Where Vultures Dare

Day 5 : Lebana to Cabanes and back again

Honestly, I have to say that I was mighty pleased to get back our our mountain home yesterday. Gosh it had been a hot walk back to the car; I felt a little out of sorts from that hot sun for the rest of the evening and I probably should have made more effort to cool down at home. It was a really beautiful walk but we’d been foolish to not cover our heads; we know better than this! I normally always carry a cotton scarf and when we know it’s going to be hot we take UV umbrellas. It was a lesson learned for today!

Also, unfortunately Gerry stood in dog poop as he parked up yesterday, twice! So he had the really unpleasant task of washing his shoes before dinner. And if that wasn’t bad enough we spent a while hunting down a particularly terrible smell in the kitchen; one of our eggs had cracked and gone rotten. Oh my word! The smell was awful and no amount of fresh air could totally clear it! Thankfully we can laugh about it all now!

Sometime in the middle of the night Gerry leapt out of bed and rushed to the front door. On went the lights and he checked from room to room. What are you doing? I asked… I heard the door open he replied. He still says that he heard someone open our door but hands up who thinks that maybe he was dreaming?

Today we decided on a shorter walk again. The forecast is more hot weather for today but we’re forearmed. Thankfully the trail is getting closer to Potes which means a shorter drive. We figured that today would be an easy day… we quickly learned that we’d misjudged that!

We planned to leave from the little village of Lebana, stopping to visit the ancient Iglesia de Santa María; however it was closed. It’s a tiny church, Mozarab in style. It was built in 925 and legend tell us that the Counts of Liébana ordered the church to be built with the intention of transferring the remains of Santo Toribio there. However, when the remains were transferred, both Counts went blind and didn’t recover their sight until the body was returned to the Santo Toribio monastery. It’s a shame we never got to see inside but we had a little look around the outside of the building.

There are a lot of people around. This is a tourist area and attracts day visitors out for a Sunday drive and also outdoor sports enthusiasts of all sorts. We didn’t linger and walked on to the little village of Allende. From here the path rises steeply up and up into the mountains. As we were leaving the village I really started to feel the effects from yesterdays sun. The sun was rising and it was already hot and my skin felt sore although I didn’t have sunburn. Today we did bring our umbrella’s but too much sun yesterday and interrupted sleep was taking it’s toll and we were making slow progress.

Up and up we walked, stopping every chance we could in the shade. There’s no denying this is a dramatic walk and the views are just breathtaking. We could look across at the still snowy peaks beyond Potes and wonder if this is where we’ll be in a few days. Up and up and up. It really shouldn’t have felt so difficult but gosh it was!

We stopped partway and I took off my pack and had a huge drink. There was no breeze, just the feeling of heat radiating off the rocks and the trail. We could hear the odd barking dog from the villages below us and some incredibly noisy crickets but apart from that there was very little noise. Just us and the mountain and the sun.

Gerry told me it was time to make some notes… I think I’ve created a poetry monster! He’s taking his task very seriously and I’d love to know what is going on in his head as he creates these rhymes.

When the sun is hot and jolly
Don’t forget to take your brolly

I asked him what we would do with an angry sun… he paused and thought but had no answer. But credit where credit is due, our UV brollys are Fab! I bought mine years ago when I walked the Via de la Plata and it really does make a difference; I just wish I’d taken it yesterday!

Onwards we went… more up. More views. More heat. I started humming a song from Kiss Me Kate. It was all I could muster today.

We stopped for some shade and noticed some large animal droppings. Gerry wondered if they were wolves but we saw lots on the Sanabres and this looked different. I thought back to our welcome at the apartment and the owner showing us photos of the bears that live in these hills and shuddered just a little. I was not in the mood to stumble upon a bear today… to be honest cows and dogs were pretty much out of favour today too!

On we went and I decided that I should pick up my pace… the thought of bears gave me a little boost to walk faster. But everytime we turned a corner hoping to see the top the path just seemed to go higher. I’ve walked from St Jean to Roncesvalles four times and last year we walked the Hopitals route on the Primitivo and none felt as bad as this. Here we were huffing and puffing our way just a few kilometres up the mountain!

As we stopped and gazed out across the ravines and peaks I considered all that surrounded us and felt somewhat insignificant. These rocks are as old as time and people have lived here for maybe 40,000 years. Here we were, two pilgrims wandering along this path… a tiny dot compared to the giant hills around us. It’s an odd feeling. Our lives to us of course are important but in the scheme of things we’re like grains of sand on a beach.

Onwards we went and finally we reached the top and a small plateau under the trees. There was no more up. Gerry found himself a seat on the flattest rock he could find and took out his flask. Three cups of tea in quick succession and a cheese and beetroot roll seemed to help; he was ready to face the last skip and a hop into Cabanes. He did notice a tick on his hand though so we had a quick check to make sure no others had decided to hitch a ride!

We’d been hoping to find a little bar in Cabanes and enjoy at least one cold drink. That ice cold drink had kept us going up the mountain! I’d drunk all my water and was hoping for a refill but we were out of luck. We had considered walking on to Pendes but that was quickly dismissed. Instead we turned around for the return back down the mountain. I’m not a fan of downhills (actually it sounds like I don’t like uphills either but I honestly do love walking in the mountains!) There was no point in protesting… there was only one way to go.

Down and down and down. Every since my fall on the Rota Vicentina I’ve been a tad nervous of steep downhills. I put my brolly back in my bag as I wanted to use my arms to balance myself if needed. Our toes pushed hard against the inside of our shoes but we made good progress. Down and down and down. Stopping when it was suitably flat to admire the views and ooh and ahh at the majestic mountains. Down and down we went and Lebana came into view… then the church and before we knew it we were walking back into Allende. It was certainly a lot quicker coming down!

A vulture was circling above us and it flying so low that we could hear the swoosh of it’s mighty wings as it passed overhead. We stood and watched for ages, memorised by the enormous wingspan and the ease with which he flew. We watched him fly higher and higher and suddenly there were lots of vultures. All circling and all heading to the top of the mountain; do you think maybe someone had warned them that there were two tired pilgrims at the top having tea?

We dragged ourselves away from the airshow and headed back down. We sat on a picnic bench beside the church and finished the remains of our lunch. We sat it relative silence, both too hot and tired to talk. I felt cooler in the shade and there was the faint touch of a breeze. We might not have walked that far today but gosh I felt pleased with our efforts.

Gerry calculated that the uphill out of Lebana was a 13% gradient… (1 in 7 in old money)… so quite steep!

We went back to the church and there was a note on the door saying they’d be back soon. We decided not to wait. Instead we went in search of the car, air conditioning and the thought of a cool shower and an afternoon at home on the balcony of our apartment. It was 29c according to the car but it felt hotter. They forecast light showers tomorrow and a maximum of 17c and I wont complain… much!

p.s. I’ve just looked at the stats for my blog this week and WOW! so many folks reading! I have received so many messages and I am truly grateful for them all… I love that the camino weaves so many strangers together from across the world! If I’ve not replied I am sorry… I’m trying to ensure I do!

4 thoughts on “Where Vultures Dare

  1. Pingback: A Change of Colour | Then We Walked

  2. What an inspiration ..
    This will be a camino that you’ll never forget!
    An experience I feel would never happen in this way if it had not been Covid times? A positive aspect of how you’re managing your stages is the ability to leave heavy gear at accommodation and only take that days needs.
    Sounds odd reading of the heat effects right now (where you are) when I’m in Southern Hemisphere with short days. Effects not only to your body but how quickly the milk and the eggs ‘go bad’ in that weather.
    Reading about Gerry dreaming that the door opened ., I wondered if you had locked your door ? I hope you catch up on ‘shut-eye’ tonight.
    Also., I couldn’t imagine walking up and down those climbs without poles. I got the impression that you don’t use them. 😬 eek ..
    Just love reading your blog and pics are just amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • it really will be a camino we’ll remember. I was worried it might feel more like a walking holiday but it has, for all it’s issues, felt like a camino. I’m so glad we came. The heat is more than we expected… we thought it might be cooler in the mountains 😀
      I have a love hate relationship with poles… I like them on hills but hate them on the flat… and it stops me taking photos and holding my brolly… I need 4 hands 😀
      glad you enjoy the blog… writing it is a huge part of my walking now xxx


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