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Updated info on the VdlP betw Puebla de Sanabria & Santi

#1
We recently returned from making the last 250km of the VdlP pilgrimage and had some updates for people walking later this summer or in the fall. On the whole, we relied on Alison Raju's new edition (2005) more, but it helped to have both hers and Cole/Davies. Here's what we've got:

Lubian: The Casa Irene has closed, and we were told that the Casa Pachaca is no longer accepting guests. There is a sign on the albergue directing you to the house of the woman who keeps the key, and who will give you a sello.

La Gudina: The tourist information office to which the guidebooks direct you has permanently closed. The very nice albergue has a hospitalero; the cell phone number is posted on the front door of the albergue, which is well signposted. There are ATMs in La Gudina.

Laza: Contrary to what is implied in Cole/Davies, there are no ATMs in Laza.

Vilar do Barrio: Contrary to what is stated in Cole/Davies, there are no ATMs in Vilar.

Xunqueira de Ambia: The albergue is about 1km from the town square on the Vilar side of Xunqueira (the side you’d be entering on). If you get there after the library is closed, the Bar Retiro has the key. It’s located on a street that parallels the main street through town (to the right as you enter from the albergue with the church on your left). We did not see an ATM, though Cole/Davies report that there is one.

Ourense: Cole/Davies send you along the Avenida de Zamora, which then involves a steep climb up steps past the cathedral. The ubiquitous flechas amarillas send you along a street to the right of the Zamora, which I suspect takes a more direct (and less steep) route to the albergue. The albergue is exceptionally nice.

Cea: There are ATMs in Cea, which is a surprisingly large and seemingly prosperous town.

Oseira: Summer hours for tours of the monastery are (if memory serves correctly) 10, 11, and 12 (pre-siesta), and 4:30, 5:30, and 6:30 (post-siesta). There are a couple of bars here.

Between Cea and Castro Dozon: There is a great deal of road construction through here (especially following O Reino) which has disrupted the ordinary route. Follow the wooden signs that redirect you.

A Laxe: The spacious refuge here is off the main road and down a little lane. The woman who has the key (Victoria) lives maybe 75m away and has her phone number posted on the refuge door. There are 3 restaurants and a new 3-star hotel within walking distance. Bar/Restaurant Antonio is about 1km away in the industrial park above the albergue; it’s essentially a nice truck stop. Ma Jose’s is about 800m away further along the camino. Beyond that another 500m or so is the new hotel and its restaurant.

Bandeira: There are ATMs in both Silleda and Bandeira. The guidebooks are a little fuzzy on just how far the refuge is out of Bandeira, but it’s close to 3km away (a sign in town lists it as 2.7km). We had gone almost the entire way out to the albergue but just didn’t want to traipse back and forth into town for meals, etc., so we adjusted plans and stayed in a hostal (the Conde Rey) in town. We were glad we did, not only because of the distance, but also because of the kind hospitality of the people at the Conde Rey.

Ponte Ulla: In addition to the places mentioned in the guidebooks, there are 2 supermarkets and an excellent panaderia in town.

Capilla de Santiaguino (Outeiro): A very nice albergue with the key available from the woman in the house next door (on the Ponte Ulla side). Although you can bring food from Ponte Ulla, there is a decent restaurant about 1km downhill from the albergue, on the N525.

Buen Camino!

Steve S
 

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#3
If I had to choose just one, I'd definitely go with Raju. It's more recent and was more thorough. I imagine that Cole and Davies are updating theirs, though, and it could supersede Raju.

I'd be interested in hearing from others on this.

Steve S
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#4
Wow, there's a lot of good detailed information here. Thanks a lot. In your other post on equipment, I noticed that you said that there was a lot of pavement on this camino. I assume you mean that a lot of the way is on secondary roads, rather than that there's lots of camino-specific paving, like there is in Navarra and in other places along the camino frances. Would you say that it was quite a bit more than on the Frances?

I'm asking because pavement is one of the things that my aging feet rebel against the most. On the Norte this past May, there were some really long stretches of pavement but I frequently could get off onto a grassy shoulder.

Were there many other walkers or was it a solitary camino?

Many thanks, STeve
 
#5
On the section that we walked, I'd say that somewhere between 25-35% of the route is paved tertiary, secondary, or sometimes even primary (the N525) road. This was especially true as we entered larger towns. For example, about 20km of the 22km between Xunqueira de Ambia and Ourense was paved road, or at least sidewalk. (We were grateful, since it was raining.) Another 25-30% of the overall route we walked is on gravel.

None of it was Camino-specific paving. I've not walked the CF, but years ago we drove through the region and I can remember seeing the kind of paths you're describing. There was nothing like that that we encountered on the VdlP.

One of the neat things about the trail was that much of it was on old, stone-paved medieval cart roads that linked the villages. Most of these were far from smooth, with the stones worn down by time, but it was amazing to walk over them. The famous Bridge of Taboada (10th c.) is as well preserved an example of medieval paving as I've ever seen.

The other neat mode of paving we crossed was what Cole/Davies call "stepping stones" and Raju a "causeway." We would walk, sometimes for hundreds of meters, on stone slabs (some modern, some not) laid end-to-end and raised above the ground in boggy areas.

As to your concerns about pavement, on significant portions of the road you'd be able to walk along grassy shoulder. One of the things we liked about our GoLite shoes is that they have excellent shock absorption, and it really made the pavement less grinding than it could have been.

The first segment, from Puebla de Sanabria to Ourense was quite solitary; we saw only 3 other walkers and 6 cyclists, all at albergues. The second segment, from Ourense to Santiago, the albergues were more crowded (once as many as 30 pilgrims), but even then we rarely saw pilgrims on the trail itself. It's my understanding, however, that more people walk the VdlP in the spring and fall to avoid the summer heat on the southern part of the route.

Let me know if I can provide more info.

Best,

Steve
 

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lynnejohn

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
#6
Steve -

We just returned from walking from Sevilla to Finisterre a couple of weeks ago, so we must have been on the VDLP the same time as you were! Your record-keeping about the differences between the books and the reality is admirable. I started to keep track, but left off. We used the Cole/Davies book and found many discrepancies, as you did, since it's been awhile since publication. We also used the CSJ guide which helped. We liked this guide simply because it included a very recent update insert which really came in handy. It would be great if all these guides would provide the same type of update.

As for the terrain, it is as you describe. From the dry, hot, bare areas of the Exremadura to the cold, rainy days in Galicia, it was challenging. Those stone slabs were not always the best for a short-legged person like me, but were useful during heavy rains. We never saw the kind of paving you see on the recreation trails around Canada. We did not enjoy the considerable walking on the carretera, and it was fairly frequent. Those rounded stones, however evocative they might be of the Romans who laid them, are murder on the ankles. Many, many ups and downs and much steeper ones than on the CF. The landscape was incredible, though, and so we almost didn't pay attention to the hard work our legs were doing. Almost. On the whole, it was very rough, in my opinion. I certainly agree about the Roman bridge. There it is - it suddenly appears right in the middle of the forest, and very impressive.

We seldom saw people on the trail. Sometimes we had the albergues to ourselves, often only one or two other people. Several days might go by seeing only one or two others on the trail as well. It's a solitary route, indeed. As I mentioned in another post, the Santiago to Finisterre route is an abrupt contrast in peregrino population after the VDLP, and a lot of fun after weeks of solitude.

Now that I read what I have written, it does sound a little grim, but I think that's a product of solitude. On the CF, walking with friends, we didn't pay as much attention to aches and pains, or the heat, or how far we walked. On the VDLP, there was just the two of us, so we paid closer attention to just everything.

I recommend the VDLP. It is very different from walking the CF, but just as rewarding and wonderful. I would do it again. Definitely.

Peace,

lynne
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#7
Thanks both to Lynne and Steve for this update (by the way, Steve, you might try sending your updates to the CSJ because they do print out update sheets and frequently thank pilgrims for their inputs).

I have been looking at several guides and websites and it seems like there are a few days of more than 40 km that are unavoidable. Did you encounter this, or have more places opened up?

What about the animal situation -- did you have any unpleasant encounters with "wild" dogs? A woman I walked with on the norte this year said that she had to use her stick on the vdlp on several occasions. And even more silly, perhaps, how about bulls and "vacas bravas", whatever they are. I remember reading some kind of warning about the path going through huge enclosures where herds (is that what they call them) are grazing.

And one final question -- how is this route for walking alone? I walked several days on the norte by myself while my partner took a rest and though there were no other pilgrims, I never felt threatened or nervous.

Sorry to bombard you with questions, many thanks, Laurie
 

lynnejohn

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
#8
Well, vacas bravas are brave cows. They might be, but we only saw friendly ones that were curious about us. Dogs, horses, cats and toros we encountered were not agressive. I quite enjoyed being overtaken by goats and sheep being herded along the road - they just go around you and a few will come over and investigate you and go on their way. I got some wonderful pictures close-up of them (can you tell I'm a city girl?)

The long etapas - the Cole/Davies book was out of date in several areas. We broke up the etapa between Castro Dozon and Bandeira by staying at A Laxe. There was another longish etapa in which we discovered an unreported albergue but can't think of it. We also walked rom Bandeira to Outeiro and passed through Ponte Ulla just because we wanted a short walk into Santiago the next day in time for mass. If I were doing it again, I would stop in Pont Ulla. There is a very steep descent into Ponte Ulle and a very steep ascent into Outeiro and I would have preferred to break them up. It was very hot and very challenging.

We wanted to find breaks in the etapas between Granja de Moreruela-Tabara-Santa Croya de Tera-Rionegro del Puente-Puebla de Sanabria, but couldn't find one. Again the heat was incredible and so those stretches were difficult. A welcome break was Casa Anita (albergue) in Santa Croya de Tera. The family was wonderful, welcoming, and the albergue was very well run with excellent food.

You will likely find additional albergues opening up, particularly in these long stretches.

Walking alone - the majority of the pilgrims we met were alone, and they told us that is why there were on the VDLP. Although evenings in the albergues were friendly, they really did prefer to walk alone. Other than the usual common sense stuff, you will be fine - we found the residents of the towns and villages more than helpful and very friendly!

Buen Camino!

Peace -

lynne
 
#9
Peregrina (Laurie), thanks for the suggestion about sending the update to CSJ. I need to send it both there and to the Pili Pala Press.

Keep in mind that we walked only the last quarter of the VdlP, and I understand that there are some very long etapas in Andalucia. That was not the case for us; the longest we walked was 36km, and that was primarily because we were running short on cash because one of the guides was inaccurate and we had to combine a 22km stage and 14km stage to get to an ATM before our pockets were empty. (Hence my comments above about ATM locations.) I am a big believer that a pilgrimage should not be a race to get to the next albergue or a marathon to prove one's endurance, so I think short stages can make for a more enjoyable, indeed soulful, experience.

Raju and the CSJ update sheet both indicate that there are no longer accommodations in Castro Dozon, so the stage from Cea to A Laxe was our second longest (32km). In fact, we decided not to go through Oseira because the direct route is 5km shorter. (We went back to Oseira via car after we got to Santiago.) But Lynne walked about the same time we did, and she stayed in Castro Dozon--I'd be interested in knowing if the planned albergue is already open there?

We didn't find the walk from Bandeira to Capilla Santiaguino (Outeiro) to be excessively long, but then again we didn't have the 3 additional km tacked on that we would have had we stayed at the albergue. I agree with Lynne that Outeiro is a nice place to stay for a "short" (15km) stage into Santiago to get to mass by noon.

Like Lynne, we never had any encounters with ferocious dogs or any other threatening animals. While I feel a little uncomfortable encouraging any woman to walk something like this alone, the truth is that the people we met were friendly and supportive.

Finally, one of the things I learned on this trip is that every village of any size has a taxi service. Though we never needed a taxi, some folks we met called a taxi to get them between towns, then took it back out to the point where it picked them up the previous afternoon. I guess that's always an option, at least as a last resort.

Best,

Steve
 

lynnejohn

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
#10
Ah, Castro Dozon. What an adventure that was. Of course the large hostal described in the guides was closed except for the bar and restaurant portion, but they were not serving. (It was Sunday.) We asked for the albergue and were told many times where it was - went round and round, but could never find it. There were a few other pilgrims as well who were looking. They eventually gave up and took the bus to Lalin. We eventually did find it. It is a privately run hostal and consists of 3 private rooms and shared bath in the back of the municipal swimming pool building, just as you are leaving town. No signs at all anywhere. Nothing. It was 20 euros for the night. Two other pilgrims stayed there and several more apparently came later but were turned away and took taxis to Lalin. The lady who ran it was very nice and let us use her dryer to dry our clothes as it was raining. No food though. We convinced the lady running the bar to open up the attached mercado and bought some cheese, bread and wine - so all was well.
So, in the end we did get a place to sleep there but I don't know how reliable it will be in the future, or how accessible those rooms will be once the swimming pool is open for summer.

Peace -

lynne
 
#11
Lynne,

Your travails sound like the reason we decided to forgo staying there. I had read about beds at the pool, which we could see from the hill as we were descending into Castro Dozon, but had read that even that option was no longer available. I'm glad you were able to stay there.

We didn't see any signs of a new albergue going up, either.

Steve
 
#12
"Of course the large hostal described in the guides was closed except for the bar and restaurant portion, but they were not serving. (It was Sunday.) We asked for the albergue and were told many times where it was - went round and round, but could never find it."

The "albergue" is down the staircase from the bar. There are about six pleasant rooms and a bathroom. There are more toilets in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. This was a year ago.

btw, on the right hand side of the road, a few hundred metres before the bar/poolhouse referred to, there is a pleasant bar. Looking for the toilet, I went down a nondescript flight of stairs, and found myself in a well stocked underground supermarket. The barmaid follows you down after a few minutes and checks out what you've bought. I seem to recall buying a sixpack, some tomatoes and cheese, taking them to the poolhouse and fixing myself supper with a loaf of pan de Cea bought earlier on in the day. Could be worse. This was the only day it rained for me between Seville and Santiago.
 

Debinq

Active Member
#13
Hi

I was on this stretch last year (Oct 06) - some extracts from my notes follow:

from Sanabria to Padorneleo - I found the way up the pass to Padornelo quite daunting after Requejo, but some very 'ancient' pathways to follow - I imagine they would be even harder after a good down-pour which I encountered a week or so later when entering Ourense and then next day onwards during (another very steep - Cole/Davies describe it well) climb up to Cea.

Padornelo - O peireiro was equally 'ancient' altho' I lost my way and strayed onto the N525 for a bit after Lubian (stunning village!) - but was lucky to meet an elderly man on horseback, who suddenly appeared out of the dense roadside brush, with his hunting dog; he set me straight again at the River Toda; an amazing encounter with him actually - his frame of mind being philosophical as well as very concerned with global warming; after I had told him I was from Oz (all this in my halting Spanish) - I think he was berating me - he said how incomprehensible it was to him that an enlightened democratic country like Australia would not sign the Kyoto accords!! I tried to convince him I absolutely agreed, but my current concerns were more immediate (to get off the N525!) - he showed me the way and as I followed he treated me to the history of the real way 'up' to A Canda, which was apparently pioneered by the Visigoths is the 7th C. B t w he looked like he could have been Pablo Picasso's brother - would that I had stopped to talk more with him!

O Peireiro - Campobecerros Cole/Davies descriptions of the various 'venda' villages on the way are pretty accurate - there's a "biblioteca" (run by a lovely 'investigador') which opens after 4pm at A Gudina, with free Internet connectivity

To Vilar de Bario from Laza - very modern refugio at Laza. Rest well there 'cos there's the very steep climb to Albergueria (after Soutlo Verde) coming up - the bar at the top (in Albergueria) is amazing - the 'innkeeper' is a Mozart afficionado, makes excellent 'cafe solo' and there's a welcoming open fire there to dry and warm one's chilled bones - it was rainy and blustery up that climb, so not the best day to enjoy the lovely scenery along the way! He'll ask you to write your name on a cockle shell and then he'll nail it to the 100s that are there already! Quite a buzz!

Xunquiera de Ambia - great refugio with good showers etc a little outside of village centre - no one there (mostly I was sharing with at the most 5 other perigrinos after Sanabria) So some nights totally solitary! From here the 'way marker' says 134.6km to go to SdC


'Detour' after Cea to Oseira monastery - you all must! Contrast the 'logies' there with the refugio at Laxe! Would be curious to hear what you think about that comparison! Be advised that the refugio at Laxe doubles as a community hall! When I was stayed on 20 Oct 06 there was a local card game championship going on - all the villagers were there (smoking away as well as playing cards - not particularly conducive to a good sleep after a 9.30pm 'turn-in' - I think the last player left at 3am!)

more later - b t w I had purchased a copy of Alison Raju's guide as well as Cole/Davies - intending to compare them - but managed to leave Raju behind while I was still on the Aragon way - doh!

buen camino !

Peter
 

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