They came in droves to O’Cebreiro with their button down shirts, blue jeans and ubiquitous scallop shells. Most were not alone. Most had come in groups of 3, 4, 7, some even in groups of 20. Their feet have yet to feel the stickiness of compeed, their ears to hear the chainsaws of snores and their moods have not been tainted by the weariness of walking. They are fresh meat for the Camino. They have come to gain their Compostela, or certification that a pilgrim has walked a minimum of 100 kilometers on the Camino. Some do not carry a bag, only a fanny pack. Some will stay at the same hotel and be shuttled every day to their previous ending point, making sure to get two stamps on the Pilgrim’s passport at local restaurants or bars to prove they were on the camino that day. They are often called TourDeGrinos, instead of Peregrinos (pilgrim).
Many TourDeGrinos started their Camino yesterday. O’cebreiro at 160 kilometers from Santiago is a popular starting point for them and the Albergue in town is the second busiest behind Roncesvalles on the Camino, which is one of the reasons I decided to stay in a hotel last night (40 to 50 people sleeping in one room). I started my day quite late, around 9 am this morning. I walked around O’Cebreiro, a village of 50 people, that is aware of its charm. The thatched triangular roofs of hotels and restaurants, which have been recently renovated, sprawl out from the oldest cathedral on the Camino, dating from the 9th century. And the mist. Oh that white sea of mist. As the clouds made their way from the valley below this morning, they would reach a certain height and then dissipate into nothing making the mist appear as if it were an ocean with little green and red islands dotting their way to the horizon. After taking 5,000 pictures, I came to a fork at the end of O’Cebreiro. I chose to go right, passing below the Albergue. The route continued through the woods, and for the first 3 kilometers, the Camino was relatively empty. There were only two people in sight, but as the two paths met up in Linares, I spied a group of 30 people ahead of me.
I lagged behind, trying not to walk with the large group, but still others came to overtake me. I have to admit, I was not so pleased to see so many new faces today. When I wanted to stop for lunch at the top of Alto do Poio which provided a great view of the mist from a sunny bluff, 40 hikers were already claiming the restaurant as their own. I pushed on, not wanting to wait for service. I begrudgingly carried on to Fonfria, but the restaurant there was no better. The waitress told me that yesterday and today were crazy, while shaking her head. Before yesterday, only 8 or 9 pilgrims per day, today she will serve 40. She says Easter is making things busier as many people want to get the compostela to coincide with the religious holiday. Tomorrow, is a short day, only 21k to Sarria and tonight, the TourDeGrinos get their first night of snoring after a 20k hike.