by a local with a garden hose. I made my way through the town, and exited to some beehives on my left side - another feature that I read about online that again reassured me that I was on the right path.



As I continued along this path, I took a look back and got a cool view of where I just came from.



From this point, I was just following one path which took my navigation worries away. I walked alongside more beehives on my way to the final town before I rejoined the other pilgrims at Herrerias: Villasinde.

Another 45 min from this point I reached Villasinde. The town seemed to be built on a hill, and the only way through it was up very steep roads. I have to admit at this point I was pretty tired. I reached Villasinde at around 14:20, just over 6 hours after I began the initial climb up to Dragonte, and the hills were really starting to kick my ass.

After another short break, and some more water from a tap I continued up another long ascent to the 3rd and final peak of the mountain sets. It was along this stretch where the paths began to get much more overgrown with foliage.



After fighting through this section at points, I finally crossed into clear path at the peak of the last mountain. I joined a road which took me around a bend where I passed a large radio tower. At this point Herrerias was in barely in view, although at the bottom of another very long descent. Because I knew I was almost out of (what I thought was) the toughest part of the day, this made the descent a little easier. Because I didn't look into it, I had no idea what the climb from Herrerias to O Cebreiro was like...



By the time I reached the bottom, and made my way into Herrerias it was 15:40 - just over 7 hours since the initial climb to Dragonte. Had another rest here, but made it short as I wanted to get to O Cebreiro to meet up with Kyle and Matthias in time for dinner. Once I exited Herrerias the climb started pretty much immediately and it wasn't long before I had to stop to tend to my feet. They were starting to get very warm, so I thought it would be best if I took off my boots and applied some Goldbond to my feet. This turned out to be a good choice as I felt much better after I did so. After another gruelling climb, I reached La Faba at 16:30. I prayed that I had one euro in my pocket for a Coke from the machine in town which I did, and it was one of the most refreshing drinks I've ever had.



I knew once I hit this point I was close to O Cebreiro, so I got another burst of energy. I put some of my favourite music on my phone speaker, and had a great time climbing the rest of the way, and taking in the beautiful views

I finally reached O Cebreiro at 17:40 - just over 9 hours since the ascent to Dragonte. Adjusting for the climbs/descents I did approximately 44km on this day.

This was by far the most rewarding stretch of the Camino for me. The solitude, the ambiguous trail markers, the scenery, and the physical/mental challenge all came together to make this the most memorable day. I think it was the most I've ever exerted myself physically in my life, but it was all so worth it (and made the beer that much better that night). It didn't matter how hot the albergue was, or how many snorers there were; I slept like a corpse that night.

Hopefully this gave you a good idea of what the Dragonte route is all about. I know it's very long, so thanks for taking the time to read it. I hope it can be of some help to those wishing to do this route in the future.

Buen Camino friends, safe travels

Brent
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#2
Thank you for this super-detailed report! I have never even heard of this route before! Which guidebook did you use? Buen Camino, SY
 

nidarosa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes please!
#3
Thanks, Brent, I have always wondered exactly how long, how arduous and how difficult/badly signposted the Dragonte route is, and now I know! Though it is not for me - Pradela is my route of choice - I am sure this description will make more pilgrims attempt it and fewer, hopefully, get lost and too exhausted from retracing their steps to find the right path.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Completed: Camino Frances - Spring'16
Preparing: Camino Frances - Fall ‘23
#4
Brent's brother Kyle here. I can confirm that he was exhausted and had quite the story to tell when he arrived in O Cebriero that night! This is more the view Matthias and I had the day in question
Not too thrilling but certainly an easier route for those who aren't insane :) Until you get to Herrerias of course. The last climb into O Cebreiro which everyone has to make is very tough!

- Kyle
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, Inglés, Fisterra/Muxia, Baztanés x2, Primitivo, Norte, Portugués & hopefully many more.
#5
Hi Brent, thanks for your very helpful report. I'll definitely take that route next time, but with a stop at Herrerias. I don't think I could manage another hill at that point!
 
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C

Castilian

Guest
#6
Thanks for the report!

For those interested in walking this variant, the old web of Peter Robins still has detailed maps of this variant at http://pilgrim.peterrobins.co.uk/routes/details/frances.html although it seems they are going to disappear in May 2016. It seems he's building a new/replacement web with the support of other people (see www.peterrobins.co.uk/futurepilgrim.html for more info and details) so if maps aren't available at the old web by the time you look for them, you could see if they are already available on the new one: http://pilgrimdb.github.io

I have never even heard of this route before!
The Dragonte route was used by pilgrims in the past to avoid the portazgo (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portazgo) (in short, for those of you who don't read Spanish, a tax) that was charged to them in Villafranca del Bierzo (the route didn't start in Villafranca del Bierzo but a bit before). It allowed them to avoid the portazgo in Vega de Valcarce (the Castle of Autares) too. There were routes to avoid just the portazgo in Vega de Valcarce (the Castle of Autares) take a look at www.portazgo.org for info about the Portazgo in Vega de Valcarce and at www.portazgo.org/VegadeValcarce/Portazgo.htm for more info about the portazgo.
 
#7
Thanks for the report! We had considered this route when we walked a couple years ago, but I had injured my ankle a couple days before, and although it was feeling better, I knew it wasn't up for the Dragonte. We walk again starting next week, and I'd like to do the Dragonte if we can. We'll see how it shapes up. Its really nice to have a recent detailed description.

I have never even heard of this route before! Which guidebook did you use?
From the map Brent posted, it looked like he used Bierley. That's where I learned of this route as well.
 

DowtyCamino

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
May-July (2014),
May-July (2017)
#8
I'm glad it went well for you. We decided against Dragonete on our Camino and I'm glad we did. It is notoriously difficult and easy to get lost as you well know. Some fellow pilgrims attempted it - a well experienced Japanese couple. They crawled into La Faba late in the evening. They'd gotten quite lost and even though they'd left early the trail got impossible was dusk settled in. They were really beat.
Still...I'd love to tackle it some day. Thanks for the report.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
#9
This is great, Brent. Thank you so much. Ever since I started investigating the Camino Francés, I've been intrigued with the Dragonte. Alas, that route was completely out of the question for me by the time I got to Villafranca del Bierzo (I had to resort to a taxi ride from there to O Cebreiro :() and, to be quite honest, now it's quite likely out of my realm of possibilities. Still, it is wonderful to trek it vicariously through your descriptive report and and fabulous photos. Much appreciated. :):):)
 
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MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
#10
I really appreciate that you shared this, I walked the right hand route that is shorter but had a small village much like what you experienced. Even that route is more difficult to Ocebrio than from SJPDP to Roncevalles. I have always planned to go the Dragonte next if I get back on the Francis.
Thanks again
Keith
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to bike spring 2017
#11
I also read about this route and thought it looked intriguing. Your description is very helpful.
I will be on a bike so will probably go with the pradela route.
This sounds like a great opportunity for a group of volunteers to do some trail marking!
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
#12
Thats awesome.... I had never heard about this route on my previous caminos!

I`ll definitely at least try it ( snow allowing) around december 15th later on this year!!!

I`ll try to remember and re-visit this thread to let you guys know how the route looks like in winter time...

If I might add: Awesome job at describing the route! A lot of details and a lot of words for 30kms route.... I wonder the lenght of a full camino guidebook written by you mate! ( thats a compliment, just to make sure people dont think Im being all negative and judgmental :D:rolleyes:).

You should PDF this and moderator could pin this as a resource material :-D

Congrats!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Starting April 22, 2016)
#13
Some fellow Pilgrims tried to hike Dragonte a few days ago, but the route was allegedly closed. Apparently people are getting lost in the fog, so they decided to close it -- for how long I do not know.
 

TaijiPilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2011), Camino Frances (2015), Camino Ingles (2017), Camino Muxia (2017)
#14
Hello fellow Pilgrims,

My brother and I completed our first Camino Frances over the course of 30 days (Apr 3 - May 3 2016), and along the way, I decided to take the elusive Dragonte route from Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro. I thought I would give a writeup of my experience for those interested.

The day in question was April 27th 2016. For the entire course of our walk, my brother Kyle was my guide. He had asked me to accompany him on the Camino, so he was much more prepared to lead in that respect. He carried the guidebook, looked up all accommodations, and filled me in on the history of different places and objects along the way.

In the few days leading up to Villafranca, my brother talking about the day that had 3 different routes. Curious to see for myself, I took a look in the guidebook to see that there were indeed 3 routes possible: One along the road through the valley, one to the right of the valley with one mountain climb, and one to the left with 3 mountain climbs. Right away I was intrigued by the left route. My reasons for walking the Camino were largely for the mental and physical challenge, so upon reading the summary of the Dragonte route, I decided I would be heading that way.


Here is a summary of the route in the guidebook. Some versions don't even include this as an option (for example the Jacobsweg German guide had no mention of this route).


Here is the route as pictured in our guidebook (marked in green).

APRIL 26th 2016

We arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo at around 2pm and located the Municipal Albergue where we would be spending the night. As soon as we were settled, I jumped on the wifi and began researching the route as much as I could. I visited a few different websites and blogs, but to my surprise I was only able to find a couple of pages directly relating to the route itself. I read about people backtracking due to wrong turns, spots where there are 4 different roads that split off of one, and even the need to ford rivers at the bottom of the valleys. This was really cool to read about, but it also made me slightly nervous; I need to ask around to see if anyone else is planning on taking this route.

The others relaxed and took a siesta, while I took pictures of each page of the guidebook that would be helpful to me. This was going to be a long journey, but I knew it would be one of the most rewarding days on the Camino. I took a shower, and started considering what food I would be bringing along with me. I read that there was one bar along the way, and it's run by a lady who lives above it, but it isn't anything to rely on in place of taking less food as it may be closed. The others woke from their siesta around 4pm, so we decided to venture out into the town in search of a supermercado.

After some walking, and asking some locals where the market was, we got there just as it was reopening for the afternoon. I decided I would need lots of protein and energy food, so I picked up the following: 2 chorizo sausages, 1 pack dried banana chips, one pack of "Mix 5" mixed fruit and nuts, sunflower seeds, greek yogurt x 2, granola bars x 10, banana x 3, one apple, and a big bag of croissants for breakfast, taking whatever was leftover.

On the way back from the market we ran into our other German companions Dirk and Rika who were having a beer on a patio. After a brief chat I asked them if they were planning on "doing the hard route tomorrow". They both confirmed that they were going to go for it, and I felt some relief as I wouldn't be taking it on alone. They told me to meet them outside their albergue in the morning and we would set off. We went back to the municipal, dined on tortellini, relaxed, read, and called it an early night; tomorrow would be the biggest day yet.

APRIL 27th 2016

I awoke rather early, eager to get started. Despite my excitement I was able to sleep fairly well, which was a relief because I needed all the sleep I could get. I had packed up the majority of my stuff the night before, so I was able to get down to the kitchen to have my breakfast in good time. I was soon joined by my brother and our other hiking companion Matthias where we ate and discussed the day ahead. I wanted to get started on my way earlier today as it is very long, so I parted ways with them just after 7am, and set out to the other albergue to wait for the others.

I waited outside what I thought was their albergue for around 25 min when I decided to check the name of what he sent me the night before. Turns out I was waiting outside the wrong albergue, as there are two in town with very similar spellings. I was now faced with a predicament. Do I proceed with this route alone? Do I head out there in hopes that I run into them? Do I make my way to the trailhead and wait for them there? I was thinking of my options as I searched for their albergue, which I eventually found. By the time I got there it appeared that they had already left, so I decided I would go forward with the Dragonte route, as its what I planned for.

Upon referencing the pictures of the guidebook I had, I began finding my way to the beginning of the Dragonte climb. It appeared that I was going the wrong way, as I was walking in the opposite direction of the Camino markers, and more than one person got my attention and told me I was going the wrong way. Once I was away from the main trail, I started to see the features described in the guidebook, and knew I was headed in the right direction. Once I crossed the road past the highway tunnel, there was a small cafe where I stopped for a much needed coffee before I took on the 5km climb up to Dragonte. I asked the lady working there if I was on the right path and she confirmed that I was. I finished my coffee, walked another 500m up the road, and reached the beginning.


I felt really good as I began to climb. By this point on the Camino my legs were firing on all cylinders, and climbing a road like this was a great wakeup. I quickly stripped off the layers I was wearing as it began to warm up, and the views quickly made me realize how worth it this day would be. I was passed by a couple of taxis who were headed down the hill who both slowed down, tooted their horns, and wished me Buen Camino.



After about 20 min of climbing, I came across my first white arrow. I had read the night before that some of the trail is marked with white arrows, and this one was pointing me to a trail off to the left of the asphalt road. I thought the climb was all up the road, but I decided to take my chances and follow the arrow. After about 500m, I noticed the trail was descending back into the valley, and decided to turn back and get back on the main road. It turned out to be the right choice, as 15 min later I arrived in Dragonte.

I passed by a couple of locals who greeted me, and looked surprised to see a pilgrim passing through town. I guess this route isn't as heavily travelled as it used to be. I made my way through the town where I arrived at a most welcome water fountain where I took a small break to eat some food, apply sunscreen, and fill up with water.



After a little standoff with a small dog, I made my way out of Dragonte which led me up towards the top of the first mountain peak. It took me above a rock quarry that was far down on my left side where some workers were present. With a sharp whistle I caught their attention, gave them a wave, and kept moving.



After some more steady climbing I came across the first peak, and the first of the 'old Camino' signs that from what I understood, were the old signs that used to mark the way. Another cool thing about this route was that you got a glimpse of how the Camino once was, without the traffic, and albergue advertisements found on the more travelled routes.



I made my way over the first mountain peak, and began to descend into the first valley. I was lead through the trees back onto an asphalt road, which assured me I was going the right way. The guidebook wasn't lying when it said this route isn't well marked. I started to use other things as waymarkers like shoe prints, small bits of trash, ect. Once I hit the asphalt road, it was another 20 min of walking before I reached the next town: Moral de Valcarce



Passing through, there was a father and his two sons working on their small farm who greeted me. I was also approached by a German Sheppard who wasn't used to seeing strangers. (S)he took an aggressive stance, and started growling while approaching my leg, seemingly ready to attack. In my mind I thought "OK, I'm going to get bit. Where will it be, and how much will it hurt?" At that point, the father on the farm yelled some words, and the dog backed off right away, which I was thankful for. The last thing I needed was a dog bite with 30km to go. As I got to the edge of the town, there were more signs marking the way, which again were the signs from the past Camino.



It was after I left this town that navigation became really tough, marking became non existent, and I ended up on the wrong path. It was a series of cattle paths, and I had taken a split off of a split, and walked until the path sort of ended. I didn't like this, as there were 3 more potential options for me to take, and I couldn't afford to spend the energy taking 2 more wrong turns before I found the right one. I knew I had a river to ford at the bottom, and since I could hear the river from where I was, I backtracked to where the original split happened, and took a left which appeared to go down and to the right. When I reached the bottom, it appeared that I took the right path, as this is what I found.



Off came the boots, on went the flip-flops, and I was fording the river. Once I got to the other side it didn't seem like the fording was done, and I was still unsure if i was heading the right way, so I kept the flip-flops on for the time being. I rounded the corner, and to my relief I saw this:


Arrows! After being a little lost, and having not seen a marker in around 30 min, this was a very welcome sight. This next section of fording was longer, and the water was very cold!



After wading through (with plenty of breaks for my freezing feet) I made it to the other side, dried off my feet, put my boots back on, and continued forward. The climb up the second mountain started almost immediately, and the path was lined by chestnut trees. This provided me with some free nourishment, although I had to get through the spiky burr first. I didn't snap a picture of this but it was pretty funny. The path came to a point where it appeared to end, and I wasn't sure where to go. I was looking around when I noticed a group of trees going straight up the side of the hill with little red spray paint lines on them. I took a chance and assumed that that was the way to go, so I started climbing up this very steep grade portion of the hill, and eventually met up with a trail again. I was pretty winded at this point, but noticed a small portion of church through the trees, so I pressed on up the path, and eventually came up to the next town: Villar de Corales.



It was here that I decided to stop for more food. There was another water tap, but when i filled my bottle it appeared a little green so I decided not to chance it; after all I still had a 2L water bladder that was nearly full. I checked my watch - 11:35am. Yikes, I still have a long way to go, and its taken me longer than I thought it would to get to this point. At this point I said to myself "you gotta pick up the pace if you want to make it to O Cebreiro tonight". I ate a lunch of a banana, more chorizo, a couple of granola bars, and a greek yogurt, and continued on my way through the town. From the picture above, you can see that there isn't much going on here, and I thought that a portion of the town was simply abandoned, although I did come across a local at the start of town who was working on a tractor.

I exited the town, and followed another rocky path toward the second peak. The path split again at the peak, but there was another old sign there to point the correct way.

I got over the peak, and was following the path when I met face to face with a herd of cattle walking towards me. Because I was alone, and had never come across this before, I chose to get off the path and let them pass before I continued. In hindsight I could have kept walking right past them, but I didn't want to take any risks when I was alone. Once I passed the herd, I began the second descent. I found this section to be the hardest as the terrain was extremely rocky, and very steep. I was descending for 30 min on terrain that looked like this:



Eventually, descent exited the trees, and I found myself at the top of another rock quarry. This was another good sign as it was highlighted in the guidebook. As I began descending into the quarry I was passed by a truck on the way up with a load of rocks.The driver gave me a wave on the way by as I continued. This continued to be a tough descent; very hard on the feet.



Once I got to the bottom, the path lead out onto public road where I took a right, and then a left leading up to San Fitz de Seo (seen above the rock quarry). Once I reached the town, I took another break, and had my water filled up by a local with a garden hose. I made my way through the town, and exited to some beehives on my left side - another feature that I read about online that again reassured me that I was on the right path.



As I continued along this path, I took a look back and got a cool view of where I just came from.



From this point, I was just following one path which took my navigation worries away. I walked alongside more beehives on my way to the final town before I rejoined the other pilgrims at Herrerias: Villasinde.

Another 45 min from this point I reached Villasinde. The town seemed to be built on a hill, and the only way through it was up very steep roads. I have to admit at this point I was pretty tired. I reached Villasinde at around 14:20, just over 6 hours after I began the initial climb up to Dragonte, and the hills were really starting to kick my ass.

After another short break, and some more water from a tap I continued up another long ascent to the 3rd and final peak of the mountain sets. It was along this stretch where the paths began to get much more overgrown with foliage.



After fighting through this section at points, I finally crossed into clear path at the peak of the last mountain. I joined a road which took me around a bend where I passed a large radio tower. At this point Herrerias was in barely in view, although at the bottom of another very long descent. Because I knew I was almost out of (what I thought was) the toughest part of the day, this made the descent a little easier. Because I didn't look into it, I had no idea what the climb from Herrerias to O Cebreiro was like...



By the time I reached the bottom, and made my way into Herrerias it was 15:40 - just over 7 hours since the initial climb to Dragonte. Had another rest here, but made it short as I wanted to get to O Cebreiro to meet up with Kyle and Matthias in time for dinner. Once I exited Herrerias the climb started pretty much immediately and it wasn't long before I had to stop to tend to my feet. They were starting to get very warm, so I thought it would be best if I took off my boots and applied some Goldbond to my feet. This turned out to be a good choice as I felt much better after I did so. After another gruelling climb, I reached La Faba at 16:30. I prayed that I had one euro in my pocket for a Coke from the machine in town which I did, and it was one of the most refreshing drinks I've ever had.



I knew once I hit this point I was close to O Cebreiro, so I got another burst of energy. I put some of my favourite music on my phone speaker, and had a great time climbing the rest of the way, and taking in the beautiful views

I finally reached O Cebreiro at 17:40 - just over 9 hours since the ascent to Dragonte. Adjusting for the climbs/descents I did approximately 44km on this day.

This was by far the most rewarding stretch of the Camino for me. The solitude, the ambiguous trail markers, the scenery, and the physical/mental challenge all came together to make this the most memorable day. I think it was the most I've ever exerted myself physically in my life, but it was all so worth it (and made the beer that much better that night). It didn't matter how hot the albergue was, or how many snorers there were; I slept like a corpse that night.

Hopefully this gave you a good idea of what the Dragonte route is all about. I know it's very long, so thanks for taking the time to read it. I hope it can be of some help to those wishing to do this route in the future.

Buen Camino friends, safe travels

Brent
Thank you, Brent. This was a terrific detailed description of hiking the Dragonte and the photos were terrific, too. In Sept. 2011, I was staying at Herrarias when 2 young, very fit men straggled into the albergue. One was Bob the Norwegian and I knew him already as a strong hiker averaging 40+ km a day. They had just done the Dragonte, had gotten lost several times, and acknowledged it had been more difficult and challenging than they had expected. Your experience matched theirs, and I have only admiration for all of you!!!
 

GunnarW

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2011), Del Salvador (2013), every year a part starting from the border of NL/B close to Antwerpen
#17
Hello Brent,

Thank you for this report. Especially for the part between San Fiz do Seo and Herrerias because I didn't walk that part in 2011. I started to walk up to Dragonte very late as I came from Cacabelos.
It seems that there was more water on the road after Vilar?
It seems that the part going down to San Fiz was rerouted? Or did you take another path?
You can find my report here https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...afranca-o’cebreiro-dragonte.11517/#post-93282
and you can find an interesting movie here http://vimeo.com/41684856 (in Dutch, subtitles in English, you need to skip a bit in the beginning)
If you plan to post more pictures, please do.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances & Finisterre (2012); Ruta del Ebro (Tortosa to Sastago) (2014); Camino del Norte (Santander - Serdio) (2014); Camino Liebana & Camino Vadiniense (2014); Camino San Salvador (2015); Camino Olvidado (Sodupe - Reinosa) (2015); Camino del Norte (Irun - Deba & Serdio - Llanes) (2015)
#18
I followed the Ruta Dragonte on my 2012, mostly because I was fed up with pilgrims and pilgrimage and because a hospitalero in Villafranca looked at me in disdain when I asked him for advice about the route.

It was one of the best hikes I've ever done. Fantastic scenery and not another pilgrim in sight; an absolutely stunning walk. Indeed, it wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say it was a walk which changed my life as my experiences of that day formed the basis of a PhD on religious/spiritual landscapes and for which I'll be doing the fieldwork this summer. You can be certain I'll be returning to the Dragonte.

I wrote about it here: http://ramblanista.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-road-less-travelled-guerilla-hike.html
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, Inglés, Fisterra/Muxia, Baztanés x2, Primitivo, Norte, Portugués & hopefully many more.
#20
I followed the Ruta Dragonte on my 2012, mostly because I was fed up with pilgrims and pilgrimage and because a hospitalero in Villafranca looked at me in disdain when I asked him for advice about the route.

It was one of the best hikes I've ever done. Fantastic scenery and not another pilgrim in sight; an absolutely stunning walk. Indeed, it wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say it was a walk which changed my life as my experiences of that day formed the basis of a PhD on religious/spiritual landscapes and for which I'll be doing the fieldwork this summer. You can be certain I'll be returning to the Dragonte.

I wrote about it here: http://ramblanista.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-road-less-travelled-guerilla-hike.html
Thanks @Ramblanista, I love the blog post.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (June 2015)
#22
For those of you who commented regarding volunteers putting up trail markers on the Dragonte, this September a pilgrim from Chicago who has hiked the Dragonte route a few times will be putting up yellow arrow markers on the Dragonte Route out of Villafranca. Good news, indeed! I personally did the Pradela route last July and found it challenging enough for me. :)
 

Kellie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 Complete, 2014 & 2015 Partial, Plan 2016 Partial
#23
Thanks for taking the time to share. We did this route & it was one of my favorite days!
 
Camino(s) past & future
April 3rd - May 3rd 2016
#26
I followed the Ruta Dragonte on my 2012, mostly because I was fed up with pilgrims and pilgrimage and because a hospitalero in Villafranca looked at me in disdain when I asked him for advice about the route.

It was one of the best hikes I've ever done. Fantastic scenery and not another pilgrim in sight; an absolutely stunning walk. Indeed, it wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say it was a walk which changed my life as my experiences of that day formed the basis of a PhD on religious/spiritual landscapes and for which I'll be doing the fieldwork this summer. You can be certain I'll be returning to the Dragonte.

I wrote about it here: http://ramblanista.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-road-less-travelled-guerilla-hike.html
Hey Ramblanista, your blog post was actually one of the sources I found before I set out on the Dragonte! I have screenshots of portions of your post which I referred to as I was walking the route!
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
#27
HI Brent

It would be great if you could bundle your report and postings including photos into a PDF and upload the document into the Camino resources section of the forum. It would be an excellent reference guide for others that will follow.

Regards
 

Jo Jo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, July 2014
Via di Francesco (Italy), July 2015
Frances, Sept-Oct 2016
Portugues Oct. 2017
#28
For those of you who commented regarding volunteers putting up trail markers on the Dragonte, this September a pilgrim from Chicago who has hiked the Dragonte route a few times will be putting up yellow arrow markers on the Dragonte Route out of Villafranca. Good news, indeed! I personally did the Pradela route last July and found it challenging enough for me. :)
Any updates on marking this route? We should be there around the first week of October.

Also, my wife insists that she is not going to do this unless there are chestnut groves, as there are on the high route on the north side the valley. So, are there chestnut groves?

Thanks,
Jo Jo
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#29
Brent, you must seriously pick up writing about the Camino. I am so disappointed by the accounts which tell you to turn right here, left there, and left again, never giving an impression of what the walk is really like. Thank you for this wonderful account of a Camino I will most likely never be fit enough to do. Makes the Salvador seem like a walk in the park: thanks for the motivation to walk it!
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015 (2016)
#30
Hello fellow Pilgrims,

My brother and I completed our first Camino Frances over the course of 30 days (Apr 3 - May 3 2016), and along the way, I decided to take the elusive Dragonte route from Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro. I thought I would give a writeup of my experience for those interested.

The day in question was April 27th 2016. For the entire course of our walk, my brother Kyle was my guide. He had asked me to accompany him on the Camino, so he was much more prepared to lead in that respect. He carried the guidebook, looked up all accommodations, and filled me in on the history of different places and objects along the way.

In the few days leading up to Villafranca, my brother talking about the day that had 3 different routes. Curious to see for myself, I took a look in the guidebook to see that there were indeed 3 routes possible: One along the road through the valley, one to the right of the valley with one mountain climb, and one to the left with 3 mountain climbs. Right away I was intrigued by the left route. My reasons for walking the Camino were largely for the mental and physical challenge, so upon reading the summary of the Dragonte route, I decided I would be heading that way.


Here is a summary of the route in the guidebook. Some versions don't even include this as an option (for example the Jacobsweg German guide had no mention of this route).


Here is the route as pictured in our guidebook (marked in green).

APRIL 26th 2016

We arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo at around 2pm and located the Municipal Albergue where we would be spending the night. As soon as we were settled, I jumped on the wifi and began researching the route as much as I could. I visited a few different websites and blogs, but to my surprise I was only able to find a couple of pages directly relating to the route itself. I read about people backtracking due to wrong turns, spots where there are 4 different roads that split off of one, and even the need to ford rivers at the bottom of the valleys. This was really cool to read about, but it also made me slightly nervous; I need to ask around to see if anyone else is planning on taking this route.

The others relaxed and took a siesta, while I took pictures of each page of the guidebook that would be helpful to me. This was going to be a long journey, but I knew it would be one of the most rewarding days on the Camino. I took a shower, and started considering what food I would be bringing along with me. I read that there was one bar along the way, and it's run by a lady who lives above it, but it isn't anything to rely on in place of taking less food as it may be closed. The others woke from their siesta around 4pm, so we decided to venture out into the town in search of a supermercado.

After some walking, and asking some locals where the market was, we got there just as it was reopening for the afternoon. I decided I would need lots of protein and energy food, so I picked up the following: 2 chorizo sausages, 1 pack dried banana chips, one pack of "Mix 5" mixed fruit and nuts, sunflower seeds, greek yogurt x 2, granola bars x 10, banana x 3, one apple, and a big bag of croissants for breakfast, taking whatever was leftover.

On the way back from the market we ran into our other German companions Dirk and Rika who were having a beer on a patio. After a brief chat I asked them if they were planning on "doing the hard route tomorrow". They both confirmed that they were going to go for it, and I felt some relief as I wouldn't be taking it on alone. They told me to meet them outside their albergue in the morning and we would set off. We went back to the municipal, dined on tortellini, relaxed, read, and called it an early night; tomorrow would be the biggest day yet.

APRIL 27th 2016

I awoke rather early, eager to get started. Despite my excitement I was able to sleep fairly well, which was a relief because I needed all the sleep I could get. I had packed up the majority of my stuff the night before, so I was able to get down to the kitchen to have my breakfast in good time. I was soon joined by my brother and our other hiking companion Matthias where we ate and discussed the day ahead. I wanted to get started on my way earlier today as it is very long, so I parted ways with them just after 7am, and set out to the other albergue to wait for the others.

I waited outside what I thought was their albergue for around 25 min when I decided to check the name of what he sent me the night before. Turns out I was waiting outside the wrong albergue, as there are two in town with very similar spellings. I was now faced with a predicament. Do I proceed with this route alone? Do I head out there in hopes that I run into them? Do I make my way to the trailhead and wait for them there? I was thinking of my options as I searched for their albergue, which I eventually found. By the time I got there it appeared that they had already left, so I decided I would go forward with the Dragonte route, as its what I planned for.

Upon referencing the pictures of the guidebook I had, I began finding my way to the beginning of the Dragonte climb. It appeared that I was going the wrong way, as I was walking in the opposite direction of the Camino markers, and more than one person got my attention and told me I was going the wrong way. Once I was away from the main trail, I started to see the features described in the guidebook, and knew I was headed in the right direction. Once I crossed the road past the highway tunnel, there was a small cafe where I stopped for a much needed coffee before I took on the 5km climb up to Dragonte. I asked the lady working there if I was on the right path and she confirmed that I was. I finished my coffee, walked another 500m up the road, and reached the beginning.


I felt really good as I began to climb. By this point on the Camino my legs were firing on all cylinders, and climbing a road like this was a great wakeup. I quickly stripped off the layers I was wearing as it began to warm up, and the views quickly made me realize how worth it this day would be. I was passed by a couple of taxis who were headed down the hill who both slowed down, tooted their horns, and wished me Buen Camino.



After about 20 min of climbing, I came across my first white arrow. I had read the night before that some of the trail is marked with white arrows, and this one was pointing me to a trail off to the left of the asphalt road. I thought the climb was all up the road, but I decided to take my chances and follow the arrow. After about 500m, I noticed the trail was descending back into the valley, and decided to turn back and get back on the main road. It turned out to be the right choice, as 15 min later I arrived in Dragonte.

I passed by a couple of locals who greeted me, and looked surprised to see a pilgrim passing through town. I guess this route isn't as heavily travelled as it used to be. I made my way through the town where I arrived at a most welcome water fountain where I took a small break to eat some food, apply sunscreen, and fill up with water.



After a little standoff with a small dog, I made my way out of Dragonte which led me up towards the top of the first mountain peak. It took me above a rock quarry that was far down on my left side where some workers were present. With a sharp whistle I caught their attention, gave them a wave, and kept moving.



After some more steady climbing I came across the first peak, and the first of the 'old Camino' signs that from what I understood, were the old signs that used to mark the way. Another cool thing about this route was that you got a glimpse of how the Camino once was, without the traffic, and albergue advertisements found on the more travelled routes.



I made my way over the first mountain peak, and began to descend into the first valley. I was lead through the trees back onto an asphalt road, which assured me I was going the right way. The guidebook wasn't lying when it said this route isn't well marked. I started to use other things as waymarkers like shoe prints, small bits of trash, ect. Once I hit the asphalt road, it was another 20 min of walking before I reached the next town: Moral de Valcarce



Passing through, there was a father and his two sons working on their small farm who greeted me. I was also approached by a German Sheppard who wasn't used to seeing strangers. (S)he took an aggressive stance, and started growling while approaching my leg, seemingly ready to attack. In my mind I thought "OK, I'm going to get bit. Where will it be, and how much will it hurt?" At that point, the father on the farm yelled some words, and the dog backed off right away, which I was thankful for. The last thing I needed was a dog bite with 30km to go. As I got to the edge of the town, there were more signs marking the way, which again were the signs from the past Camino.



It was after I left this town that navigation became really tough, marking became non existent, and I ended up on the wrong path. It was a series of cattle paths, and I had taken a split off of a split, and walked until the path sort of ended. I didn't like this, as there were 3 more potential options for me to take, and I couldn't afford to spend the energy taking 2 more wrong turns before I found the right one. I knew I had a river to ford at the bottom, and since I could hear the river from where I was, I backtracked to where the original split happened, and took a left which appeared to go down and to the right. When I reached the bottom, it appeared that I took the right path, as this is what I found.



Off came the boots, on went the flip-flops, and I was fording the river. Once I got to the other side it didn't seem like the fording was done, and I was still unsure if i was heading the right way, so I kept the flip-flops on for the time being. I rounded the corner, and to my relief I saw this:


Arrows! After being a little lost, and having not seen a marker in around 30 min, this was a very welcome sight. This next section of fording was longer, and the water was very cold!



After wading through (with plenty of breaks for my freezing feet) I made it to the other side, dried off my feet, put my boots back on, and continued forward. The climb up the second mountain started almost immediately, and the path was lined by chestnut trees. This provided me with some free nourishment, although I had to get through the spiky burr first. I didn't snap a picture of this but it was pretty funny. The path came to a point where it appeared to end, and I wasn't sure where to go. I was looking around when I noticed a group of trees going straight up the side of the hill with little red spray paint lines on them. I took a chance and assumed that that was the way to go, so I started climbing up this very steep grade portion of the hill, and eventually met up with a trail again. I was pretty winded at this point, but noticed a small portion of church through the trees, so I pressed on up the path, and eventually came up to the next town: Villar de Corales.



It was here that I decided to stop for more food. There was another water tap, but when i filled my bottle it appeared a little green so I decided not to chance it; after all I still had a 2L water bladder that was nearly full. I checked my watch - 11:35am. Yikes, I still have a long way to go, and its taken me longer than I thought it would to get to this point. At this point I said to myself "you gotta pick up the pace if you want to make it to O Cebreiro tonight". I ate a lunch of a banana, more chorizo, a couple of granola bars, and a greek yogurt, and continued on my way through the town. From the picture above, you can see that there isn't much going on here, and I thought that a portion of the town was simply abandoned, although I did come across a local at the start of town who was working on a tractor.

I exited the town, and followed another rocky path toward the second peak. The path split again at the peak, but there was another old sign there to point the correct way.

I got over the peak, and was following the path when I met face to face with a herd of cattle walking towards me. Because I was alone, and had never come across this before, I chose to get off the path and let them pass before I continued. In hindsight I could have kept walking right past them, but I didn't want to take any risks when I was alone. Once I passed the herd, I began the second descent. I found this section to be the hardest as the terrain was extremely rocky, and very steep. I was descending for 30 min on terrain that looked like this:



Eventually, descent exited the trees, and I found myself at the top of another rock quarry. This was another good sign as it was highlighted in the guidebook. As I began descending into the quarry I was passed by a truck on the way up with a load of rocks.The driver gave me a wave on the way by as I continued. This continued to be a tough descent; very hard on the feet.



Once I got to the bottom, the path lead out onto public road where I took a right, and then a left leading up to San Fitz de Seo (seen above the rock quarry). Once I reached the town, I took another break, and had my water filled up by a local with a garden hose. I made my way through the town, and exited to some beehives on my left side - another feature that I read about online that again reassured me that I was on the right path.



As I continued along this path, I took a look back and got a cool view of where I just came from.



From this point, I was just following one path which took my navigation worries away. I walked alongside more beehives on my way to the final town before I rejoined the other pilgrims at Herrerias: Villasinde.

Another 45 min from this point I reached Villasinde. The town seemed to be built on a hill, and the only way through it was up very steep roads. I have to admit at this point I was pretty tired. I reached Villasinde at around 14:20, just over 6 hours after I began the initial climb up to Dragonte, and the hills were really starting to kick my ass.

After another short break, and some more water from a tap I continued up another long ascent to the 3rd and final peak of the mountain sets. It was along this stretch where the paths began to get much more overgrown with foliage.



After fighting through this section at points, I finally crossed into clear path at the peak of the last mountain. I joined a road which took me around a bend where I passed a large radio tower. At this point Herrerias was in barely in view, although at the bottom of another very long descent. Because I knew I was almost out of (what I thought was) the toughest part of the day, this made the descent a little easier. Because I didn't look into it, I had no idea what the climb from Herrerias to O Cebreiro was like...



By the time I reached the bottom, and made my way into Herrerias it was 15:40 - just over 7 hours since the initial climb to Dragonte. Had another rest here, but made it short as I wanted to get to O Cebreiro to meet up with Kyle and Matthias in time for dinner. Once I exited Herrerias the climb started pretty much immediately and it wasn't long before I had to stop to tend to my feet. They were starting to get very warm, so I thought it would be best if I took off my boots and applied some Goldbond to my feet. This turned out to be a good choice as I felt much better after I did so. After another gruelling climb, I reached La Faba at 16:30. I prayed that I had one euro in my pocket for a Coke from the machine in town which I did, and it was one of the most refreshing drinks I've ever had.



I knew once I hit this point I was close to O Cebreiro, so I got another burst of energy. I put some of my favourite music on my phone speaker, and had a great time climbing the rest of the way, and taking in the beautiful views

I finally reached O Cebreiro at 17:40 - just over 9 hours since the ascent to Dragonte. Adjusting for the climbs/descents I did approximately 44km on this day.

This was by far the most rewarding stretch of the Camino for me. The solitude, the ambiguous trail markers, the scenery, and the physical/mental challenge all came together to make this the most memorable day. I think it was the most I've ever exerted myself physically in my life, but it was all so worth it (and made the beer that much better that night). It didn't matter how hot the albergue was, or how many snorers there were; I slept like a corpse that night.

Hopefully this gave you a good idea of what the Dragonte route is all about. I know it's very long, so thanks for taking the time to read it. I hope it can be of some help to those wishing to do this route in the future.

Buen Camino friends, safe travels

Brent
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015 (2016)
#31
Hello, Brent. I enjoyed reading your article, having got lost in 2015 on the Dragonte, with no guidebook, etc. I seemed to have got lost in the same places you did. I also did not know that one would have to actually walk IN a small river for awhile. I turned around when I came to that place but was "found" by local chestnut pickers and re-directed. At any rate, I decided to go back there this year and put up some yellow arrows. Matt Sanchez, owner of Albergue Magdalena in Vega de Valcarce and I both read your article carefully during the summer. We finished our project a few weeks ago. I will be starting a blog and a facebook page to "promote" the Dragonte as a reasonable alternative route out of Villafranca. By sheer coincidence, I happened to have stayed in Albergue Leo in Villafranca this year and mentioned my plans. They were ecstatic. They are the ones who built the beautiful fountain in Dragonte, opposite their second home there. They took me up to explore the countryside, their home and neighbors and give me a better lay of the land. There is talk of building an albergue in Dragonte. Buen camino!
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
#32
Hi there @BrentHocking and @Rabatdoghomer ;

Once again, I appreciate the thorough narration on the Dragonte.

It`s on my plans to give it a go this next december ( I reckon I ll be hitting villafranca around dec 11th) unless the weather is really really nasty on those days.

To make sure I wouldnt get lost, I have researched for any GPS tracklogs online to serve as a baseline to this specific day and found the tracklog on the link below (gpx file).

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByBtIu7vwB-9dnJhVzNYaGZ4NGc/view?usp=sharing

I know it`s asking too much but, would you give it a scan through it to see if it makes sense?
I`ll also take the instructions written by Brent with me.

Thank you very much indeed fellow pilgrims.

Ultreia;

Vagner
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015 (2016)
#33
Hi there @BrentHocking and @Rabatdoghomer ;

Once again, I appreciate the thorough narration on the Dragonte.

It`s on my plans to give it a go this next december ( I reckon I ll be hitting villafranca around dec 11th) unless the weather is really really nasty on those days.

To make sure I wouldnt get lost, I have researched for any GPS tracklogs online to serve as a baseline to this specific day and found the tracklog on the link below (gpx file).

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByBtIu7vwB-9dnJhVzNYaGZ4NGc/view?usp=sharing

I know it`s asking too much but, would you give it a scan through it to see if it makes sense?
I`ll also take the instructions written by Brent with me.

Thank you very much indeed fellow pilgrims.

Ultreia;

Vagner
Ola! Couldn't read the link, but I think if you have Brierley, Brent's account, the new yellow arrows and a general sense of direction, you will be fine. We didn't put up a great number of arrows, but if you keep your eyes open you should be fine. Buen camino!
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
#35
Ola! Couldn't read the link, but I think if you have Brierley, Brent's account, the new yellow arrows and a general sense of direction, you will be fine. We didn't put up a great number of arrows, but if you keep your eyes open you should be fine. Buen camino!
THank you so much for the work! Will definitely give it a go and revisit the thread once Im back
;):)
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015 (2016)
#36
I also read about this route and thought it looked intriguing. Your description is very helpful.
I will be on a bike so will probably go with the pradela route.
This sounds like a great opportunity for a group of volunteers to do some trail marking!
Yes. In fact, Matt Sanchez and Patrick Eibergen went up there this autumn (2016) and placed some yellow arrows!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012
Camino del Norte 2012
Geneva/Le Puy/SJPP/Bilbao 2015
Prague/Geneva ?
#38
I totally forgot about the stream, but here's proof.
IMG_1107.JPG
A BIG Thank You to BrentHocking for your amazing write-up, to Ramblanista for your detailed blog, and to Rabatdogmer (and Matt and Patrick) for marking the way.

I got lost in 2012 but it was a truly remarkable day...a day I will always remember!
The route has already been beautifully described in this thread so I'll just add that the Dragonte was the most challenging day for me on the Camino Frances.
I also remember that I did not have enough food and I was so hungry by the time I reached Herrerias. Luckily there was an open café...and then I had the steep ascent to La Faba. Long day, many kms!

Now, heading in to 2017, where can one get food on the Dragonte or is it best to carry all the food you will need for the day?
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SdC (2017)
SdC-Muxia-Fisterra-SdC (2017)
Lisboa-SdC (2018)
Ferrol-SdC (2018)
#39
Brent wrote:

“... along the way, I decided to take the elusive Dragonte route from Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro. I thought I would give a writeup of my experience for those interested. ...”

——-

Brent, thank you for this excellent, fascinating, and well-illustrated trip report. Such detailed narratives allow the rest of us to vicariously enjoy others’ experiences. Well done!

The route looks difficult but potentially rewarding for fit and well-prepared pilgrims.

I plan to re-read your report and study it closely with a view to possibly replicating your adventure at some future time.

Cheers!
 
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